Dare I say it … Progress on the Transportation Front?
I sincerely hope that Metblogs isn’t your sole source for local news, but just to catch up any readers who may be a few days behind: last night the Georgia Legislature (on its third-to-last day of the 2010 session) passed the “Transportation Investment Act of 2010.” Great news!
But first, a nod towards a little bit of background: On Tuesday MARTA staged a rally and “publicity campaign,” dramatically marking huge red X’s on a third of their fleet to represent the buses and trains that would be taken out of service later this year in order to help fill a $120 million budget hole.
The kicker (well, one of the kickers) is that MARTA has money – not a lot, but what they do have they weren’t allowed to use. By law, they can only spend 50% of their revenues from sales tax on operations. That’s why, I assume, we have all the brand-new fancypants black buses driving around in a time of rate hikes and service cuts.
There are obviously about 50 layers of issues here that I’m not going to pretend to know about and/or can’t get into, including the fact that MARTA is the only major transit system in the country without state funding, that leadership supposedly wants state funding but not state oversight, that the legislature has been debating a transportation funding bill for three years, and so on. (and on).
BUT! Last night we made progress! They’re going to let us tax ourselves! Hooray! A bill passed last night that will divide the state into 12 regions, and let each region vote in a referendum to thumbs up or thumbs down a list of transportation projects in the region, along with a 1% sales tax to fund them. Money has to come from somewhere, I suppose, and it’s better than nothing. HB277 also lifts that restriction on MARTA’s operations funding, though just for 3 years.
The bill just passed last night, and is on the Governor’s desk to be signed (he technically has 40 days past the end of session to sign it, I believe), so it’s not final yet. And nothing will actually happen for another couple of years (referendums would take place in 2012). But I am allowing myself to hope, just a teeny bit, that Atlanta might eventually be, in my lifetime, a place where people ride a train or take a bus and it’s a quick, reasonably priced, perfectly normal means of getting from one place to another. Hoping this is a good step.