Atlanta, Ga.-- It appears all eyes are on Atlanta leading up to the July 31st transportation vote. That's according to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and transit leaders from coast to coast who came to Atlanta Sunday for a seminar.
"We're taking on a tough problem," Reed said of the transportation referendum. "People all over the country are watching what we're doing."
Transit leaders from New Jersey, Fort Worth, and San Francisco are attending the American Transportation Association conference at the Sheraton downtown this week. They're discussing the problems and solutions facing different systems all over the country. They say they're watching the 1% sales tax vote carefully, because it will affect how they will fund their own systems in the future. They also said it would have an impact on how they can demonstrate to the federal government the public's desire for new transit systems nationwide.
"Everybody in the country is watching that vote," said Mort Downey of Washington D.C.'s Metro. "Most places around the country have voted successfully for transportation packages, especially when you can show the voter what they'll be getting for their money, and we're all counting on that being the case here."
Mayor Kasim Reed delivered a fiery pep talk to the seminar he dubbed an "ideas summit." He talked about his trip to China, where he saw heavy investment in transit that far surpassed what the US is doing. He said the next generation has already bought into transit.
"And I'm here to tell you-the young people are gone," Reed said. "This debate we're having about transit and the importance of investment in transit systems is really a debate only for people forty and older."
Reed said the TSPLOST vote is the best chance the region has to lift itself out of the economic doldrums. He emphasized the amount of effort, cooperation and transparency that went into the project list and said it was an important first step to wade into the state's $80-90 billion infrastructure backlog.
"I'd like anyone to show me when the metro region is going to have 8.5 billion dollars in investment again," Reed said. "Everyone on the other side driving around 285 and saying whatever they're saying, hasn't put up a single alternative that can be implemented faster than the measure that we have right now."
Jack Staver of TransportationTruth.net was asked by 11Alive to meet at a MARTA station for an interview. He said the 1% sales tax vote is coming at the wrong time, and fixing the wrong problems. He also said speed is the wrong metric.
"That's the bad premise, 'Let's just do something to do something.' So we're going to go spend $18 billion state wide just to do something? No that's wrong-that's bad thinking," Staver said.
He said commuters have rejected mass transit, and will also reject the TSPLOST because it's bloated with projects that local politicians wanted to push. He said traffic experts and private industry should come up with projects that would directly address congestion problems. He disagreed with the notion that the older generation is too stubborn to vote for a transportation plan or ride mass transit.
"That's garbage, so we want dirt roads, we'd be happy with dirt roads?" Staver said. "That's not it; we just want the right thing."