Comments about the SB 313 Hearing

I commented on an article at GeorgiaPol.com about a hearing I attended regarding Senator Brandon Beach’s 50% MARTA tax increase proposal. It’s the best article I have seen about the meeting and you should read the whole thing here.

I am including my comment below for readers here.

I appreciate your coverage of the event but am disappointed by your characterization of this discussion as “histrionics”. While there were some jabs taken by both sides at Senator Albers’ hearing there were also a lot of facts and objective analysis presented.

The population of the City of Atlanta was 496,973 in 1970 and MARTA was created the next year. By the 2010 census the City of Atlanta’s population had declined to 420,003 residents while the population of the surrounding metropolitan areas increased by more than 3 million.

For 45 years an outdated transit plan concentrated on a stagnant urban core received billions of dollars in sales tax revenues while booming areas of growth have been starved of money for burgeoning infrastructure needs. Senator Beach’s 50% MARTA Tax increase proposal compounds that error and makes it worse by cementing it in place for another 50 years.

North Fulton is booming and Alpharetta has attracted thousands of new jobs over the last few years despite claims of impending doom by Senator Beach and Mark Toro. The greatest threat to that success is the congestion on our surface streets, arterial roads and GA 400. Senator Beach’s plan would do nothing to address our needs would make it even more difficult for cities to address them.

The legislature tried to address that problem with HB 170 last year which allowed Fulton County to levy an additional 1% sales tax to be distributed among its municipalities for those crucial infrastructure needs. Senator Beach’s tax increase bill complete destroys that framework by cutting the funds available to cities and increasing the MARTA tax by 50% for so long that the Millennial generation will be on Medicare by the time it expires.

SB 313 would cost the City of Alpharetta alone nearly $42 million dollars over the 5 years permitted currently. The cities of North Fulton combined would lose a total of $251 million dollars to MARTA. That is money that could address immediate needs and required to be allocated for projects which can be completed or substantially begun within 5 years. But under Senator Beach’s bill that $251 million would be diverted to MARTA projects dependent on receiving billions of dollars from the federal government and under the best of circumstances would not even be through the environmental studies phase in 5 years.

And as I stated along with several other speakers including Mr. Feigenbaum, the only credentialed transportation expert to testify, Bus Rapid Transit is the only transit method which makes any sense in low density suburban areas like North Fulton. Curiously HB 313 actually designates the cheaper, more efficient BRT for expansion in Dekalb County but there has been no explanation for the extra billion dollars it would cost to use heavy rail in Fulton.

For those wondering where the tax revenue projections I use come from they are the numbers compiled by Fulton County for HB 170 negotiations among the cities.

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One thought on “Comments about the SB 313 Hearing

  1. Thank you for providing much needed information on this. As an Alpharetta resident, I’m not opposed to transit improvements, but I’m not sold on heavy rail or on Marta delivery of service. Seems to me the people most excited about this are those that stand to make a lot of money off of it.

    I checked out Advance ATL’s incorporation record and their registered address is that of a prominent Atlanta lawfirm, not that of a grassroots operation. None of their board members represent North Fulton (City of Atlanta, yes; other cities, no) and none of the board members of this self-termed grassroots organization are regular citizens.

    I read today that now there are two active bills, SB 313 and SB 330. So both bills are active in different committees?

    I think Mr. Toro has blinders on as far as the word “dinosaur” goes. Seems to me that a transit plan that puts all its eggs in the cumbersome, outdated Marta rail model is the dinosaur!

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