A Conversation on TSPLOST

To watch our July 25th video, click here.


To read our TSPLOST position paper, click here.


To download the Executive Summary, click here.


To view our position on every project on the list, click here.

August 7, 2012
Contact: Colleen Kiernan, 404-607-1262 x224

Georgia Chapter Statement on Future of Transit, MARTA After T-SPLOST Failure 

Decatur, GA – After the failure of the Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST last week, local officials have begun to put forward ideas for Plan B. Governor Deal suggested last week that the overwhelming “no” vote was a rejection of additional investment in transit. However, analysis of the actual results finds the opposite. Areas of the region that were offered serious transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements voted in favor of the tax.  And the areas that were primarily offered roadway projects voted against the tax.

In fact, according to the Mason-Dixon poll conducted by the AJC July 24-26th, the $600 million tagged for MARTA was the most popular project on the list, with 49 percent saying that this project made them more likely to vote for the referendum. Only forty-five percent said the GA-400/I-285 project, Deal’s top priority, made them more likely to vote yes.

Sierra Club does not disagree that expansions in rail should wait until reasonable MARTA reforms take place and service that has been cut in recent years is restored. However, unless the state is prepared to being real money to table for MARTA, the legislature should stop playing politics through MARTOC and lift the 50/50 capital/operations requirement permanently. Sierra Club’s suggestions for reasonable MARTA reforms that will help build transparency and accountability and trust in the system include:

1)      MARTA leadership, both Board of Directors and Executive Management, should demonstrate their confidence in the system they manage by riding MARTA regularly.

2)      MARTA should embrace the national trend toward open data for use in mobile applications, websites like WalkScore, etc. While MARTA is the largest transit agency in the country to not receive ongoing operating funding, it is also the largest agency that locks down data that would make the system more accessible and convenient to users.

3)      MARTA should establish a riders’ advisory council to establish better communications with people who use the system regularly in order to be more responsive to their needs and concerns.



For Immediate Release                                               
July 27, 2012                               

Tea Party and Sierra Club Points of Agreement for Georgia’s Transportation Future

Atlanta, GA - Much of the debate about the T-SPLOST has been about whether or not our elected officials will pursue Plan B if the referendum fails. Proponents have argued voters should say “yes” because they will not work on it again. There have also been questions raised about whether opponents, who have focused on different flaws of the policy, could ever agree on a Plan B.

In the months leading up to the referendum, the Sierra Club and the Tea Party have found significant common ground on transportation policy. Both groups favor policies that would provide more transparency and accountability in government, policies that would tie transportation revenues to travel behavior, i.e. “user fees,” and policies that would allow governments flexibility to work together rather than carving the state into 12 arbitrary regions.

If the referendum fails, the Tea Party and the Sierra Club would like to see the following:

1)  Discard the current three different taxes on motor fuel and enact a single motor fuel tax, based on the value of the commodity and allowed to rise and fall with price inflation, dedicated solely to funding transportation with a portion of the motor fuel tax receipts available for "all transportation purposes," including operating costs as well as capital and maintenance.

2)  Allow any two or more local governments to create, and fully fund, transportation projects to meet the needs of their citizens through referenda on local motor fuel or sales taxes, and other revenue sources.

a)  Allow referenda to levy local fractional sales taxes and motor fuel taxes of less than one percent for local transportation funding purposes.
b) Leave decisions over specific allowable allocations of local transportation taxes and fees in control of the local governments and their agencies that administer them, free from State interference.  

3) Before elected officials are given more money they need to show they can be trusted with what they have. As a first step toward transparency and accountability, DOT Board members should be elected at annual public meetings of Congressional District Legislative Caucuses in each Congressional District for open public election (no secret ballots) to one-year terms of service and review of transportation activities in the District. 

4) Before MARTA is expanded, it should be restored to a reasonable level of service and be brought up to date on maintenance.

a) The Legislature should end its interference in MARTA budgets and resume an oversight role. Voters and elected officials where the MARTA tax is collected (Fulton, Dekalb and Atlanta) should decide how MARTA revenue should be spent.
b) The hotel/motel tax the City of Atlanta collects yearly should in some part go to MARTA or transportation needs, not used to build a new stadium for the Falcons.
c) Other options that should be considered include distance based user fares, charging for parking at MARTA lots, use part of the hotel/motel tax to help fund MARTA and consider raising the tax to fund transportation needs.



Metro Atlanta Can Do Better:
Why Voters Should Say No to the T-SPLOST and Yes to ‘Plan B’


Prepared by the Georgia Chapter RAIL Committee, April 2012

On July 31, 2012, Georgians in twelve regions around the state will vote on whether to impose a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST). After much deliberation, the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club is recommending a “no” vote on the T-SPLOST in all twelve regions. The decision to oppose the Metro Atlanta T-SPLOST involved the most discussion, because unlike the other twelve lists, it has a significant portion devoted to mass transit. Ultimately, the Chapter Executive Committee concluded that the project list is too heavily focused on sprawl-inducing road expansion and will have a negative overall impact from an environmental perspective.


Why Voters Should Say No to the T-SPLOST -- While no plan is perfect, we have concluded that the T-SPLOST's flaws are significant to the point of outweighing its positive benefits. These concerns include:

  • The Project List Does Not Present a Cohesive Transportation Vision, offering a hodgepodge of conflicting priorities when what is needed is a bold and consistent vision for a sustainable transportation future.
  • The Necessary Institutional Context is Not in Place, with the 2012 legislative session having failed to address serious questions about equitable regional transit governance and the ongoing second-class treatment of MARTA.
  • It Likely Kills Commuter Rail For Another Decade, taking off the table one of the most promising strategies for providing commute alternatives and promoting sustainable development.
  • It Does Too Little to Address the Current Road-Heavy Funding Imbalance, instead reinforcing a funding framework that already heavily favors highway expansion over commute alternatives.
  • The Road Funding Neglects Maintenance Needs to Focus on New Capacity, with five times as much funding going to expanded capacity than to maintenance and operations, further compounding an already serious backlog of asset management needs.
  • It Locks the Region into a Dysfunctional, Undemocratic Decision-Making Process, both through the highly politicized “roundtable” process and the blatantly anti-urban method for distributing local set-aside funds. (Fulton County alone would forfeit $88 million due to this inequity.)
  • The Transit Component Has Too Many Flaws, including vaguely defined project descriptions, underfunded capital expansions, and uncertainty about long-term operational support.

TSPLOST spending breakdown

Why Atlanta Should Refocus Efforts on a Truly Sustainable “Plan B” – A frequent refrain of T-SPLOST supporters is that there is "no Plan B" for transportation in Georgia. The Sierra Club rejects this notion, and believes that there is indeed great potential for an alternative plan that achieves meaningful progress on commute alternatives for Georgians without needlessly subsidizing another wave of sprawl. Elements of a truly visionary and transformational “Plan B” should include:

  • A Workable Institutional Framework that provides an equitable regional transit governance structure and de-politicizes transportation decisionmaking.
  • Effective and Innovative Financing for Commute Alternatives such as a restructured multimodal gas tax, a parking tax, and other mechanisms that tie funding to travel behavior.
  • A Vision that Enables Atlanta and Georgia to Lead the 21st-Century Economy by moving beyond business-as-usual sprawl development and towards a truly sustainable and forward-looking future.