Turning up and transportation policy

The Civic League held “Get a Move On,” a 10-county regional round table on transportation, growth and metro Atlanta region’s future on a recent Saturday morning in downtown Atlanta. Transportation was the major focus, of course, given next year’s penny transportation sales tax referendum and the selection of projects currently under way.

It was a clear warning that when it comes to how to divvy up the projected $7 billion in sales tax revenue, the squeaky wheel could get the grease.

First order of business: If you ask people to press button No. 10, be sure you have a N0. 10 button on your poll clicker. There WAS someone in the room from Rockdale County, the 10th county on the list, but there were only buttons 1 through 9 on the automated voting clicker. (Just saying!)

Of course, it wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome: Of the estimated 200 people in the room, 68 percent were from Fulton and DeKalb counties, 14 percent from Cobb and 7 percent from Gwinnett. Seventy-five percent worked in Fulton and DeKalb. Fourteen percent described themselves as conservative and 18 percent described themselves as liberal; the rest saw themselves as somewhere in the middle or trending liberal.  Eighty-one percent used a personal vehicle as their primary mode of transportation and 70 percent listed transportation as one of the region’s top three priorities, followed by education (51 percent) and economic growth (47 percent).

And the group was overwhelmingly pro-transit: Sixty-three percent of participants voted for a “transit-heavy” transportation plan. Just under 30 percent wanted a “balanced” plan and 7.3 percent wanted a “road-heavy” plan. Nearly 43 percent would fund one new rail line while 57 percent supported expanding regional and express bus service. Seventy-six percent supported funding the beginning costs of a new rail line, but 60 percent would not support funding a commuter van pool.

Where an event is held makes a big difference, and suburbanites are probably mowing the lawn on a Saturday morning, not headed downtown for a townhall meeting. But turning up makes a difference. Standing up and being counted makes even more of a difference. If only the transit proponents turn up in a region where 93 percent of people rely on their automobiles, they’re the people whose opinions are on record. Turn up, stand up and be counted.

The five-member transportation Roundtable Executive Committee is finalizing a $6.14 billion list of projects for consideration by the full Roundtable by August 15 — Monday.  After Executive Committee approval of a draft list, the full Roundtable of 21 members will have an opportunity to weigh in, as will the public through 12 public meetings and on-line opportunities, until October 15.  That is the deadline specified by the Transportation Investment Act for selecting a final list of transportation projects to go to voters next year.

For more information or to review the current $6.56 billion transportation project list, please visit www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com