MARTA Project List Not Certain in Sales Tax Referendum
However, Atlanta Progressive News has learned that, rather than a specific list of projects, the referendum poses a large menu of possibilities for transportation improvements.
If the measure passes, MARTA will be choosing, with community input, from this menu of projects, but which projects will materialize or will be prioritized is unclear.
A list of the potential, but not promised, projects that are to be funded using the revenue from the tax increase can be found at the link below.
This is unlike the 2012 T-SPLOST proposal where at least there was a final project list that could be evaluated.
If the MARTA sales-tax increase is approved, along with the City of Atlanta T-SPLOST sales-tax increase, Atlanta would be looking at the sales tax going from eight percent to nearly nine percent. Sales taxes are regressive in that they disproportionately impact low-income people.
Notably, the menu of potential projects includes an extension of the current Heavy-Rail West Line, and the creation of a Clifton Corridor light-rail line to Emory University.
These projects, if selected, have the potential to be the first rail expansions of MARTA in many years and would be extraordinary capital investments with long-range dividends.
While the menu of projects is quite large, and the tax will be permanent for forty years, there is no timeline for the proposed projects and there is no clear explanation as to which projects will be given priority.
The Atlanta City Council passed a resolution by Councilmembers Kwanza Hall (District 2) and Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large), requiring projects to be rolled out “equitably”, and requiring MARTA to provide progress reports to the City Council on a scheduled basis.
When asked how the Council would enforce these requirements, Councilman Dickens said there is no formal system in place at this time.
The Sierra Club of Georgia has been a supporter of the November 08 MARTA referendum.
“While the Sierra Club opposed the 2012 TSPLOST, we are especially enthusiastic about the MARTA referendum because MARTA will be in charge of the funds and all the revenue will go toward public transit improvements instead of having to share with other things like roads,” Brionte McCorkle of the Sierra Club told Atlanta Progressive News.
“I think some of the projects are going to be a higher priority than others; we are going to have to have some community discussions to see what ends up moving forward,” Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) said.
“I think the list is fine, with the possibilities of being able to move people to Greenbriar and Moores Mill, I think that would really be a major improvement,” Councilman Dickens said.
“I wish we could do more, but I think this will be a good start to expanding mass transit in the area,” Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) told APN.
APN asked the council members above if they thought the heavy-rail Westside project, or the light-rail Clifton Corridor had a good chance of being completed.
“I think they will happen. I am not sure how quickly they will happen, but expanding to the border of Cobb County seems very probable considering that there is a lot of new development going on,” Councilman Bond said.
“I think that it is highly likely that these projects will be completed,” Councilman Dickens said.
Moore was less inclined to speculate.
“I think that to comment on any of the projects at this point is merely speculative, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying one way or another,” Moore said.
While the projects may be uncertain, those who will be contracted to construct these improvements will be chosen under equitable regulations. No one company will get all the projects.
“I am very proud of the resolution proposed by myself and Kwanza Hall, and passed by the City Council, that mandates equity in the distribution of contracts for the potential MARTA projects,” Dickens said.
The resolution also mandates that the labor used to build these improvements be a certain percentage local to provide jobs for the citizens of the city.
APN asked Councilman Dickens how the City would enforce this mandate on MARTA and he responded that the specifics of enforcement have not been worked out yet.
“It is important that we are intentional and deliberate to make sure that the public is heard in regards to prioritizing project,” Moore said.
Dates and locations for community input meetings would be set in January 2017 if the referendum passes, Alisa Jackson of MARTA said.
“The public will help prioritize the projects based on community meetings that will be held if this referendum is successful,“ Jackson said.
“For this thing to work as we want it to, MARTA needs to listen. We need the purest desires of the community represented,” Bond said.
“We need the greatest amount of people having the greatest access to public transit. If we want to compete with the great cities of the future, and not just in the USA, but compete with cities around the globe, we need to be making these investments,” Bond said.