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Transit Advocates Launch “Fair Share” Initiative for Public Transportation

March 30,2011

Goal will be up to make the case for substantial new investment in public transportation, bike lanes and pedestrian improvements

Advocates for public transportation today announced the launch of “Fair Share for Transit,” an initiative designed to explain the benefits of and need for significantly increased investment in transit service for the metro Atlanta region.

“We have to invest now in transportation alternatives that will boost the region’s economic competitiveness, help attract good jobs and improve the region’s quality of life,” said Ray Christman, executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition, the nonprofit that initiated the education campaign. “It’s time to make the investments that will give residents more transportation choices, more ways to unlock gridlock.”
Fair Share for Transit backers include private business groups and representatives of the health, disability, social equity, environmental, transit, bicycling and pedestrian communities. More than 20 businesses and groups have signed on to the campaign to date.

Driving the group’s sense of urgency is a process now under way to identify major transportation projects for the region for the next decade.
New funding for regional transportation projects would become available if voters in the 10-county metro Atlanta region approve a one-cent sales and use tax in a referendum tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2012. It’s estimated the tax will raise more than $7 billion over 10 years, the proposed life of the tax. Proceeds could be spent on transit and road capital projects, transit operations and maintenance, and road repair and maintenance. As with other special local option sales taxes, however, a list of proposed projects must be drawn up before voters go to the polls. Once approved, the project list dictates spending for the life of the tax.

The list is being compiled now, and the deadline for final approval is Oct. 15.

Fair Share for Transit backers believe that up to 60 percent of potential new sales tax revenues are needed for public transportation and up to 5 percent for “safe routes to transit,” street and streetscape improvements that make it easier for people to walk or bicycle to transit stations and stops.

Proponents cite a wide range of reasons for their support of the transit education initiative. 

  • “A Fair Share for Transit can move our region forward in the fight for energy independence and a cleaner environment,” said Jennette Gayer, policy coordinator for Environment Georgia. “Our addiction to oil is expensive in more ways than one. Our cars and trucks rack up hefty bills at the pump and, as we have seen in the Mideast and Persian Gulf, make us vulnerable to foreign regimes.”
  • “Transit means having transportation choices in addition to the cars that some of the region’s residents can’t use or afford. It means greater mobility so that the disability community and older citizens can get to their jobs or medical care and just plain live their lives,” said Pat Nobbie, deputy director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
  • “A Fair Share for Transit will mean healthier air, something that is especially important for the growing lungs of our children. Twelve percent of Georgia’s children suffer from asthma, a rate significantly higher than the national average. Tailpipe exhaust is a big part of Atlanta’s air pollution and a known asthma trigger. It’s also linked to cancer, heart attack and strokes. We pay a huge price for air pollution,” said June Deen, state director of American Lung Association in Georgia, a leader in lung health and a founding partner of Mothers & Others for Clean Air.

Fair Share for Transit supporters envision a region that offers an increasing number of residents the option of riding public transportation, walking and cycling for daily commutes, errands and other activities. A viable regional transit system will one day integrate rail lines; streetcars and light rail (faster than streetcars, with more widely separated stops); buses, including local, express and bus rapid transit service; and paratransit, volunteer, non-profit, and faith-based transportation services for the senior and disability communities.

“Area residents have consistently spoken up for more transportation choices in polls, surveys and focus groups over the past four years. They know that public transportation is a big part of the solution to traffic problems, and they want to see an approach that balances roads and alternatives,” said Christman.

Area business advocates, meanwhile, worry that traffic tangles are hurting the region’s ability to attract businesses while peer cities such Charlotte, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston make substantial new investments in public transportation. “Nothing short of significant new investment in fresh transportation facilities will convince businesses and residents that our region is serious about preparing for continued growth,” Christman said.
Fair Share for Transit is a collaborative effort that will focus on the business case for transit, its enormous return on investment and its crucial role in promoting economic competitiveness and quality of life. Supporters in addition to those named above include Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Buckhead Community Improvement District, Cherokee Area Transportation System, Citizens for Progressive Transit, CHA, Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Atlanta Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Georgians for Passenger Rail, Georgia STAND-UP, Georgia Transit Association, Hedgewood Realty, Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Resources for Residents and Communities of Georgia, RouteMatch Software, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Sustainable Solutions Georgia.

Formed in 2005, the Livable Communities Coalition is the Atlanta region’s smart growth advocate and catalyst. It unites nearly 60 organizations working to change the way metro Atlanta grows by focusing on land use, transportation, housing, and conservation of open green space and natural resources. Member organizations include regional leaders in the areas of aging, building and development, business, urban and landscape design, government, housing, planning, sustainable development, the environment, and transit and transportation alternatives. For more information on the Coalition, please visit its Web site at www.livablecommunitiescoalition.org.