BY Bertrum James Meisner Jr There is a “Transportation Referendum” about to be voted on in ten Georgia counties which will increase their Georgia sales tax by one percent. This tax money is supposed to “help” alleviate the traffic congestion in and around Atlanta. It is a noble idea to help out those poor commuters who are stuck in unbearable traffic every day but… will it actually do that?
I have watched the spending of our tax dollars to “supposedly” improve traffic conditions in Atlanta for decades and the improvements seldom impressed me. In the past and present, the foolish spending of our tax money has done little to help improve the traffic but it has improved their green agenda. They have expanded our roadways only to restrict our use of them by creating special lanes with special restrictions.
The HOV lanes are a prime example. They have installed these lanes and made them inaccessible to ninety-five percent of the cars on the road. The mentality was “if you build it they will come”, meaning if you make a HOV lane then people will car pool and use them. That has not happened, at least not at the level needed to warrant the cost of the lanes being built. The lanes only furthered the green agenda because if you travel the Atlanta road ways at rush hour you will be in long traffic backups, that is unless you happen to have a passenger or two with you. If you do have a passenger then you can be in some HOVs lane flying down the road with little or no traffic. There are quite a few people who are using the lanes legally because it is stupid to be idling in a freeway parking lot, when there is an entire lane not being used right next to you.
There is also a section of I-85 where you can actually pay to use the HOV lane, in quarter mile installments. That is if you have applied for the special “Peach Pass Card”, by the way the price changes per section constantly and instantly depending on the traffic conditions. The higher the traffic congestion, the higher the price you pay per segment. This is possible because they have set up multiple cameras to capture multiple views of the vehicle and an electronic Peach Pass reader at quarter mile intervals all up and down the I-85 corridor. The expense to maintain this network of cameras and readers has to be enormous; if you compare that to the price per quarter mile usage I can’t see how it has generated any positive revenue.
When the toll policy was installed they also changed the requirements for free usage of the HOV lanes, it when from two occupants per vehicle to three occupants. This decreased the number of eligible vehicles even more because few actually want to pay the toll.
This is the types of “traffic improvements” that this new tax will fund. Why should we vote for another tax to further a failed program? The only way these programs will succeed is if they can convince Georgia drivers to give up their cars and start car pooling in mass numbers. The problem with that is that southern people especially southern men have a love affair with their cars and their freedom. As much as we hate traffic, we love our cars and freedom even more.
If you car pool, you have to give up your freedom to come and go as you please because you are now on someone else’s schedule. That is a very big problem if your schedule is dynamic and varied. No matter how much they make the HOV lanes accessible I will never use them. I can’t use them because I have a job where I have to travel from location to location. I won’t use them because I refuse to pay tolls for the use public roads and to not pay would be illegal.
There is also the fact that the construction of the new lanes will reduce the number of already available lanes until the construction is done. The proposed construction is scheduled to last for 10 years. That means ten years of even worse traffic just so we can have more HOV/ toll lanes. Personally I don’t think that is a very good trade especially since I will get nothing that I can use for my tax dollar.
There is also the fact that the local mass transit system is going broke and needs this tax to bail them out. This and the toll road revenue are the real reasons for the tax, not any road improvements. The MARTA system has been poorly managed and still is. Throwing money at this system in its present state is like throwing money down the drain. MARTA needs to be cleaned up then you can throw money at it not before. The money that the rail system is getting isn’t for adding new rail but instead is to be used to maintain the existing rail. That doesn’t help the congestion at all.
I hope any fellow Georgians who live in the ten counties affected, and plans on voting on July 31 on this referendum, will take the time to think about what value they are really getting for their “value” added tax, before they vote. Don’t wait to pass it so you can read it, because obviously it will be too late then. —BJMJr
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