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The Atlanta Transit Tax: For the 1 Percent

The Atlanta Transit Tax: For the 1 Percent

By Wendell Cox NCPA.org

Voters in Atlanta, with some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation, are being asked to approve a new tax that would spend more than 50% on transit, in an urban area where transit carries only 1% of travel (Figure). No one is naive enough to think that the new billions for transit would improve traffic congestion. Worse, the distorted program would contribute to worse congestion by spending on billions on transit, which cannot reduce traffic congestion, instead of on roadways, which is the only way that traffic congestion can be reduced.

Atlanta’s Traffic Congestion: Promoters of the tax claim that the highway projects will reduce traffic congestion. Atlanta is well known for its serious traffic congestion. There are two reasons for this:

(1) Atlanta has a sparse freeway system, which is limited to little more than a belt route (I-285) and three radial freeways (I-20, I-75 and I-85) that converge into two downtown. Seven years ago, we rated Atlanta as having the least effective freeway system among major US urban areas. Nothing has happened to change that rating, except for the addition of 750,000 people. This tax issue will do virtually nothing to improve roadway travel on the regional level.

(2) Perhaps even worse, Atlanta’s regional arterial (high capacity streets) system is virtually non-existent. For this reason, we proposed (in 2000) development of a one-mile terrain constrained grid of arterials . A local editorial writer found this so hard to deal with it that he misrepresented it as a mile grid of freeways to make it look extreme. Later, the Atlanta Regional Council (ARC), the local metropolitan planning organization, included a somewhat more modest (but useful) arterial grid in is regional plan.

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