This fall, voters in Atlanta will have the opportunity to vote for three separate ballot measures critical to improving transportation and transit in the region, thanks to law SB 369, which was passed by Georgia legislature late in the 2016 session.
One of the measures would expand the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile network of multi-use trails and transit along a historic railroad corridor. The Beltline is essential to bike and pedestrian users because of the access it provides to various neighborhoods around the city.
Voters will also have the option of approving three new local funding sources. The City of Atlanta can request a half-cent sales tax increase through 2057, which would be used specifically for transit. The measure would bring in an estimated $2.5 billion for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), which would help fund subway extension, improve bus service, and add light rail service to the Beltline project.
A separate ballot question proposes to allow the city to ask for another half-cent for road projects, but only for a five-year period, generating roughly $260 million. These funds would be used to purchase the remaining right of way to close the Beltline Loop, as well as allocate $75 million for 15 street projects and $69 million for pedestrian and sidewalk improvements around the city.
The third measure on the ballot only applies to residents of Fulton County that live outside the Atlanta city limits. Voters will decide if they want a 0.75% sales tax for transportation projects. Fulton County extends north and south of Atlanta and incorporates many suburbs of Atlanta proper. Unfortunately, if approved, these funds would go toward transportation projects only, ignoring the needs of mass transit in the area.
Despite the fact that the voters defeated a 2012 measure for a $7 billion transportation package across a ten county region, proponents of the bill are optimistic that citizens of Atlanta will see the benefit of the new measures based on their support of the 2012 package, which, unfortunately, did not prove enough tip the scales against the majority of “no” voters from surrounding counties. Despite the fact that Atlanta is home to only half a million people, they should be applauded for pushing for a multi-year, multi billion dollar transportation package.
Now go enjoy the day.