Atlanta Forward / Another View: A smart regional plan must prioritize transit

By  Burrell Ellis

At 5.5 million people, the Atlanta region makes up the 10th-largest  metropolitan area in the United States. Over the last 20 years, our region  has been one of the fastest-growing urban centers in the country. This is  largely the result of investments in infrastructure that have not only  created new jobs, but which have afforded us access to the global  marketplace. Our transportation investments, in particular, have kept us  economically competitive and enhanced our quality of life.

Traditionally, cities and counties have individually invested local tax  revenues in infrastructure and then leveraged those investments with  matching contributions from the state and federal governments.
As the federal government grapples with the deficit and the state government  deals with its own revenue reduction, the competition for matching funds has  become fierce. It is no longer Atlanta versus Cobb County, or DeKalb versus  Gwinnett.
With fewer federal funds available to disburse, our key competitors are other  metropolitan communities such as Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix and  Seattle. It is those regions that address their needs collaboratively and  smartly that are the most competitive, both in securing federal funds as  well as new industry.
That’s why a smart regional transportation plan … one that addresses the  transportation patterns of the people within the region irrespective of  which city or county they may reside in … is a necessity. A smart regional  plan is vital to our growth, economic prosperity and quality of life.
The most vibrant and sustainable metropolitan areas throughout the world have  regional transit systems. While a 1-cent sales tax cannot fund all of our  region’s transportation needs, a smart plan should prioritize a transit  system that is regionally funded … if that plan is expected to reasonably  reduce traffic congestion and gain the trust of the people it is designed to  serve.
Over the past several months, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable has put together  the framework for such a plan.
Over the next two months, there will be more opportunities for public input  before a final plan is put before the roundtable members for a vote.  Ultimately, the voters within the 10-county region will decide whether they  like the plan and are willing to fund it.
We have a tremendous opportunity to show that Atlanta has grown, not only in  size but also in progress. That will require shared sacrifice and regional  thinking.
 
Burrell Ellis is DeKalb County CEO.

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