Will a penny or a ha' penny do? That's the question going into 2016 and beyond
It's well-worn knowledge that the Atlanta metro area is chock full of 'Peachtrees,' but it's Peachtree Road that's been grabbing the attention lately. The congested corridor that runs through the heart of Atlanta's Buckhead community is a nightmare. Scores of serious accidents occur on this road due to poor traffic planning. Throughout much of this year, there have been many folks who proposed to do something about re-designing Peachtree Road to help with congestion and reduce accidents.
The Peachtree Road plan seemed to contain a great deal of common sense, but it was defeated mainly for the fact that bike lanes would be installed along portions of the road. Those who resisted this plan felt that the road is narrow enough and taking away space from cars would add to Peachtree Road's traffic headaches.
Bicycle lanes on Peachtree Road were just one small part of the project. A two-way turn lane in the center of the road along with resurfacing/repainting three miles of the road were also features that would have been added. The turn lane would have cut down on accidents while cyclists and pedestrians alike could have been kept far more safe.
The Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said that over 60 percent of members were against the plan. While Massell understands their needs, he sees that this plan or something like it could be implemented in the future. In other words, when this current generation of Baby Boomers and some Generation X members either reduce drive time or cease to drive on Peachtree Road, then we'll see the younger set come in and re-design this popular thoroughfare. Obviously it's a shame that the area is years off from becoming a pedestrian/cycling friendly destination, but many out there know that the potential exists.
This isn't the first time that a common sense transportation plan was defeated. One need not look further than Gwinnett County's multiple votes against MARTA or the defeat of recent the TSPLOST proposals. While a great percentage of folks in the area agree that plans need to be put forth to deal with Atlanta's plethora of traffic nightmares, at the end of the day, proposals that lead to progress are hindered.
On the heels of the Peachtree Road defeat, another set of ideas on how to tackle transportation issues is now taking center stage in the debate. Fulton County wishes to implement a five-year penny sales tax for transportation. A number of Fulton cities are on board with this tax, but they primarily wish to have the dollars go towards road construction and improvements.
The only hold-out to allocating dollars to just roads is Atlanta which wants to direct dollars towards the streetcar and the Atlanta Belt Line. While many criticize the streetcar idea, if it's properly funded, operated and expanded, it could bring economic expansion where it's needed most in Atlanta. The key here is that the streetcar needs to quickly expand to show residents and visitors that it's convenient, clean and safe. The streetcar program needs to improve both in the physical and public relations departments. Certainly none of those goals for the streetcar come cheap. One must confess that the streetcar project has gotten off to a rough start. Here's hoping that it will see brighter days ahead.
At the same time, MARTA is asking for a 40-year, half-penny sales tax for both Fulton and DeKalb counties. I say "good luck" on that proposal. I have been showcasing the Johns Creek "Just Say No to MARTA" campaign in this space, so it must be noted once again in this discussion. The attitude at the moment is vehemently against MARTA rail and bus service to the Johns Creek area. Yes, both GRTA and Gwinnett buses seem to come to Johns Creek's edge, but it's no MARTA. It will be a challenge for MARTA to get this sales tax increase, but if the agency does, it's a win-win for many communities. With rail going to South DeKalb, Alpharetta and the much-needed relief in the Clifton Road area, there will be massive improvements to these already-bustling areas.
As 2015 closes out, look for squabbles on both the five-year penny and 40-year half-penny sales taxes into 2016 and beyond.