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"The longer government officials kick this can down the road, the worse that road becomes. These stall tactics are unsustainable, and they are a reflection of bad governing."

...You got that right, sister.

Good article, Ms. Long.

1 week, 2 days ago on Wanted: Leaders who make tough decisions on transportation funding

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@MikeTjax  I sure hope that they're just simply referring to "commuter" rail as MARTA heavy rail.

But with all of the talk of implementing actual commuter rail on the existing freight rail tracks with the limited funding that would be available, even with the proceeds from a 1% sales tax in Clayton County, I get the feeling that they are talking about commuter rail and not heavy rail.

1 month, 1 week ago on Clayton County’s transit tax vote could be set at special-call meeting Monday, on ballot in November

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This is good news....Joining MARTA and resuming local bus service will be a good start.

But over the long-term, being such an urbanized county, Clayton County needs more than just bus and/or commuter rail service.

Clayton County desperately needs Heavy Rail Transit service to operate through the county between the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton in Henry County and the major job centers of the Northside.

1 month, 1 week ago on Clayton County’s transit tax vote could be set at special-call meeting Monday, on ballot in November

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@whatshisface @The Last Democrat in Georgia  That is an excellent point that many commuters will purchase weekly and/or monthly passes.

But don't forget that Atlanta has a very-robust convention/corporate travel/tourism industry (...the Georgia World Congress Center is the 4th-largest convention center in the U.S.)...

...So many tourists, conventioneers, visitors and out-of-town users will be paying for single-trip fares when they're using MARTA. 

Though your point that many commuters will be utilizing weekly and/or monthly passes as frequent riders underscores the pressing need for the to aggressively sell more large and small sponsorships....Sponsorships in which sponsors will be rewarded with unlimited use of the system for varying time lengths according to the amount of money they agree to donate.

MARTA also needs to be much more assertive (if not aggressive) in its sales of weekly and monthly passes over the long-term as the system uses revenues from real estate development to improve, upgrade and expand over the long term.


1 month, 1 week ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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@whatshisface @Burroughston Broch  {{{"I kinda get your logic but the point still stand that MARTA, in it's current form, doesn't have the density or TODs to truly make it a viable commute option for most people."}}}

But despite the lack of density and TODs along transit lines, MARTA is still the 12th-busiest transit system in North America, 8th-busiest transit system in the U.S. and a relatively very-heavily used mode of transportation with an average of about 221,000 boardings per-day on its heavy rail system.

The addition of revenue-generating TODs along transit lines will only work to encourage increased ridership over the long-run....Increased ridership which in-turn will be further encouraged with the implementation of a distance-based fare structure which encourages more use of the system for shorter-distance trips between the increased Transit-Oriented Development along lines.

{{{"If you're willing to pay more for using MARTA then, by all means, donate that extra money you would've spent to the MARTA cause. You'll get a small tax-credit and help out society as a whole."}}}

In addition to real estate development (revenue-generating TODs along transit lines) and a distance-based fare structure, donations (in the form of the aggressive sales of sponsorships of all sizes to everyone from large corporations to individuals) are also an excellent way for MARTA to increase revenue.

- See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/06/marta-looks-to-invite-developers-to-build-on-top-of-rail-stations/comment-page-1/#comment-53841

1 month, 1 week ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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@whatshisface 

Distance-based fares are not a form of punishment for longer-distance riders. 

Distance-based fares are just simply a way to generate enough revenue so as to be able to adequately-fund longer-distance service.

(...Longer-distance trips like from the North Springs MARTA Station to the Airport and vice-versa where there currently is not enough revenue to operate Red Line trains south of Lindbergh after 9pm....Collecting more revenue from longer-distance trips would allow trains on the Red Line to continue operating south of Lindbergh until the end of the night.)

Distance-based fares are also a way to encourage increased use of a transit system for shorter-distance trips. 

In a distance-based fare structure of roughly $0.10-$0.40 per-mile ($0.10/mile for special groups, $0.20/mile for most regular trips and $0.40/mile for express and/or first-class service), fares would drop for shorter-distance rides...

...That's because with fares of $0.20/mile, one would have to ride 12.5 miles before paying the current flat-rate fare of $2.50 per-trip.

(...For special groups who would only have fares of $0.10 per-mile (economically-disadvantaged riders, children, senior citizens, students, people with disabilities, etc) one would have to ride 25 miles before paying the current flat-rate fare of $2.50 per-trip.)

A distance-based fare structure would be a vast improvement over the current flat-rate fare structure of $2.50 per-trip that discourages shorter-distance trips and collects too-little revenue from longer-distance trips.

- See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/06/marta-looks-to-invite-developers-to-build-on-top-of-rail-stations/comment-page-1/#comment-53841

1 month, 1 week ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia  A traditionally-troubled transit agency like MARTA can (and should) develop operational expertise at the same time while cultivating critically-important new streams of revenue from transit-oriented real estate development along transit lines.

Besides, just the fact that MARTA is inquiring about developing the property it owns at, around and above its stations signifies an exceptional level of competence that most likely has never been seen around the long-troubled transit agency.

MARTA also appears to be making these types of moves to generate large amounts of revenue from its property holdings as a way of setting the stage for future expansion into areas beyond its current service area of Fulton and DeKalb counties (most notably into Cobb and Gwinnett counties) without needing revenues from voter-approved countywide sales tax referendums.

1 month, 1 week ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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@Burroughston Broch @whatshisface  Sustainable means being able to operate without needing sizable taxpayer subsidies.

Mr. Broch, you are correct that no major North American transit systems operate without sizable subsidies.

But what MARTA is in the very-early stages of attempting to do has never been done on a large scale in North America.

What MARTA is in the very-early stages of doing is attempting to operate using the surprisingly little-used, but wildly-successful Hong Kong transit model.

The Hong Kong transit model is a transit-operating model that depends completely upon revenue from large-scale transit-oriented real estate development along transit lines to fund all capital and operating costs while still operating at a very-substantial profit.

Hong Kong's transit agency MTR, basically operates as one large real estate development corporation that uses transit to shuttle traffic to its numerous revenue-generating commercial developments.

Hong Kong has utilized this real estate development funding approach to great effect with its transit agency having total assets of over $250 BILLION (...compared to MARTA's current total assets of about -$2 billion (negative $2 billion)).

Hong Kong's MTR not only makes massive profits off of its large-scale real estate development at and around it transit stations...

...Hong Kong's MTR also makes extremely-healthy profits from the fares that it collects as Hong Kong's MTR has a farebox recovery ratio of 186%...meaning that Hong Kong's MTR covers 186% of its operating costs with its farebox revenues. 

(...Compare Hong Kong's farebox recovery ratio of 186% to MARTA's current farebox recovery ratio of about 30%.)

1 month, 1 week ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia @matthewdkingsley  With MARTA's historical operational blight (particularly in recent years), that kind of sentiment certainly is understandable (if one is not going to do it right, why do it at all?).

But the fact that MARTA is making very-serious inquiries into developing the space around and above its transit stations as a means to generate additional revenue and make the agency financially self-sustaining (something that should have been done from the start) signals that the long-troubled transit agency is finally headed in the right direction.

Besides, developing property at and around stations on a large scale can be a highly-productive cycle that builds upon itself with transit-owned real estate development generating ridership and revenue which funds improved transit service which generates more traffic to transit-owned real estate development which generates more revenue for transit operations, etc.

1 month, 1 week ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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@matthewdkingsley  Development of stations is a major priority because large-scale high-density mixed-use transit-oriented real estate development at stations generates much additional revenue for transit operations.

Large-scale transit-oriented real estate development at and around stations on transit-owned property generates additional operating revenue from property leases, increased ridership and property taxes...revenue which can be used to improve, upgrade and expand transit service as needed (decreased headways, newer vehicles, more bus  and train lines, etc).

...The more development there is at stations (and along transit lines), the higher the amount of revenue that is generated for transit operations...something which comes in handy for a transit agency like MARTA which has suffered from an acute lack of operating revenue in recent years.


1 month, 1 week ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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@atlman Excellent comments.

Though it should be noted that in this day and age where there continues to be a massive amount of migration into metro Atlanta from other states and where there is much heavy existing development and a large diverse population already living in outlying suburban counties like Cobb and Gwinnett, many blacks just simply move directly into outlying suburban counties like Cobb and Gwinnett (and Rockdale and Douglass and Henry and Newton and Paulding, etc) instead of moving into the suburbs after first living in predominantly-black areas like the City of Atlanta, Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton.

It could also be noted that most (but not all) of the black population in outlying counties like Cobb and Gwinnett is concentrated in roughly the southern-third of those counties and has in-effect become a geographical extension of the black population in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

(...The concentrated black population in South Cobb and Douglas counties is a geographical extension of the black population in West/Southwest Fulton County; the concentrated black population in South Gwinnett is a geographical extension of the black population in East/Southeast DeKalb County; the growing black population in Henry County is a geographical extension of the black population in Clayton and South DeKalb counties.) 

1 month, 1 week ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia  I personally could care less who is right or wrong. 

I'm just warning residents in South Fulton and South DeKalb (and Clayton) counties that powerful suburban Northside business interests see a heck of a lot more value in rail transit service than they did in years' and decades' past when the concept of extending rail transit from the city into the suburbs was one that was politically and socially radioactive.

Now, you've got powerful business and real estate development interests on the politically-dominant Northside literally begging for transit service to be extended out from the city so that they can make tons more profit in a 21st Century real estate market where direct access to rail transit can mean tens-of-billions of dollars in increased values and revenues.

In the 21st Century business arena, direct rail transit access = monster real estate profits...something that makes MARTA an increasingly attractive target for Northside business interests which have long shunned rail transit service.

Southsiders need to be keenly aware that the political and social grip that they've had over MARTA for the last 40+ years is no longer assured in a climate where powerful Northsiders now see profit and political stability in having direct access to rail transit.

1 month, 1 week ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@Guest @The Last Democrat in Georgia  Responding with video insults, burying your head in the sand and pretending that everything is "A-OKAY" is not going to help the residents of South Fulton, South DeKalb and Clayton counties.

The only thing that is going to help is to do what MARTA CEO Keith Parker is attempting to do which is attempt to get out in front of the situation the best way that one can so South Fulton, South DeKalb and Clayton counties can have a seat at the table and negotiate with the Northside power players from a position of strength....So that when the time comes for MARTA to transition from a two-county transit agency controlled by black Democrats in South Fulton and South DeKalb counties to a regional transit agency controlled directly by state government at the behest of Northside Republicans, Southsiders will not be shut-out of the process.

1 month, 1 week ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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Good column, Ms. Long....Keep up the good work!

1 month, 1 week ago on Eric Cantor’s primary loss no cause for celebration for ‘do nothing’ Congress

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia 

{{{"Bottom line: the state created MARTA, has some oversight powers due to the terms of the MARTA creation law, but ultimately it does not own or control it. They cannot assume control over MARTA assets or true management of the system unless Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton (who will join in November) allows it to happen."}}}

Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton allowing the state to assume control over MARTA and operate it as a privatized entity under the GRTA banner is what is likely to happen...

...That's because Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton are in no position to fight-off hard-charging powerful Northside interests in North Fulton, North DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett, particularly if Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties stand to benefit with increased transit service and increased tax revenues.

Besides, Keith Parker's cultivation of new streams of revenue from Transit-Oriented Development at and around MARTA stations will give the Southside some degree of leverage when powerful Northside interests move to conduct a state takeover of MARTA...which will be much-sooner than many people might think, particularly if Nathan Deal gets re-elected.

(...If Deal gets re-elected, state government will likely move to takeover MARTA in his second-term as currently ultra-dominant Republicans will be looking to stay highly-competitive in a long-term political environment with a changing demographic tide that is going heavily in favor of Democrats...

...If Deal is not re-elected, any movement on a state takeover of MARTA will be delayed for an indefinite period of time as a GOP supermajority state legislature gridlocks and clashes with a Democratic Governor Jason Carter.)

Fulton especially would not put up any fight against a state takeover and privatization of MARTA as North Fulton Republicans (with the help of Buckhead Republicans and the GOP supermajority legislature) will likely re-draw the county commission district boundaries so that the GOP has at-least a 4-3 governing majority on the Fulton County Commission....Which will be possible because of the much-heavier population growth in North Fulton County than in South Fulton County.

(...There has even been talk of North Fulton Republicans redrawing the commission district boundaries so that the GOP has a 5-2 governing majority on the Fulton County Commission...which North Fulton Republicans are extremely serious about trying to takeover and dominate in lieu of not being able to recreate the defunct Milton County.)

....Which means that with a GOP majority in Fulton County government that Fulton County would not put up much (if any) of a fight against a state takeover and privatization of MARTA that North Fulton and North DeKalb Republicans are leading the way on.

It should also be noted that before Keith Parker took over the reigns as CEO, MARTA was in much more of a vulnerable position to be taken over and privatized by the state as the transit agency was operating with budget deficits and was teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

It is Parker's EXCELLENT early-on management of the transit agency (good fiscal stewardship and excellent relationship with a traditionally-hostile state legislature) that is the reason why MARTA was not taken over by the state on hostile terms as Northside interests were planning to do right around the time that Parker was hired as CEO.

With a good working relationship with what has often an ambivalent state legislature, Parker asked the state legislature to be patient and give him the time to turn-around the troubled transit agency both financially and operationally before making any moves to takeover and privatize MARTA.

Parker did not ask the state legislature to back-off with the expectation that his request would be enough to keep the state at-bay for an extended period of time.

Parker asked the state legislature to back-off from a takeover and privatization of MARTA so that he could have time to strengthen the bargaining and negotiating position of Southsiders (particularly South Fulton and South DeKalb Democrats) because Parker knows what is coming, which is a Northside-led state takeover of MARTA.

If MARTA's finances and operations are in order, there's a good chance that Southside interests (in South Fulton, South DeKalb and Clayton counties) will not be left-out in the cold when the Northside moves to fold MARTA into a largely-privatized regional agency (under the GRTA banner) where there will be a very-strong emphasis on expanding transit service throughout the Northside of the metro area (North Fulton, North DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett counties).

- See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/06/a-tale-of-two-counties-and-transit-clayton-looks-to-marta-cobb-looks-away/#sthash.0Qu4BrTs.dpuf

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia 

North Fulton and North DeKalb counties are not spitting-off from South Fulton and South DeKalb counties how much they theoreticize about it.

In lieu of spitting-off and forming a new Milton County (a process which state legislative leaders have openly stated they will not initiate or engage in because of the derision that would come from other parts of the state), North Fulton Republicans will attempt to take political control of Fulton County government and institutions (including MARTA) from South Fulton Democrats.

The takeover of Fulton County government by North Fulton Republicans means that only South DeKalb would be left to oppose a state takeover and sell-off of MARTA...and South DeKalb would be no challenge to an ultra-powerful political coalition of North Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett and North DeKalb counties.

Also with the implementation of a distance-based fare structure (where fares would be charged by-the-mile and deeply-discounted to as low as only $0.10 per-mile for special groups) fares would actually drop dramatically for most of the economically-disadvantaged and transit-dependent....That's because with fares of only $0.10 per-mile, a passenger would have to ride 25 miles before paying the current flat-rate fare of $2.50 one-way.

Value Capture taxing districts (like self-taxing Community Improvement Districts, Tax Allocation Districts and Tax Increment Financing) would also most-likely collect substantially more in tax revenues than the current countywide 1% sales tax setup because Value Capture taxing districts can be setup to collect revenues from BOTH sales and property sales...as opposed to the current MARTA tax funding setup which only collects revenue from sales taxes.

Value Capture taxing districts can also be implemented without the approval of transit-averse voters in countywide referendums...which means that governments in counties like Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Henry, Douglas, Rockdale, etc, can collect tax revenue for regional transit service without putting it to a vote and risking the request being rejected by transit-averse entities.

- See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/06/a-tale-of-two-counties-and-transit-clayton-looks-to-marta-cobb-looks-away/#sthash.MhzDeLRV.dpuf

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia  {{{"Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton would give up a powerful economic and political asset that is vital for a large portion of their voting for 1/100 on the dollar because "they are strapped for cash"? That is rich."}}}

South Fulton and South DeKalb counties (Clayton is not yet a member of MARTA) would not really have much choice politically...

...That's because South Fulton and South DeKalb counties would be opposed by an ultra-powerful coalition of political and business interests in North Fulton (including Buckhead), North DeKalb (including Dunwoody and Brookhaven), Cobb and Gwinnett counties and would not be able to justify to their constituents turning down the offer of dramatically-increased and expanded transit service (transit expansions through South DeKalb, etc) in order to have a long and costly court battle to retain an ineffective status quo.

{{{"What is also standard in these types of deals is A GOVERNMENT WILLING TO GO ALONG WITH IT. Georgia can pass all the laws that they want, but they can no more take MARTA from Fulton/DeKalb/Clayton than they will be to take a city hall building from Norcross or assume control of Cobb Energy Center and or the new Braves stadium."}}}

Since MARTA is a legislative creation of state government, the State of Georgia can take control of MARTA pretty easily, particularly if they can get South Fulton and South DeKalb to agree to it with the offer of increased transit service and increased tax revenue.

...The State of Georgia can also feel empowered and emboldened to take control of MARTA easily if they are feeling increasing pressure from politically-dominant moderate suburban voters to do something major on transportation.

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia  The state and the private investors wouldn't pay $100 billion to takeover the system. 

The state and the private investors would only pay a very-tiny fraction of that amount (maybe $1 billion, if that) to takeover the system and Fulton and DeKalb counties would likely happily take whatever they are given because like most local governments, they are strapped for cash.

...That is...the state and the private investors would only pay a very-tiny fraction of that $100 billion amount if they wanted to...

...The state would likely just create legislation so that it could takeover MARTA without paying anything more than the cost of increasing transit service in Fulton and DeKalb counties....And Fulton and DeKalb counties would gladly take it so that they could get the increased transit service in the form of new transit lines and expansions (GA 400 North, Top End I-285 Perimeter, Emory, etc), more frequent bus and train service, etc.

(...Also remember that it is Republican legislators in North Fulton and North DeKalb counties that are spearheading the state takeover and privatization effort so that North Fulton can get an expansion of rail transit service up the GA 400 and so that Dunwoody can get a rail transit line across the I-285 Top End Perimeter between Cobb and Gwinnett counties).

Private entities paying operating costs (and capital costs) are standard in these types of transportation infrastructure privatization deals....That's because the private entities want to be able to collect the real estate profits that operation of said transportation infrastructure will generate as soon as transit-oriented real estate development is built along transit lines.

Money will no longer be collected from 1% countywide sales taxes (like in Fulton and DeKalb) but will be collected from targeted Value Capture taxing districts that will only collect tax revenues (both sales and property taxes) from commercial property along transit lines (...the 1% sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay will be abolished in a private system as the bulk of the money will be collected from real estate revenues).

No court battles will be necessary as Fulton and DeKalb counties will happily go along with getting dramatically-increased amounts of transit service and increased tax revenues (from new revenue-generating development along transit lines).

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@John Hutcheson @The Last Democrat in Georgia  It depends on how the privatization deal and/or deals are structured and what role Fulton and DeKalb counties play in the process as to whether or not those counties are compensated....Keep in mind that a state takeover and privatization of MARTA is going to be a power-play by Northside business and real estate interests fronted by Republican legislators in North Fulton and North DeKalb counties (Cobb and Gwinnett Republican legislators will lend silent but very-strong support to the effort).

The state hasn't been willing to invest in the MARTA system thus far because up until very-recently, the system was not thought to have any financial value to the politically-powerful Northern suburbs.

Now that business and real estate interests in the Northern suburbs know that rail transit is worth TENS-OF-BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in real estate profits to them in a 21st Century real estate market, they are INTENSELY interested in investing in expanding rail transit out to their areas. 

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@John Hutcheson @The Last Democrat in Georgia  {{{"So the state will not invest in the system unless it is controlled by the state?"}}}

No...the state will not invest in the system unless it is controlled by the predominantly-white and conservative business and political interests in the Northern suburbs (Cobb, North Fulton, North DeKalb and Gwinnett counties) who control and dominate state government.

{{{"If the state controls the system, will it invest in better intra-city rail without destroying the livability of inter-city neighborhoods (like GA DOT has always wanted to do with highways)?"}}}

...It depends on whether liberal Intown/Southside interests in South Fulton and South DeKalb counties can get out in front of the situation (like Keith Parker and Clayton County are trying to do) and have a loud say in the state control/privatization process...

...Because if Intown/Southside interests in South Fulton and South DeKalb counties do not get out in front of what's coming, they could be shut-out of the process and left behind because of the huge amount of money that's at stake (we're talking real estate values of up to $100 BILLION or more after a privatized regional system is built-out).

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia  When the state decides to takeover MARTA and fold it into GRTA, the state will use the money from the private investors who want the system both for its current real estate assets and the financial value of its future real estate assets...financial value which will be in the tens-of-billions of dollars in a fast-growing market like the Atlanta region.

(...We're talking real estate values of up to $100 billion or more when a regional high-capacity passenger rail transit system is built-out....Good luck keeping real estate investors' voraciously profit-hungry hands off of that kind of money, LOL!)

Why do think that MARTA CEO Keith Parker is so busy trying to cultivate new streams of revenue from real estate development at and around stations?...

...Because Keith Parker knows what's coming down the pike, he's just trying to get out in front of it in the best way that he can so that political interests in South Fulton and South DeKalb counties won't lose total control of the situation to powerful business and political interests in North Fulton County (who desperately (and obsessively) want an expansion of Heavy Rail Transit service up the GA 400 to Windward Parkway much-sooner rather than later), Cobb, Gwinnett and the Northern suburbs who are not nearly as transit-averse as one might think....Particularly with their traffic problems continuing to worsen.

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@ScottNAtlanta @The Last Democrat in Georgia  It'll happen because Georgia Republicans are feeling the extreme heat on the transportation issue, an issue which they have largely badly-mishandled during their 12 years in power (...as demonstrated by former Governor Sonny Perdue's $15.5 billion "Fast-Forward" program which saddled GDOT with massive amounts of crippling debt, the 2011 Winter Storm, the I-85 HOT Lanes debacle, the 2012 T-SPLOST debacle and most recently the 2014 Snow Jam which severely-depressed Governor Deal's poll numbers during an election year).

If Republicans don't do something significantly (or massively) constructive and positive on transportation sooner rather than later, transportation will be the issue that takes their legislative supermajorities and statewide domination and turns them back to a shrinking minority party relegated to a semi-permanent minority status in a state where accelerating demographic shifts are not going the GOP's way.

As demonstrated by the aftermath of the 2014 Snow Jam, transportation is an issue that has the potential to sink the Georgia GOP and get them permanent banished from anything that even remotely smells of a governing majority, much less the virtually-unchallenged political power that they currently enjoy.

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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The point of whether or not a historically tax and transit-averse suburban county like Cobb should join MARTA will likely be made moot within a few years...

...That's because the state will likely step-in, takeover MARTA and sell it off to private investors who will operate, improve, upgrade and expand it as a regional system under the banner of GRTA (instead of MARTA).

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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@John Hutcheson  When Latinos are included in the tally of white residents, Cobb has a population that is 66% white.

But when Latinos are excluded from the tally of white residents, whites (specifically non-Hispanic/Latino whites) make up only 55% of Cobb County's population.

Most Cobb County voters opposed to the Bus Rapid Transit proposal are not opposed to transit so much as they are opposed to so much tax money (hundreds-of-millions of dollars of tax money) being spent on upgrading one line instead of spending much less tax money to upgrade Cobb County's entire bus system which is in need of improvements and upgrades, particularly in terms of needing more-frequent bus service and more route coverage.

1 month, 2 weeks ago on A transit tale of two counties – Clayton looks to MARTA; Cobb looks away

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Leasing-out the development rights at, around and above MARTA stations is definitely a huge step in the right direction for MARTA.

When this approach is maximized there potentially could be tens-of-billions of dollars in revenue for the transit agency.

Wait-to-go, Mr. Parker.  Keep up the excellent work!

1 month, 3 weeks ago on MARTA looks to invite developers to build on top of its urban rail stations

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Georgia, like most other states, needs to quite being overdependent on the federal government for most of its transportation funding and start raising transportation funding on its own.

Georgia can and SHOULD raise its own transportation funding from long-overdue increases in state motor fuel taxes and private investment.

The feds can and will no longer afford to fund more than half of Georgia's transportation budget with borrowed money.

It is way past time that Georgia stand on its own two feet when it comes to multimodal transportation funding.

2 months, 3 weeks ago on Poll: Georgians want Congress to end impasse, fund roads, rails, transit

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Good column, Mr. Baxter.

{{{"I haven’t run down a copy, but I’ve heard that Perdue, referred to simply as “Sonny,” does the narration in a radio ad for his cousin which has aired in south Georgia."}}}

...Notice that the air featuring Sonny Perdue runs in SOUTH Georgia and NOT in North Georgia.  I guess that because Sonny Perdue is kind of a political liability of sorts in North Georgia where his gubernatorial administration is not remembered all that fondly.

2 months, 3 weeks ago on A Sonny day in the Senate race

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@Rees Cramer @mariasaporta@The Last Democrat in Georgia@1Downtown10 {{{"thanks for bringing some common sense to this discussion.  MARTA is public and it will remain that way as it is public transportation."}}} 

...In this political environment where Northside business and real estate powers are growing increasingly restless and impatient, one cannot be certain that MARTA will remain publicly-owned and/or operated. 

MARTA (or whatever succeeds it) will continue to provide public transportation, but private investment (particularly private real estate investment) is going to play a much-larger role in the operation of public transit in the Atlanta region moving forward because that's where the money is.

{{{"I can't think of a major transportation system in the US that is private and functional."}}}

...It's not a US system that you should be thinking of as the model as to where public transit is going in the Atlanta region.

It's Hong Kong that you should be thinking of.....That's because Hong Kong's transit system is operated by a private real estate development corporation that has a value of over $250 billion.

Atlanta's transit system will likely never grow to be worth over a quarter of a trillion dollars, but with MARTA owning land around its stations in some prime areas of the city/region, there is a good chance that MARTA or its successor could grow to be worth tens-of-billions of dollars in value if MARTA fully and aggressively develops its real estate assets.

{{{"I don't believe that MARTA needs state funds to operate, it would be for expansion."}}}

...Like I stated earlier, if the state gives any significant amount of money (by way of the private sector) to MARTA for any reason, be it operation or expansion, the state is likely going to want to exercise A LOT more control over MARTA than MARTA's Intown supporters may be comfortable with.

The State of Georgia is not going to just kindly give money to MARTA with no strings attached. 

If the State of Georgia gives money to MARTA, the state is likely going to want full financial and political control over MARTA probably to the point of selling the agency and its potentially very-lucrative prime real estate assets off to private real estate investors.

{{{"Just like my suggested congestion fares would be for transit"}}}

...Using revenues from congestion tolls on expressways to fund transit would very-likely be a politically-unviable idea in this highly transit-averse political environment in Georgia politics.

Using revenues from expressway tolls would also likely be not all that good of an idea with the road network having so many overwhelming maintenance issues that are in critical need of attention.

If and when tolls are collected from motorists on the road network, they had darned sure better be used to address very-serious long-neglected needs on the cash-starved road network and not to shuttle critically-needed road money to a transit network that is more than capable of taking care of itself financially with its prime real estate assets.

3 months ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@ScottNAtlanta @The Last Democrat in Georgia I don't really have much of a problem with the Feds spending money to get the economy back on track, when absolute necessary.

My problem was the massive budget deficit and debt spending on the two wars (both Afghanistan and Iraq, but ESPECIALLY Iraq).

I also have a very-major problem with continued unnecessary massive budget deficit and debt spending on transportation infrastructure, particularly on superhighways and interstate passenger rail lines that are more than capable of paying their own costs with revenues from user fees and private investment for the overwhelming most part.

Why continue to pump-up the debt to pay for something (in the Interstate superhighways and intercity/interstate passenger rail lines) that is more than capable of paying for itself?

As for the Federal and National Debts and liabilities....You've got to understand that when people see debts amounting to tens-of-trillions of dollars and debt liabilities amounting to hundreds-of-trillions of dollars that people are going to be freaked-out when they see those kinds of extremely eye-popping numbers...eye-popping numbers that are the largest-ever known debt amounts in recorded human history.

It's a very-good thing and a very-healthy thing about our democracy that people are very-concerned about the nation's public debt.

Frankly something would be very-wrong if people were not concerned this society's tens-of-trillions and hundreds-of-trillions in public debt spending that, while it might be sustainable and while it maybe even might be necessary now, will not continue to be sustainable indefinitely into the future.

When people see debt amounts like $18 trillion and $61 trillion and liabilities of $129 trillion, people are understandably going to have some very-loud objections.


3 months, 1 week ago on ARC to Ga. congressional delegation: Help end impasse over transportation funding, GDOT official concurs

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@ScottNAtlanta @The Last Democrat in Georgia If the problem has nothing to do with money then why is the State of Georgia begging the Federal Government for hundreds-of-millions to expand the Port of Savannah?

If the problem has nothing to do with money then why is the State of Georgia begging the Federal Government for money just for simple and routine maintenance of the state's road network?

I agree that the Federal Government has a seemingly-unlimited ability to print as much money as it wants, which comes in handy particularly during emergency periods. 

But with a US National Debt of nearly $18 TRILLION, a total debt of over $61 TRILLION and with tens of trillions of dollars more in unfunded liabilities, that ability to print money is not completely-unlimited, particularly since it costs money to print money (the cost of paper, ink, machinery, manpower/labor, transport, etc).

I agree with your excellent point that infrastructure spending is a net positive investment.  But severely-heavy amounts of borrowing and/or printing money (and/or extremely-unlikely tax increases) are not the only ways to make that critical investment in transportation infrastructure. 

Nor are borrowing, printing money and tax increases the best ways to make that critically-necessary investment in transportation infrastructure, but far from it.

When it comes to controlled-access superhighways and high-capacity transit, public user fees and private investment are the best ways to proceed forward in making those critically-necessary public investments in public multimodal transportation infrastructure at this point in time.

3 months, 1 week ago on ARC to Ga. congressional delegation: Help end impasse over transportation funding, GDOT official concurs

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia@Burroughston Broch Again, more great points, atlman.

The state was never serious about taking over Hartsfield. 

I mean if they could have gotten Hartsfield without paying for it, sure they probably might have taken it.  But in the unlikely event that the state would have gotten it, the state likely would have done the same thing to Hartsfield that it has done to the Georgia Department of Transportation where they have run that critically-important agency into the ground and buried it with crippling debt.

And you make an excellent point that the 1% countywide sales tax that currently funds MARTA in Fulton and DeKalb counties would likely go away if MARTA was taken over by the state and sold-off to private real estate investors.

But that 1% countywide sales tax would likely be replaced with Value Capture taxes (sales and PROPERTY taxes) from targeted Tax Allocation Districts and self-taxing Community Improvement Districts confined to the commercial and industrial areas that line high-capacity transit corridors throughout the greater five-county urban core of metro Atlanta.

With TADs and CIDs officially replacing the 1% countywide sales tax that currently funds MARTA, the 1% sales tax that funds MARTA would still unofficially be in effect as would still be collected from many of the same retail establishments and property tax revenues would also be collected from commercial and industrial property. 

It's just that semantically the current 1% sales tax would no longer officially be in effect in Fulton and DeKalb counties and the TADs and CID's would not need the approval of voters to be implemented through referendum in the counties that they will be collected because they officially will not be countywide taxes.

Heck, if you go out and draw TAD and self-taxing CID boundaries around all of the commercial and industrial development in large urban counties like Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb, etc, you will probably collect more tax revenue from TADs and CIDs than you would from countywide 1% sales taxes because revenues can be collected from BOTH sales and property taxes in a TAD/CID Value Capture tax setup...

...That's unlike with a 1% countywide sales tax setup where transit-operating revenues can only be collected from a sales taxes that need the approval of voters in a countywide referendum.

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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@atlman @The Last Democrat in Georgia@Burroughston Broch Excellent comments, atlman.

Though, MARTA supporters should be aware that even with Keith Parker's early success in getting MARTA back on a good financial and operational track, Northside political, business and real estate interests have not necessarily backed completely off from their efforts to conduct a state takeover and immediate sell-off of MARTA to private real estate investors.

Those increasingly powerful Northside political, business and real estate interests in North Fulton, North DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties are basically just standing down for the time being and letting Parker fatten MARTA up for an eventual state takeover and sell-off of the whole agency to private real estate investors.

The time for increasingly-powerful and profit-hungry Northside business and real estate interests to sit on the sidelines is over, particularly with rail transit access continuing to play a role of ever-increasing importance in real estate transactions.

Just MARTA's existing real estate assets alone (the land at and around its transit stations) are possibly worth multiple billions of dollars undeveloped.

Develop the land at and around most transit stations into large-scale high-density mixed-use transit-oriented development and MARTA's real estate assets will become worth tens-of-billions of dollars because of the very-prime location of those assets and because of the relatively very-close location of those very-prime real estate assets to the world's busiest airport at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  

Those very-powerful profit-hungry business and real estate interests on the Northside are not just going to continue to sit on the sidelines and let tens-of-billions of dollars potential profits languish.  They're going to want to turn those tens-of-billions of dollars in potential real estate profits into actual cash profits.

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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The impasse over transportation funding in Washington signifies that it is time for Georgia and other states to grow up and stop being so seemingly almost completely-dependent upon the federal government for almost all of our transportation funding.

With her immense and very-valuable transportation assets, Georgia does not need the bankrupt Feds to fund her roads, her ports and her rails.  All that Georgia needs to do to fund her transportation infrastructure is to start utilizing a robust combination of private real estate investment, inflation-indexed user fees and an inflation-indexed state fuel tax.

On the private market, Georgia could probably fetch close to $20 billion for her superhighway network (both Interstate-signed and non-Interstate signed freeways) and could possibly fetch many billions more for any future statewide passenger rail network.

It makes absolutely no sense to beg a bankrupt and highly-dysfunctional federal government for money when we are completely capable of paying for our own transportation needs ourselves with private investment and user fees.

3 months, 1 week ago on ARC to Ga. congressional delegation: Help end impasse over transportation funding, GDOT official concurs

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@writes_of_weigh @The Last Democrat in Georgia That's a good example, though almost all of the uproar over Speaker Ralston's trip to Europe was not about him and his family partaking in travel on High Speed Rail.

Most of the uproar about Speaker Ralston's family's European train experience was about the $17,000 cost of the trip being paid by a German train lobbyist in the wake of so many ethics scandals and missteps under the Gold Dome at the time.

It's important to note that Speaker Ralston's all-expense-paid family trip to Europe was only about a year after former House Speaker Glenn Richardson (the man that Ralston replaced as speaker) was pushed out of politics after attempting suicide after his wife divorced him because he was having affairs with female lobbyists and escorts.

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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@kevinalynch Those are excellent points.

Though, many of those historic railroad towns and suburbs that surround Atlanta (particularly the historic railroad towns and bedroom communities in Atlanta's very heavily-populated Northern suburbs) do not necessarily just want commuter rail service.

Many outlying historic railroad towns and bedroom communities in Atlanta's suburbs like Alpharetta and Woodstock want high-capacity passenger rail transit service (preferably reformed post-MARTA regional heavy rail transit service) connections in their cities.

3 months, 1 week ago on Atlanta’s small towns being redefined through principles of new urbanism

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia I didn't "choose" any words. I stated the fact that the area inside of Speaker Ralston's legislative district and much of the North Georgia Mountains region is not a geographic region that tends towards affluence, but one that tends towards economic struggle much of the time.

The North Georgia Mountains region has traditionally struggled mightily with poverty and high unemployment (hence the construction of the GA 515 APD Highway as one of the ways to attempt to combat that severe rural poverty of the Southern Appalachians) and continues to struggle mightily with poverty and a lack of employment opportunities, particularly in the aftermath of one of the worst economic downturns in recent American history.

The unemployment rate numbers for Speaker Ralston's district that you cited don't present an accurate picture of the unemployment situation in that area because those official numbers don't count the long-term unemployed (the people who have dropped out of workforce because they could not find work).  That is evidenced by the substantial difference in the amount of people participating in the workforce between July '07 when the construction industry was still going somewhat relatively strong with vacation homes being built in the North Georgia Mountains and now when the vacation home construction industry is much weaker after an extended period of virtually no activity in that particular industry and significantly diminished economic activity in much of the North Georgia Mountains region. 

I also don't have to draw a contrast between the sparsely-populated overwhelmingly rural and mountainous area of Speaker Ralston's legislative district in extreme North Georgia and the very heavily-populated, overdeveloped and often-overcrowded urban and suburban districts of Metro Atlanta. 

The obvious contrasts between the two vastly-different areas speak for themselves and are important to understanding why Metro Atlanta's urban transportation issues may be of the least concern to Speaker Ralston's rural-dominated constituency.

For whatever reason, you seem to be personally offended with the statement of the fact that the area inside of Speaker Ralston's legislative district and in the North Georgia Mountains region struggles with poverty and high unemployment.

Curiously, you don't seem to have a problem when the fact is stated that parts of Metro Atlanta (particularly the City of Atlanta) struggle with high levels of poverty and unemployment, but you do have a problem when the fact is stated that the rural North Georgia Mountains region historically has struggled and continues to struggle with high levels of poverty and unemployment. 

The statement that the rural mountainous area inside of Speaker Ralston's struggles with high rates of poverty and high employment is not an "insult" and is very-much correct as the last I looked, above-average poverty rates of over 20% and REAL unemployment rates of nearly 17% do not exactly fit the definition of low levels of poverty and unemployment.

The statistics I quoted were from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Federal Reserve.

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"The Speaker should not be City of Atlanta-centric because the City of Atlanta is less than 4.5% of Georgia's population."}}}

The City of Atlanta, even with all of its many, many faults and even with being less than 4.5% of the state's population, is still the most-important municipality in the state of Georgia and will continue to be the most-important municipality in the state of Georgia because of its tremendous assets (the world's busiest airport, the lucrative Downtown convention & tourism business, the powerful business-minded community of movers-and-shakers in Buckhead, etc).

As a self-described country lawyer from the rural North Georgia Mountains, Speaker Ralston most-likely can never be accused of being "City of Atlanta-centric", even if he may possess a MARTA card, which comes in extremely-handy if one has to move between Downtown and Midtown and/or Buckhead during peak traffic hours.

Speaker Ralston's problem is not just that he must be careful not to appear as being "City of Atlanta-centric", but also that he must be careful not to cross across as being too "Metro Atlanta-centric" in a part of the state in rural mountainous extreme North Georgia where the locals are not always enamored with Atlanta period (city, metro, urban, suburban, exurban or otherwise) because of their continuing rural economic struggles.

For a man of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston's stature in statewide politics, it's easy to come across to his sometimes Atlanta-averse rural constituents as being too "Atlanta-centric" if only because Metro Atlanta-related issues and politics take up so much time and energy in the Georgia General Assembly and in statewide politics in general.

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia No one is throwing insults and no one is demeaning Speaker Ralston's constituents.

The official unemployment rates may be lower in each of the counties that make up Speaker Ralston's legislative district (Georgia State House District 7), but the unemployment rates are likely the result of a shrinkage in the size of the workforce in each of those counties.

Just in Fannin County alone (where the unemployment rate was calculated as 7.6% in February 2014), the size of the county's workforce shrunk from a high of 11,152 people in July 2007 down to a size of 10,072 people in February 2014.

Those 1,080 additional people that were part of the Fannin County workforce as of July 2007 didn't just disappear into thin air, they likely left the workforce because they could not find jobs.  When those 1,080 people are figured into the workforce numbers, the REAL unemployment rate that accounts for people who have dropped out of the workforce because they could not find work is much-closer to 17% than it is 7%.

The unemployment rate and poverty rate stats and figures for Dawson County can hardly be considered in full as Speaker Ralston's legislative district only encompasses the extreme northwest portion of Dawson County, but encompasses the entirety of Fannin and Gilmer counties.

Dawson County, most of which is not within Speaker Ralston's legislative district, also has much more wealth than Fannin and Gilmer counties because of the higher level of wealth and affluence in the Big Canoe development (half of which is in Speaker Ralston's district) and the higher level of wealth and affluence found in the upscale neighborhoods along the Lake Lanier shoreline (which outside of the boundaries of Speaker Ralston's legislative district).

Outside of a couple of enclaves of affluence in the Big Canoe development and along the Lake Lanier shoreline in the southeast corner of the county, Dawson County is not necessarily a very-wealthy county.

Also, with poverty rates of 20.1% in Fannin County and 20.4% in Gilmer County, poverty rates that are above the Georgia statewide poverty rate of 17.4% as opposed to the Fulton County poverty rate of 16.8% which is below the GA statewide poverty rate of 17.4%, the poverty rates in Fannin and Gilmer counties are not just "only slightly higher than" Fulton County's poverty rate of 16.8%.

Fulton County's poverty rate of 16.8%, while still very-high, is below the GA statewide poverty rate of 17.4%.  Fannin and Gilmer counties' poverty rates are about 3 points above the GA statewide poverty rate of 17.4% and about 3.3% and 3.6%, respectively, above Fulton County's poverty rate of 16.8%.

When it comes to poverty, three percentages points is not a slight difference.  Three percentage points is a substantive difference when it comes to measuring poverty, particularly when the lower poverty rate is below the statewide rate and the higher poverty rates are noticeably above the statewide rate.

Also, Fulton County's per-capita income of $37,238/yearly is the highest per-capita income in the entire state of Georgia and is nearly twice the amount of Fannin County's per-capita income of $19,865/yearly which is 63rd-highest in the state of Georgia.

Fulton County also is home to more millionaires and more high-paying jobs than any other county in the entire state of Georgia and probably any other county in the entire Southeastern U.S. outside of South Florida.

To even imply that two overwhelmingly-rural and lower income-earning mountain counties in the extreme north end of the state are even in the same league economically as Fulton County, the wealthiest county in the state, is completely disingenuous on your part.

Heck, the only four-lane highway that runs through both Fannin and Gilmer counties (the GA 515 Zell Miller Mountain Parkway/Appalachian Development Highway) was built through that area of mountainous North Georgia with the express intent of being a way to attempt to combat the high level of poverty in that area which is part of Southern Appalachia by attempting to make the area less-isolated from the prosperous Atlanta metro region.

Stating the fact that the area within Speaker Ralston's legislative district struggles mightily with high poverty and unemployment is NOT demeaning, it is REALITY.

Stating the fact that the area within Speaker Ralston's legislative district struggles mightily with high poverty and unemployment and illustrating the differences in the priorities of those who live in rural mountainous North Georgia and those who live in metro Atlanta is also important because it provides insight into why metro Atlanta's urban transportation issues may be of the absolute least concern to Speaker Ralston's constituency.

People who may be struggling for basic survival in the rural North Georgia Mountains are probably not going to be overly-concerned with metro Atlanta's traffic issues that have been caused by too much economic success when compared to isolated rural parts of the state. 

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia Basically, Parker's early success in getting MARTA back into the black financially could be the equivalent of letting a pig fatten itself up before being slaughtered.

The state is also planning to use mostly private investment to build-out the proposed MMPT in Downtown Atlanta.

3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia Before Keith Parker came in and starting having success as CEO of MARTA, Northside interests were already seriously plotting to have the state takeover MARTA and sell it off to private investors.

Keith Parker's early relative success as CEO of the long-struggling MARTA kind of bought the agency and its ITP/Southside supporters some time, but not necessarily very-much time.

If anything, Parker's success in getting the long-troubled transit agency back into the black could likely be used by Northside business interests to increase the attractiveness of the agency's assets for an eventual deal for the state to takeover the agency and sell it off to private investors as was increasingly plotted before Parker's arrival and early success at MARTA.

Besides, the supposed risk of having the government as both a partner and a regulator has not been a deterrent on other big-time P3 arrangements such as the $800 million I-75 Northwest Corridor managed lanes project which is using about $200 million in financing from a limited P3 partnership, and the $1.83 billion Chicago Skyway and $3.8 billion Indiana Toll Road deals which are both FULL P3 partnerships.

3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia A similar financing concept will also be coming to roads in the not-too-distant future.

Georgia's Interstate and freeway system could probably fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 billion or so on the open market for 75-year leases.

$20 billion would be a massive financial shot-in-the-arm to a state whose yearly road maintenance budget is down to about $300 million annually.

When put in an account and distributed evenly over the 75 years, that $20 billion would amount to an extra $267 million in road maintenance funding each year for the next 75 years.

The State of Georgia's road maintenance budget would nearly double each year to $567 million, none of which would have to spent on Interstates and freeways anymore because the state would no longer be responsible for paying to operate and maintain the freeways anymore. 

The responsibility for paying to operate and maintain the freeways would belong to the private companies who were leasing the freeways from the state.

That means that $567 million yearly state road maintenance budget ($300 million annually from the current non inflation-indexed state fuel tax + $267 million annually from the S20 billion 75-year lease deal) could be spent entirely on non controlled-access roads and highways.  The controlled-access highways (Interstate superhighways, non-Interstate superhighways, super-arterial highways) would be self-funded and would no-longer need state funding.

3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{{"Let me predict you believe that, given enough urban planners and lawyers with unlimited powers, all things are possible."}}}

...It's not me that has the mindset that you speak of.  It's the business and real estate interests in Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties that have that mindset as those are the three parts of the metro area that want heavy rail transit service (MARTA, post-MARTA or otherwise) expanded out to and implemented through their areas the most.

Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties are also the three areas with the most money, the power, financial resources, political resources and long-term financial and political will to get heavy rail transit service expanded out to and implemented through their areas.

The business and real estate interests in Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties desperately want heavy rail transit service expanded out to their areas as a means of boosting the commercial real estate values in their areas.  Those business and real estate interests in those areas will stop at nothing to get the heavy rail links that they so intensely desire to Central Atlanta and the world-leading Atlanta Airport. 

Those Northside business and real estate interests know that having direct heavy rail transit links to the lucrative convention and tourism business in Central Atlanta and the world's busiest airport at Hartsfield will boost the monetary values of their currently un-linked commercial districts in Cumberland, Alpharetta and the Gwinnett Village CID areas through the roof and into the stratosphere.

The Olympics made this a new game.  This whole thing over MARTA and heavy rail and T-SPLOST, etc is about big-time real estate investment.

...Well, not just real estate, but big-time INTERNATIONAL real estate investment.  Anyone who has not recognized that this is all about money and power is fooling themselves. 

Northside business and real estate interests don't want heavy rail service extended out from the Perimeter to ferry poor people around from inner-city Atlanta.

Northside business and real estate interests want heavy rail service extended out from the Top End Perimeter (and along the Top End Perimeter) so that they can boost their investment portfolios and fatten their pockets.

Do you really think that the big boys care one iota whether some struggling smaller private owner loses their commercial property in the quest for even bigger massive real estate profits?

Do you really think that the big boys on the Northside are just going to continue to sit around and let something as immensely financially valuable as MARTA rot and decay from incompetence, neglect and just plain outright ignorance and stupidity?

The big boys on the Northside are not going to continue to let BILLIONS of dollars in real estate profit sit on the table untouched.

One day very-soon they are going to fully grasp the concept of for-profit transit and when they do, MARTA as we currently know it (as a perennially almost-bankrupt publicly-operated transit agency controlled by black and liberal interests in South Fulton and South DeKalb counties) will be a thing of the past.

3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"You propose taking private land by eminent domain and then selling the land off to private investors to build and operate the transit system and adjacent residential and commercial developments.  When Hell freezes over! We have enough cases of eminent domain abuse for a dozen lifetimes."}}}

...I don't personally propose taking private land by eminent domain. 

But because the rail transit line extensions will be public lines (the right-of-way will still be publicly-owned, but the private investors will be paying to maintain the ROW through long-term leases in exchange for keeping all of the revenues from passenger rail operations and the adjacent real estate development), eminent domain will be in play if and where necessary like it is for land acquisition of public road projects (which a publicly-owned passenger railroad is in effect a public "road" like the Georgia state-owned but CSX-leased Western & Atlantic Railroad between Atlanta and Chattanooga), that's just the cold, hard political reality of public transportation infrastructure projects.

And the ownership of the land will not be sold away to the private investors, just the right to control and collect revenue from the land will be sold away through long-term land leases like on the Georgia state-owned CSX-leased Western & Atlantic Railroad right-of-way between Atlanta and Chattanooga which is being leased by CSX Transportation from the State of Georgia on a 33-year deal that expires on December 31, 2019.

Also, as unpleasant as it may be and as unpleasant as it is, the practice of taking land through eminent domain from one set of private owners and giving it to other private interests is legal and was ruled so by the United States Supreme Court in 2005 in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, CT. 

In the case, the court ruled that it was legal for the City of New London, CT to use eminent domain to take land away from private owners and give it to other private owners for the construction of a new urban waterfront development/redevelopment project.

{{{"And how would you propose to control the private, for-profit transit system?"}}}

...The public would still own and have the ultimate control over the privatized for-profit public transportation system through the terms of the term-lease deal out to the private entity, it's just that the public would no-longer be responsible for the costs of designing, constructing, operating, maintaining and expanding the system.  The private entity would be responsible for paying those costs in exchange for getting to keep all of the revenues it collects from the transit system and its prime real estate assets.

{{{"Georgia Power never figured it out, which is part of the reason we now have MARTA."}}}

...The problem with Georgia Power (and MARTA, and GDOT, and CCT and GCT, and C-Tran, etc) is that it (they) never figured-out that it's not the transit itself that is profitable but is the real estate that the transit serves that makes transit profitable.

As has been so vividly-illustrated with the continuing Herculean financial and operational struggles of MARTA and most other public transportation agencies across the U.S., there's absolutely NO money in operating trains and buses alone.

In fact, the transit business itself can just simply be a money-sucking liability, particularly if it is operated incompetently and disasterously as both MARTA and GDOT have been operated over the past couple of decades or so.  Heck, public transportation (both roads and transit) is a multi-billion dollar LOSER when operated in the worst possible way that it can be operated as has been the case with both MARTA and GDOT.

No private business could survive for such an extended period of time in the way that public agencies like MARTA and GDOT have been operated.  The only reason why entities like MARTA and GDOT have continued operating despite such intensely-incompetent management is because they are public agencies funded with a mix of wholly-inadequate tax revenue and severely-heavy borrowing.

If MARTA and GDOT were private businesses they would have gone belly-up years ago and much more-competently run private businesses would have taken their place and probably provided a much better service.


3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@Just the Facts Good comments and good points. 

In the remote and extremely-rural and mountainous part of the state that Georgia House Speaker David Ralston represents, the plight of MARTA and Atlanta's urban transportation network is not even a distant concern of Sam Snider and the constituents that he seeks to represent in the Georgia House of Representatives.

In a very-rural and very-conservative part of the state that struggles mightily with high poverty and unemployment, a political figure of statewide importance like Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has to be very-careful to not come-off as appearing to be too Atlanta-centric where Atlanta (both urban and suburban, but especially the city) is not necessarily all that popular with the local electorate. 

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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Good article, Ms. Long.  Keep up the good work and keep growing as a journalist.

3 months, 1 week ago on Technology can improve transit but not replace new network investment

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Good article, Mr. Baxter.

Your article describing the slower-growth and slowed-growth of the greater Atlanta region and the continuing and steepening decline of rural Georgia kind of underscores the point of why it is important to invest in a robust multimodal transportation infrastructure which includes a statewide network of good roads, high-speed rail lines (of both the passenger rail and freight rail variety), airports and seaports.

By no means is a robust statewide multimodal transportation network the panacea to all of Georgia's economic challenges. 

But a robust statewide multimodal transportation network can go a very-long way in helping urban, suburban, exurban and rural Georgia confront and even overcome its great economic challenges.

3 months, 1 week ago on Sprawl minus growth equals where we could be headed

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"You're avoiding the point a bit. A large capital investment is required to construct transit. This investment is required long before user fees, value capture taxes, CIDs, TADS, advertising, and fares generate any income. How do you propose to pay for the initial construction without bonds?"}}}

...You pay for the initial construction without bonds by selling the project off of private investors.

You're going to need land to build the passenger rail stations (and accompanying park & ride lots) on...land which will likely be taken through Eminent Domain if necessary.  So you line up your private investors and you sell that land off to those private investors whose interest in the rail transit extension project will be primarily in the amount of revenue (and profits) that will be generated from the large-scale high-density mixed-use transit-oriented real estate development built at and around stations and along the line.

You can also just sell the rail transit extension project (which will be a real estate development project first and foremost in the minds of private investors and financiers) off to private investors and make the public transit company a private corporation.  The transit company will still be providing a public service, but that public transit service will be largely directly privately funded and financed.

Direct private investment or Public-Private Partnerships/P3s (by selling a public infrastructure project off to private investors) is just a different (and more direct) way of financing large infrastructure projects than bonds which are sold off to private investors.

P3s can be a much more effective way of using private money than bonds because P3s can provide private investors with a much more direct and bigger monetary reward than bonds.

Private investors can get their money back much more directly and much more quickly on P3s than they can through the traditional bond market, particularly on projects that have a direct revenue stream coming into them like real estate and utilities.

When public transportation infrastructure projects are developed as revenue-generating real estate development projects (like when a transit line generates a high amount of revenue from the farebox and the real estate along it, or when a busy controlled-access super-arterial or superhighway corridor has inflation-indexed tolls placed on it), public transportation infrastructure projects become highly-attractive places for private investors to want to grow their money.

It makes no sense for a Capitalist society (with lots of monetary capital EVERYWHERE) to operate its highly-valuable and critically-important transportation system on a severely cash-deficient and bankrupting Marxist model, which is basically what we are trying to do now...run our transportation system with little to no cash and an unsustainable amount of borrowing.

You can't build something with nothing.  Transportation (roads, transit, seaports, airports, etc) needs money to operate like anything else in this world.

{{{"Speaking of CIDs and TADs, have you seen any capable of paying for a MARTA extension?"}}}

...Keeping-in-mind that Value Capture taxes (CIDs, TADs, TIFs) alone would not and absolutely should not be the only source of revenue (a distance-based fare structure and funding from high-density mixed-use transit-oriented real estate development at and around stations and along bus routes should ALWAYS be two major revenue sources), two great examples of existing CIDs that could help fund MARTA extensions are:

1) The Cumberland/Galleria CID in Cobb County, which is already taxing itself to help pay for the new Braves stadium in the Cumberland area...

...With Cobb County business and real estate interests wanting to implement high-capacity passenger rail transit service up the U.S. Highway 41 Cobb Parkway corridor, the current self-taxing Cumberland CID could easily be extended up the Cobb Parkway corridor to Kennesaw and/or Acworth so that a portion of property, sales and (if desired) even income taxes could go to funding mass transit service along the US 41 corridor WITHOUT a politically-contentions and politically-unviable countywide sales tax referendum to join MARTA...

Here are some links to some maps and studies that Cobb County has done to push the eventual development of high-capacity passenger rail transit service in the US 41 Cobb Pkwy corridor:

https://transportationspotlight.wordpress.com/category/studies/connect-cobb-alternatives-analysis/

http://www.junctionatl.org/what-to-build-in-the-northwest-corridor/

2) The Gwinnett Village CID in Gwinnett County, which wants to implement high-capacity passenger rail transit service along the I-85 Northeast Corridor between the Doraville MARTA Station and the Gwinnett Center convention/performing arts/entertainment complex (and maybe even out to the Mall of Georgia/Buford area)...

...The Gwinnett Village CID would be more than willing to tax itself to help extend high-capacity passenger rail transit service (MARTA, post-MARTA, or otherwise) out from the Doraville MARTA Station and into fast-growing Gwinnett County.

Here is a link to a map of the proposed light rail line that Gwinnett County business and real estate interests want to implement along the I-85 NE Corridor in Gwinnett County, a light rail line that will likely be a heavy rail line whenever it is built and become operational:

http://www.gwinnettvillage.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Presentation-Map-Revised-compressed.jpg

3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@Burroughston Broch @Rees Cramer {{{"So show us the plans for the fully built system. A connection to the International Terminal was planned as a start for a branch but, in typical MARTA clarity of thought, never built."}}}

...Here's a link to a map of the original plans for MARTA which were drawn up sometime in the late 1950's-early 1960's...note that the earliest plans to build-out the MARTA heavy rail system included plans to run heavy rail lines out to Downtown Marietta in Cobb County, out to Norcross in Gwinnett County and out to Forest Park in Clayton County:

http://homer.gsu.edu/blogs/library/2012/10/10/%e2%80%9cplanning-atlanta%e2%80%9d-shows-past-illustrations-of-future-redevelopment/atlpp0079_page_27-3/

Here is a link to another later map of a MARTA system that included a Northwest spur line out to Northside Drive off of the North/Northeast-South Line:

http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/MARTA_Provisions


3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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@Burroughston Broch @The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"Bonds are not income, they are financing vehicles like mortgages. They are used to finance assets that cannot be paid in full out of current income."}}}

...Exactly...That's the whole point...Bonds are not income, but government apparently doesn't seem to understand that fact by how heavily they tend to lean on bonds without the proper amount of revenue to cover those bonds.

{{{"Are you telling me you've never had a mortgage?"}}}

...Very recent history is chock full of examples of people who took out mortgages that they could not afford to pay back over time on their modest personal incomes.

{{{"How do you propose to pay for transit improvements?"}}}

...Basically like I stated before, with private investment (primarily in the form of revenues from large-scale real estate transactions) backed with user fees (in the form of distance-based fares). 

If necessary, Value Capture taxes (Tax Increment Financing property taxes on new development along transit lines; self-taxing Community Improvement Districts and Tax Allocation Districts...as opposed to politically-impossible voter referendum-approved countywide sales taxes) can fill-in any remaining gaps in revenue, as needed.

Advertising sales can also become a much more significant source of revenue after system ridership increases.

3 months, 1 week ago on A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

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