Georgia just announced the recipients of $75 million in grant money for transit projects.
Included in the list of projects is upgraded signage for MARTA, electric buses for UGA, bus service expansion in Cobb and new hybrid-electric buses for Athens-Clarke County.
This is still a drop in the bucket compared to the $1 billion last year’s big transportation funding bill is expected to generate and spend annually.
Gov. Nathan Deal pats Georgia on the back for this small, one time grant in yesterday’s press release:
“Today marks the first time that Georgia has made this type of significant investment for transit systems statewide. These 11 projects represent major milestones in transportation infrastructure and demonstrate our commitment to improving mobility in every corner of the state.”
Does this investment really reflect a “commitment to improving mobility in every corner of the state?” The truth is that Georgia’s spending on public transit is less than 10 percent of what we’re spending on roads and bridges.
When the big transportation funding bill passed in 2015, we heard something surprising from our state’s conservative leaders — a notion that sometime you have to raise taxes and spend on important projects in order to make it possible for everyone to meaningfully participate in Georgia’s economy and society.
Gov. Nathan Deal spoke about this in the accompanying 2015 press release, albeit in conservative lingo:
“We’ve reached the point where we can no longer keep up with the growing infrastructure demand that encourages job creation, maintains our businesses’ bottom lines and takes us home to our families. This investment reflects our modern-day population and current infrastructure usage.”
Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that, indeed, it is possible for Georgia’s conservative leaders to recognize the fact that raising taxes to improve the infrastructure of Georgia has important benefits, economic and otherwise. It’s a valuable policy tool to use.
According the the AJC, this $75 million, one-time grant money was part of the negotiations with Democrats to get their support for the 2015 transportation funding bill.
Compared to the ten year, $10 billion expenditure expected to be doled out to roads and bridges, this one time grant is peanuts.
MARTA is one of only two major public transit systems nationwide without dedicated funding from the state to cover operational expenses (the other is D.C.’s transit system).
Beyond MARTA — or any buses and light rail throughout the state — sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks are also part of the infrastructure of making sure people can move around. And these are also areas where Georgia is sorely lacking investment.
Yet funding all forms of mobility, recognizing that better facilitating people being able to get around is just smart policy — policy that a lot of different folks are interested in seeing happen in this state.
But a growing cadre of Republicans, enticed by the burst of economic development along the rail lines linking Atlanta to its northern suburbs, are embracing transit. State Sen. Brandon Beach listed a litany of companies — State Farm, Mercedes Benz, PulteGroup — that recently moved to new homes in metro Atlanta near MARTA lines.
Adding: “It’s something that CEOs are looking to check off when they relocate,” said Beach, who defeated a primary opponent who was deeply critical of his support for MARTA expansion. “The people are ahead of the elected officials on this issue. They want options and they’re tired of sitting in gridlock. There’s nothing more Republican than to allow people to vote on an issue like that.”
So let’s see some real investment y’all.