Traffic jam in Atlanta. Photo by Flickr user Matt Lemmon.
Though it won’t come as news to residents – or anyone who has visited the region – metro Atlanta has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. The worst, in fact, according to a 2006 ranking by Forbes. Metro Atlanta residents spend an average of 43 hours per year stuck in traffic, costing individuals an estimated $924 per year in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Moreover, years of auto-oriented suburban growth and lack of investment in the regions’ MARTA transit system means that commuters looking for an alternative to the gridlock are largely out of luck. The region’s rail system currently serves only a small percentage of metro Atlanta’s 4.1 million residents.
That could soon change, however. In what is being billed as a watershed moment for metro Atlanta, voters in the 10-county Atlanta region will go to the polls on Tuesday, July 31, to vote on a referendum to raise an estimated $7.2 billion for transportation projects aimed at relieving Atlanta’s congestion and building out its transit network. The Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) would raise the region’s sales tax by 1 cent for ten years. 85% of the funds raised would be spent on a list of regional transportation projects developed by a “regional roundtable” of elected officials. Approximately 52% would go to transit projects, including an expansion of the MARTA heavy rail system and the Beltline Light Rail. The remaining 15% would go to each county for local projects.