It's looking like economic reality might be the death knell for the proposed TSPLOST measure to be decided by metro Atlanta voters next year. Not only are Cobb voters skeptical of Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee's efforts to have us pay for a commuter rail line from Cumberland Mall to Midtown, I-75/575 commuters will soon be enjoying the benefits of variable toll HOT lanes.
While I do believe that tolls and gasoline taxes are the best way to fund road construction, having I-75 and 575 join the HOT lane movement can only hurt the effort of those wishing to impose a sales tax on Cobb County residents in order to essentially fund mass transit programs.
By now, every Cobb Countian that can read knows that Cobb Commission Chairman Lee has had from the proposed rail line from Cumberland Mall to the Midtown MARTA station. Cobb residents obviously don't want to be on the hook (for almost $1 billion) for one mile of rail line they probably won't be able to use for 10 years.
Granted, Chairman Lee has "re-arranged" his priorities to include a $600 million bus line down I-75. But many of us believe there's simply too much slack in the system and the Cumberland to Midtown rail line could be re-inserted AFTER the TSPLOST measure would pass.
Like I said earlier, I actually prefer toll roads to bus/rail lines. In fact, variable toll lanes like the ones currently in use on I-85 are the most reasonable way to manage traffic flow devised yet. Those willing to pay the toll can avoid much of the congestion the rest of the folks on the road get to enjoy.
And by knowing when the tolls are highest and lowest, those drivers can adjust their schedules for THEIR maximum benefit. I guess the thing I like most about the HOT lane project is that the USERS of the speedier lanes are the ONLY ones paying for the added benefit.
The problem that most Cobb Countians (especially me) have with mass transit is that the users of the service actually pay the least for the benefit they receive. In fact, they pay virtually nothing compared to the cost of having that service available. Most opponents of mass transit don't actually have a problem with mass transit. Their problem is that it's the most inefficient and expensive given the alternatives.
Expecting residents of a suburban community like Cobb County to change their commuting habits is like trying to teach a fish to fly. It's just not going to happen. People move to the suburbs for a reason. They want to be somewhat accessible AND inaccessible to the inner city. The recent murder at at Cumberland Mall (and many similar instances) only reinforces the stigma of mass transit.
As I've stated before, folks move to Cobb County and similar areas to escape much of the madness of the inner city. They don't mind being called OTP people. We love our cars. We treasure our independence and the freedom to move about on our own time schedule.
The folks who prefer to use mass transit typically move to areas serviced by it. It would actually make more sense for us to simply buy those few folks their own car instead of paying for a rail line that few would ever use.
It is not likely that many people in Cobb County would EVER ride a bus or a train. It's even less likely that Cobb Countians will support the TSPLOST measure. In fact, after the HOT lanes go into effect in the northwest corridor, I can almost guarantee the failure of TSPLOST.