Atlanta Resoundingly Rejects Transit Tax

Atlanta area voters said "no" to a proposed $7 billion transportation tax that was promoted as a solution to the metropolitan area's legendary traffic congestion, despite a campaign in which supporters outspent opponents by more than 500 to one.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the measure lost 63% to 37%. This 26% margin of loss was nearly three times the margin shown in most recent poll by the Journal-Constitution. Proponents had claimed on the weekend that the measure was "dead even" three days before the election.

Proponents spent heavily on the campaign, with reports ranging up to $8.5 million in campaign donations, indicating a cost to contributors of more than $30 per vote. Opponents raised less than $15,000.

The tax issue failed in all 10 counties. The defeats were modest in Fulton County (the core county, which includes most of the city of Atlanta) and DeKalb County (which contains the rest of Atlanta). Huge "no" vote margins were recorded in the largest suburban counties. In Gwinnett County, the no votes prevailed by a margin of 71% to 29%. In adjacent Cobb County, the margin was 69% to 31%.

On election morning, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution featured opposing commentaries by regional planning agency (Atlanta Regional Commission) Chairman Tad Leithead and me. Chairman Leithead stressed the view that the tax would lead to reduced traffic congestion, job creation and economic development. My column stressed the view that the disproportionate spending on transit (53 percent of the money for one percent of the travel market) would not reduce traffic congestion.

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Many have compared traffic congestion to fluid dynamics, as spontaneous jams can occur due to a minor event in instances of traffic that is heavy, though free flowing. Unfortunately, traffic can be affected by many events, such as signals, entries from on ramps, departures onto exit ramps, accidents and road construction.

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What would Atlanta say yes to that would address congestion?

Wendell, how much of the no vote is:

1: no to "53% of revenue to 1% of travel"
2: confusion
3: no to taxes. period
4: no to whatever government asks. period

The news video you linked to makes it sound like mostly #1 and #2, but I am suspecting a lot of #3 and #4, as well.

The suggestion that "back to the drawing board and maybe tolls and more gas tax", will not only not solve the problem, but it will also be voted "no".

Atlanta needs a little of "all of the above" which would only make a future poll more complex and still need more tax and will still get a "no" vote.

Do you see a solution?

Bern Grush