Why mass transit for Fayette is a bad idea
Commissioner Allen McCarty and I were the only commissioners to vote in favor of keeping Fayette County free from the intrusion of mass transit as we have enjoyed throughout the generations.
One of the themes behind the regional transit plan dubbed “Concept 3” is providing a unified, seamless transit network which incorporates the development of land use regulations that encourage high density, urbanized development around the proposed transit nodes, including Fayette County.
I cite the minutes for the regional Transit Planning Board on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007: “The primary goal of Concept 3 is to connect people throughout the region to the major employment/activity centers. This will be accomplished by providing an interconnected and expanded regional transit network; that will capture a large portion of the employment trips to activity centers and to include the supporting network of local bus service and the development of land use regulations and patterns that support transit uses. This will be a multi-modal network that: Is activity center focused; is an expansion of the rail network and existing transit infrastructure; has different types of bus service; is not constrained by political boundaries (is regionally seamless for the user).”
From a purely technical point of view, it makes absolutely no sense to have mass transit planned for Fayette County in the first place. No intelligent transportation planner could justify the one size fits all approach of placing mass transit in a county consisting of 105,000 inhabitants in a 200 square-mile area.
Even by 2040, our anticipated population is not expected to reach 170,000.
By contrast, let’s take a look at a reasonable comparison. DeKalb County is close to Fayette County in size at 271 square miles, but their population is around 670,000.
DeKalb County has a population density of 2,483 persons per square mile. On the other hand, Fayette County has a population density of 528 persons per square mile.
DeKalb County, along with financial powerhouse Fulton County, cannot afford to keep MARTA afloat. How could anyone reasonably conclude a far less dense Fayette County would ever be able to support mass transit?
The cost in additional taxes for mass transit capital projects, operations and maintenance for Fayette County would make rising gas prices look like a bargain.
When regional transit committees endorse the “development of land use regulations and patterns that support transit uses,” what they are really saying is they want our population density to be more like DeKalb County, nearly five times greater, in order to support mass transit.
Thinking our county could ever afford to sustain mass transit with our current low density policies and anything close to our current rate of taxation is pure folly.
For the transit purist who supports mass transit at any cost, the normal transit bus in Georgia fills only 22 percent of its total daily seating capacity, and counting standing room they operate an average of about one-sixth full.
The Atlanta rail system fills an average of 39 percent of its total daily seating capacity, but counting its ample standing-room capacity, it operates only about one-eighth full.
Mass transit provides no more energy efficiency or environmental protection than the average sport utility vehicle (SUV).
The convoluted threat of future higher gas prices as the stick to beat Fayette County into keeping our mass transit projects in the regional plan at a significantly higher rate of taxation is absurd.
The direct and honest retort is thousands upon thousands of families accepted higher transportation costs by merely moving to Fayette County. No one moved to Fayette County to be close to anything.
In fact, many of us are refugees from the current mass transit counties in metro Atlanta. Therefore, if we were overly concerned with the costs of transportation, we would have saved hefty amounts of money annually by living in the mass transit counties; where, by the way, we could also find lesser expensive housing. However, we would be forced to accept a lower quality of life.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said a regional transit agency is among the “reasonable options that we have this session” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 17, 2011. In this new era of regional government, a regional transit authority will erode our local authority to control our own affairs.
Just like the regional transportation sales tax referendum coming in 2012 (which our representatives to the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable voted on Dec. 17, 2010 to approve a funding formula allowing up to 60 percent or $4.5 billion of our tax dollars to be used for capital projects, maintenance and operations for mass transit), if every voter in Fayette County voted in opposition, but the other urbanized counties with much larger populations voted in favor, we would be subject to paying the additional taxes. This is the pain of regional government moving against our will.
Get ready for the election of 2012 as our current standard of living is riding on your vote.
Fayette Commissioner, Post 4
Peachtree City, Ga.