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Alternatives to our paying for Atlanta traffic

Last week, I asked you to contemplate whether you could depend on the viewpoints of Fayette County’s current regional government representatives: Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele and County Commission Chairman Jack Smith. Both men have consistently supported issues which are counter to the will of our citizenry.

Their West Fayetteville Bypass is essentially a developer welfare project and will not relieve traffic congestion, causing a future bottleneck in the northern part of the county in later years. Likewise, their 2009 SPLOST was a pork-barrel wish list at a time when people were suffering in a poor economy.

Their mass transit votes are even further off the logic charts with both men saying they oppose mass transit in Fayette County, something we could never sustain with our low population, but they vote in favor of it every time. “I always vote in favor of things I oppose.” Logical?

We are now entering an era where the state legislature is giving unprecedented authority and power to regional governmental entities. This means the usual local governmental autonomy (known as “home rule”) that we have grown accustomed to over the generations is beginning to diminish.

Regional governments are comprised of groups of contiguous counties. Our particular region is the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), comprising Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Henry, Cobb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Cherokee and Rockdale counties.

The new regional system is set up to reward the counties who have created the worst congestion problems and have the largest population. This means Fayette County is doomed to fail as we are at the bottom of the list in both categories.

In the ARC, counties like Gwinnett, Fulton and Clayton, who created land planning disasters resulting in extreme traffic counts and have large populations, will reap a tax revenue windfall. However, Fayette County will become a “donor county,” shipping truckloads of our hard-earned tax dollars north.

Steele and Smith were our representatives in the process of creating this new regional government structure. We did not get much from their lackluster efforts. Steele even admitted at the Association of Fayette County Governments meeting that his regional process is “flawed.”

There is a local contingent studying the situation and looking at viable alternatives to our current plight of giving our tax dollars away and submitting to regional mass transit plans that do not fit our lifestyle.

One commonsense solution is leaving the ARC and joining the Three Rivers Regional Commission at our southern border, gaining more funding and escaping the ARC’s mass transit plans.

Mayor Steele, pro-mass transit, pro-West Fayetteville Bypass and pro-2009 SPLOST, has done a masterful job spreading propaganda around the county trying scare key leaders into staying in the ARC.

Illogical assertions are made by distorting real numbers. The Steele crowd always throws out numbers like 40 percent of our population leaves the county to work, so we are obligated to pay for all the other counties’ road problems.

First of all, 40 percent of our population is only 42,000 people with a good deal of them car- or van-pooling and working short distances across the county line. We do not begin to even come close to putting a dent in the traffic volume numbers on the regional roadways.

To put it in perspective, the number of people we put into the regional road system is about the equivalent of the amount of traffic that runs through Ga. Highway 54 West every day.

Steele insists the technical expertise we receive with traffic planning from the ARC and their large staff is a key reason to stay put. However, according to the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, who tracks national traffic congestion, the Atlanta region has consistently placed in the top ten most traffic congested places across the nation. The more the plans fail, the more the ARC planners plan.

Of course the reason the Three Rivers Regional Commission does not have as many staffers is their member counties are slower growth, less dense and their roads are not continuously clogged, much like Fayette County.

Steele also insists Fayette County would receive less funding if we joined Three Rivers and their transportation referendum, an irrational conclusion. Steele and those throwing out the half-hearted figures are only looking at the minimum, discretionary money we would receive.

Now I can understand why Steele would use the minimum discretionary funds each county would receive for comparison because that is all Fayette County would expect to receive in the ARC referendum because our congestion problems, population and representation are not comparable to the other nine counties (Thus, we throw $20-30 million annually to the other counties).

However, under Three Rivers, Fayette County would receive $1.2 million less in discretionary money, but we will be the third largest county in the that region and always be in the running for funding of high dollar road projects, an equitable stake, more than making up for the decrease in the smaller discretionary pool.

Instead of giving other metro Atlanta counties $20-30 million annually as they create more and more transportation problems, we could use the funds we receive for transportation projects from Three Rivers to offset such expenditures in our current budget and buttress our senior services programming and keep our public safety sector strong.

Should we join forces with counties that more resemble our rural planning sensibilities or continue to submit to Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Cobb?

Should we allow the large traffic-laden counties to use our tax dollars to offset their transportation expenses to cover their senior services and public safety needs or use those funds for our own programs?

Should we trust Mayor Steele and Chairman Smith since they seem to run counter to public opinion on most of the major issues?

Steve Brown

Fayette Commissioner-elect

Peachtree City, Ga.




Both of the Don's (Rehwaldt and Haddix) got spanked about this at their respective council meetings. The public has spoken, bring on the commuter rail.

NUK_1's picture

Next week: Brown blasts Tyrone and PTC councils for not following the "will of the people."

ginga1414's picture

I attended a meeting in Fayetteville where Mayors Haddix and Rehwaldt spoke on the subject of leaving the ARC. Mayor Steele was in attendance. Mayors Haddix and Rehwaldt presented a very sensible and informative case for switching to the Three Rivers Commision. Their information was received in a very sinsible and thoughtful manner by everyone in attendance except for Mayor Steele. Many folks in the audience voiced their agreement with Mayors Haddix and Rehwaldt. I did not hear any who disagreed.

For anyone who has made it their business to read our Land Use Plan, they will clearly see that the majority of citizens in Fayette County absolutely do not want Fayette County to become a Gwinnett, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb or Fulton County step-down clone.

If the county continues along the path that the Atlanta Regional Commission has planned for us, we will very rapidly find ourselves cheek to jowl with our neighbors and bumper to bumper with road rage. We will most assuredly have to change the county logo to read, "Where Quality Was A Lifestyle."

With the construction of The Pavilion Fayette County opened the coffin. Now, with the Bypass/Parkway commencing, county officials have already started throwing in bodies and are stacking one on top of the other. When the 2012 Regional Transportation SPLOST takes effect, our Fayette County coffin will be sealed and nailed shut.

When my son was teaching English in Japan, he told me about his experience climbing Mt. Fuji. His party reached a certain height along their climb, and they stopped for the night. He said they entered a building where there were what appeared to be deep wooden shelves on either side of the building that ran the length of the structure. The climbers were instructed to crawl onto the shelves where they had to position themselves on their sides with their heads next to their neighbor's and feet and that positioning continued the entire length of the shelves. My son said that once he was in that position it was impossible to move his arm either up or down. He said that it was the same experience he endured on the bullet trains.

We either pay Three Rivers or the ARC the 1% sales tax.

We're on the hook for 1% either way.

Who do you think has the greater influence with the FED? (hint, not three rivers)

ginga1414's picture

Bad, the FED ain't got no money. They are having to print stimulus money to pay folks with money they don't have.

The Fed will keep printing money just as fast as they can.

Perhaps you didn't see this:

"Atlanta's Kasim Reed is one of a group of mayors scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss transportation issues.

Reed and six other mayors are scheduled to meet with the president on Monday to discuss plans for a major push for more investments in road, railway and airport runway improvements.

Reed is chairman of the transportation committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and has been pushing for the federal government to send more money directly to cities and counties instead of states.

Reed has been to the nation's capital at least twice in recent weeks to lobby for $56 million in federal funding for the planned Peachtree Streetcar rail system."

PTC Observer's picture

Please stop with the letters. Just do your job when you get there. You're not there yet.

“First of all, 40 percent of our population is only 42,000 people with a good deal of them car- or van-pooling and working short distances across the county line.”

Steve, this is only going to hurt a little bit.

Show me your numbers of the car/van-pool commuters vs the individual commuters in Fayette County. It's put-up or shut–up time Steve.

What you are failing to mention or include in you calculations are the numbers of commuters that are passing through Fayette County to Fulton County. They may not live here; as a matter of fact they come from yours and Don’s beloved Three Rivers Regional Commission counties. Try adding them into your equations and the percentage of commuters will no doubt rise.

What is it with your and Don’s distain for the Delta airline employees that commute to and from the airport, "<em>working short distances across the county line"</em>. Do those people not pay taxes here in Fayette County and commute? Both you and Don continue to refer to them as a lesser class of commuter for some reason.

“To put it in perspective, the number of people we put into the regional road system is about the equivalent of the amount of traffic that runs through Ga. Highway 54 West every day.”

And what exactly are your's or Don's proposals for helping with that gridlock at the Hwy.74 and I-85 interchange? "It's not our problem". Fairburn caused it? <STRONG>YES IT IS YOUR PROBLEM! I'M MAKING IT YOUR PROBLEM AS THAT IS WHERE I HAVE TO GO TO MAKE THE MONEY I BRING BACK TO FAYETTE COUNTY!</STRONG>

I don’t remember seeing a proposal from you, or anyone else, about connecting Hwy. 74 to Minix road via Crabapple Lane. Jesus, let’s not offend some cows.

When will you and Don figure it out that the money that pays for PTC comes from Atlanta?

If it is indeed yours and Don’s vision to turn PTC into some sort of retirement community than come out and say it.

There are no high paying jobs here in Fayette County, nor will there be in the near or distant future, that can sustain the necessary tax increases that will be needed to keep this place hidden from reality.

Just be prepared to tell us how you plan on financing it.

Like I told Nuc-1 before, in under two years from now me and my taxes are gone. Others aren’t going to wait as long.

grassroots's picture

Would you spend $50million on a 10 year project to reroute traffic (unknown volume and final direction to 85 unclear) from who knows where without a traffic study? When will you boneheads get the point? There IS NO TRAFFIC STUDY!! Lee Hearn admitted there was no traffic study done. They can not claim the people voted for it because there was no final route until one week before the commissioner's vote in 2009. This will all come out in discovery. Each one under oath with separate questioning. Can't wait.

I couldn't give a damn about the WFB, phase 1, 2 or 3. I'll never use it and most likely will never even see it. I couldn't tell where it is or supposed to be.

My concern is getting to where the high paying jobs are. (Thats Atlanta for you boneheads)

ginga1414's picture

If your concern is getting to "high paying jobs" and you don't care about the WFB, maybe you should consider moving to Atlanta. You could save yourself loads of time and money. The time you would save could be spent on more pleasant pursuits. However, your extra money would most certainly be consumed by Fulton County taxes.

"you should consider moving to Atlanta" I've never heard that one before.

Steve Brown's picture

Call the van pooling people, listed below.

You say, “What you are failing to mention or include in you calculations are the numbers of commuters that are passing through Fayette County to Fulton County.” They, bad_ptc, will not pay ARC regional transportation tax, so what do you want to do with them? By the way, most of our portion of the regional sales tax will be going to Gwinnett and North Fulton and DeKalb. How many Fayette County citizens work in those areas? Better yet, how much of Gwinnett, North Fulton and DeKalb's regional sales taxes are coming our way? If you said "$0" you are correct. Who created their traffic problems through abysmal land use practices? If you say "they did" you are correct.

Why do you interpret my stating the fact that a significant number of our Fayette County citizens only travel “short distances across the county line” as distain for Delta employees? I do not get that at all? The point was we barely put a dent in the volume numbers of the regional transportation system.

As far as the gridlock on I-85 and Ga Hwy. 74, you will remember I helped create a task force of local jurisdictions as mayor to move interchange improvements forward. The irony of this is Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele and the Fayette County Commission refused to participate – the two biggest ARC regional tax supporters. And in my opinion, Fairburn is not responsible for all the congestion at the interchange like you suggest.

No, “the money that pays for PTC” comes from the taxes of residents and businesses who chose to reside in our area because it was not Atlanta and Gwinnett and Clayton, etc.

Where, bad_ptc, do you anticipate the $30 million they take from us annually will go? Please tell us, specifically. Next, tell us where you would like the $30 million they will take from us annually to go.

Have a great rest of the week!

Steve as per your reply
I have contacted them directly, on several occasions, I’ve signed up for notices for future routes the whole nine yards, and they have repeatedly told me that they have no interest in starting and/or supporting van pools from Fayette to Atlanta. I don’t care what the web site says; I spoke with the people that actually run the damn thing. Yes I’ve seen the vans here yet somehow the company itself doesn’t seem to understand that they're here.

Bottom line, no help to me.

Go to their VAN POOL link, and you’ll see that they only show the Douglas and Cherokee services. Been there, done that.

“You say, “What you are failing to mention or include in you calculations are the numbers of commuters that are passing through Fayette County to Fulton County.” They, bad_ptc, will not pay ARC regional transportation tax, so what do you want to do with them?”

The question is to you Steve, what do <strong><em>you</em></strong> plan on doing with them? From your response it would appear that you plan on doing NOTING as usual. Are they not using ‘Fayette County roads’, as it were, to get to work. What do you plan on doing about that? Whether or not they are a member of TRRC or the ARC the traffic they represent is an impediment to Fayette County.

“Why do you interpret my stating the fact that a significant number of our Fayette County citizens only travel “short distances across the county line” as disdain for Delta employees? I do not get that at all?”

Then why state it?

“Fairburn is not responsible for all the congestion at the interchange like you suggest.”

Then you had better have a talk with your son Don as that is what he is trying to sell.

“No, “the money that pays for PTC” comes from the taxes of residents and businesses who chose to reside in our area because it was not Atlanta and Gwinnett and Clayton, etc“.

Ok Steve, SHOW ME THE MONEY! Where is it coming from?

As anyone with an iPod can research, show me where the money is coming from “local employment” that could sustain the taxes and 'mean housing costs' for PTC ? NOT!

Where are the local jobs in Clayton, Coweta, Meriwether or Henry counties that can afford a home in PTC, average price of $250,000+? Show me where the teachers of Fayette County live who don’t have a significant other working in ‘out-of-county’ employment? Show me where the thousands of PTC residents that make $100,000+ work? It’s NOT in the TRRC.

After pontificating Steve, you never answered my question, “Show me your numbers of the car/van-pool commuters vs the individual commuters in Fayette County.

In the future please try and answer the questions posed instead of trying to dodge them.

The Census Bureau's American Community Survey's data for 2006-2008 (the most recent data for Fayette County; go to to find it for yourself, as the Census Bureau does not allow you to link to queries made to its database) shows that 53.62% of Fayette workers do not work in Fayette county, not 40%.

Moreover, a full 47% of Fayette workers drive to their out-of-county jobs by themselves (i.e. no carpool or vanpool). And the average out-of-county commute is 38 minutes. They are not driving "just across county lines", they are driving into Atlanta.

I understand you want your citizens to be able to continue to free-ride on the back of my and other Atlantans lungs (unless you are planning to build a Simpsons Movie-like dome over Fayette to prevent anyone from leaving, leaving ARC won't keep emissions from Fayette vehicles in Atlanta from my lungs) and my and other Atlantans safety (I bicycle to work and traffic from drivers, including the not insignificant number from Fayette, makes it difficult to add more bicycle lanes; if a significant number of those drivers came in by commuter bus or rail) and lack of greenspace (the amount of land in Atlanta devoted to letting primarily out-of-city commuters park is unbelievable) and yes, our grinding traffic, which Fayette residents contribute to.

I suppose that's your job, assuming you ignore the fact that Fayette is absolutely metro Atlanta, not a place with "rural sensibilities." For that matter, much of Three Rivers is not "rural sensibilities" either

But at least be honest with your constituents when you make that case.

an Atlanta resident who blogs at <a href = "">Hat Thief</a>

NUK_1's picture

Brown's numbers sounded like utter crap, especially of the alleged car and van pool(??) riders daily, and I am glad you have shown the actual reality.

grassroots's picture

Remove 4 stupid lights on HWY 54, take Gingercake Rd to HWY 92, turn left and then take anyone of 3 roads to 138 to 85 Freeway. Save or spend $50Million elsewhere and move on. Lights out, 20 minutes to airport, 30 minutes to Atlanta. Commisioner's dim bulbs can't see through the landslide SPLOST defeat or election removing incumbents and connect the dots along the highway to nowhere.

I am for commuter rail. I think the point Steve was trying to make was that those short mile commuters (Delta employees) would not benefit from road improvements further up in Atlanta & beyond, paid for by the money collected in their home county.

It's simple. We stay with ARC and we're one Chihuahua fighting Gargantua with our "2% of the total voice." We whisper, ARC roars. I like the way Fayette County lifestyle looks right now. Sure, there are a few problems like the highway 54 and 74 intersection at 5PM. But it's much better than it used to be. Remember the intersection of highways 314 and 279? These were problems we had that needed fixing and we fixed them. But we don't want to look like Clayton County, Fulton County, or any of the other 9 counties served by ARC. The problems they have in those other counties with traffic, gangs, ghettos and all that goes with acquiescing to the big counties...all that is the real development that would crumble the Fayette County we know and love.

I read a comment yesterday where the writer didn't give a hoot about the West Bypass wasted money issue...all he cared about was his own travel time to Atlanta. I challenge anyone to present a scenario where thruways, buses and rapid transit will make our rural atmosphere look better. Theoretically, you would speed up traffic by reducing the number of automobiles. But realistically, you would actually create much more traffic by opening up the county to more rampant development, especially from Clayton and South Fulton County.

When I was in high school, Gwinnett County had about 25,000 people. Then, roads and developers got in. Now they're up to about 800,000 people, gridlocked in a maze of asphalt, road rage, and high taxes. They even tore down their towers on I-85 that said Gwinnett is Great! We can be another Gwinnett County if that's what you want. The roads are there, but you don't get to and from work in Atlanta any sooner. So how does getting more roads, trains and buses improve the rural characteristics of Fayette County? More people, more crime, and we get to witness what few here have seen, the formation of gangs and ghettos.

Three Rivers, however, would give us a much louder voice in the big picture, and help us stay the way we are much longer. Your trip to Atlanta is mostly spent in other counties. What we do here will never change that. So factoring out that part of the equation, it's really not such a big deal getting out of Fayette County going to work in ATL, is it? Realistically, with more roads, trains or buses, anyone spending X number of minutes going to work might save five minutes until development catches up with the transportation improvements. When I lived in North Fayette, I tried taking MARTA to Atlanta from Flat Shoals Rd., it took me 30 minutes longer getting to downtown Atlanta. Wait for the bus, wait for the train, wait, wait, wait! But when ARC descends upon us, it's too late. You got what Steve's naysayers wanted, but you're sorry for what came with it. Think about it this way...MARTA, buses and freeways don't come alone.

You might also pull up the Atlanta Outer Loop diagram that is drawn to go through downtown Fayetteville, thanks to ARC. We are little more to ARC than an annoyance.

The thing about Steve Brown is...he's usually right.

Mr. Brown, the same old rant grows old. It seems thatyuor focus is too narrow, the mind too closed. Hard to see a positive path forward inthe on-going rant.

If all of these things are so bad, then what is so good. Fayette and the metro Atlanta area can become a meca for what is southern excellence can be - but not with a systematically oppositional approach. The key to our quality of life is 40 miles due north. Better to tap in strategically, plan now and take control of our destiny moving forward. ARC is a big pool of money. A slice of a big pool - can be good.

Also - ARC allows for for development for centers of sustainable living. It can be far more than just roads. If the opportunity is met with some one with vision. Is the vision there?

PTC council killed the idea of leaving ARC. Good. Lets get on the train to progress, coming soon to a town near you.


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