As the next step in selecting the transportation projects that will go before voters in next year’s referendum on a regional one percent sales tax, the Executive Committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable last week heard from the residents who will be going to the polls.
In addition to receiving comments from individuals and organizations during the meeting, the Executive Committee, along with 10 other Roundtable members who were present, discussed the findings from its initial public outreach. Since March, the Roundtable has conducted 12 focus groups around the region, a statistically valid two-question poll of more than 1,000 regional residents and an online survey that generated more than 9,000 responses.
Perhaps the most important lesson that Roundtable members learned is that despite the different tools used to conduct research, the messages from the public were fairly consistent:
• Congestion relief was by far the number one reason residents gave when asked why additional investment in transportation is needed.
• Respondents overwhelmingly chose rail over bus, local shuttles and streetcars when asked their preferences for transportation alternatives.
• Residents care about transportation. This was evidenced by the fact that participants in several focus groups wanted to stay longer than the required time and continue the conversation, and by the fact that of 9,000 respondents to the online survey, more than 4,000 took the time to leave an open-ended comment.
Over the last few weeks, Executive Committee members have also heard from their counterparts around the nation that recently passed transportation sales tax referendums. Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd reported lessons learned from the ARC’s recent LINK trip to the greater Seattle region, which passed a referendum in 2008. Henry County Chairwoman B.J. Mathis recapped the discussion from Friday’s meeting of Roundtable members and interested citizens with leaders of Denver’s successful initiative in 2006.
On June 1, the Executive Committee expects to receive from the Georgia Department of Transportation the list of projects that meet the criteria established by the Roundtable earlier this year. The committee will have about two months to narrow that list to a set of projects that can be funded by approximately $8 billion over the 10 year life-span of the referendum. The full Roundtable will have until mid-October to finalize and approve this financially viable list. The public will have about eight months to review it before voting in July 2012.
The Executive Committee will meet again on Thursday, June 9 at 9 a.m. at the ARC offices. That meeting will mark the group’s first discussion of the actual project list.