News, updates, commentary and more from BikeAthens. BikeAthens is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Athens, GA. BikeAthens promotes transportation and land-use policies that improve alternative modes of transportation, including pedestrian, cycling, and public transit options. The mission of our organization is to make alternative transportation a practical, convenient, and safe option for all citizens of Athens-Clarke County.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A (small) transit victory

From our friends at Get Georgia Moving:
Transportation Funding Legislation:
Measure Passes Senate Transportation Committee With No Opposition

Senate Bill 39 and its companion Senate Resolution 44, sponsored by Sen.
Jeff Mullis (Chickamauga) and co-sponsored by 43 other state senators,
moved easily through the Senate Transportation Committee on January
28th. The important transportation funding measures will be up for a
vote before the full Senate soon.

Please take action and click on this link
http://capwiz.com/getgeorgiamoving/home/ to contact your state senator
and encourage them to support the bill!

Terry H. Chastain
Get Georgia Moving, Inc.
Phone: 404-586-8406
Fax: 404-586-8427
Cell: 404-219-4944
www.getgeorgiamoving.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Flagpole: downtown ped mall, GDOT, and more

Along with cover art by a former BikeAthens' Board member, this week's Flagpole features stories on possibly converting College Square to a pedestrian plaza and the budgetary tribulations at GDOT.

Get your Alternative Fuel!



Jittery Joe's is now carrying "Alternative Fuels," a special coffee blend which will benefit our
programs and activities.

Very soon, you can buy it direct from the Jittery Joe's website, or stop by the Bike Recycling shop now during our open hours (limited availability).

Many thanks to the folks at Jittery Joe's for supporting our work!

If you are interested in carrying Alternative Fuels coffee at your place of business, please contact
chair (at) bikeathens.com

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TSPLOST update

From the AJC:

The Senate Transportation Committee took up legislation Monday that would allow multicounty regions to levy themselves a 1-cent sales tax for transportation projects in their regions.

If passed, the legislation would open the door for projects including roads, rail mass transit or perhaps even intercity high-speed rail, said Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), chairman of the committee.

SB39 and SR44, if passed by the General Assembly, would still need a constitutional amendment to be enacted. That amendment would have to be approved by Georgia voters.

To contact our senators to encourage their support of this bill & resolution, email

Bill Cowsert: bill.cowsert@senate.ga.gov

and

Ralph Hudgens: ralph.hudgens@senate.ga.gov


"Running on empty" @ ATHICA

ATHICA: Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, Inc.proudly presents:

Running on Empty: the fossil fuel addiction

curated by Bart King

with featured artist:
Christoph Gielen from New York City/Bonn, Germany

Opening Reception:
Saturday, January 31
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
-with yummies provided by White Tiger Gourmet


ATHICA's 30th exhibition brings you artwork and industrial products
inspired by the energy crisis we face, and by the solutions that could
help us survive.

Running on Empty includes photography, print, large-scale painting,
mosaic, video, installation, digital imaging and more by 17 artists and
groups selected from more than 50 submissions from across the U.S., South
America, Europe and Asia.

The exhibit runs
January 31-March 22, 2009

More info.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

GDOT cries for help

ABH relays GDOT's pleas for money from the state legislature.

A few unanswered questions:
  1. How did they get into such a dramatic budget shortfall?
  2. What exactly do the "department's 4,500 employees" do?
I understand that it's a huge institution managing many complex projects, but it would be nice to see a breakdown of that 4,500 figure (road crews, administrators, planners, etc.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good ideas for the stimulus plan

From the Congress for the New Urbanism, via Design New Haven:
According to the CNU, priority stimulus funding should be given to projects that enhance connectivity to the greatest degree, e.g., by reducing block sizes, increasing sidewalk space, and converting one-way streets to two-way streets, and increasing the number of intersections per square mile by eliminating major "gaps" in the network.
"Communities across the country realize their future is in walkable, livable, fuel-efficient neighborhoods — they want to build up the infrastructure that supports that vision. If the pavement portion of this stimulus winds up looking like just another superhighway bill, it will be a step backwards from energy independence and from lasting economic recovery in home and real estate markets, which is where the economic crisis started."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Budget woes & transit talk

Also in the current Creative Loafing, an article about the state's overall budget crisis and the debate over transit in Georgia and how to pay for it.

While the whole piece is worth a read, here's the gist :

[Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute] says Georgia, which has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, is in a “structural deficit.” For the past 10 years, the Gold Dome’s addiction to cutting taxes while doling out incentives to businesses cost the state an estimated $1.5 billion annually.

Contrary to what most GOP power-hitters say, Georgia has a revenue problem, Essig says, not a spending problem, and the decades-old habit of bending over backward in terms of tax credits, incentives and exemptions has left the state no better off.

“The problem is [the budget’s] lacking any bold vision,” Essig says. “The elected leadership has to tell Georgians what it takes to develop first-class health care, first-class education and first-class transportation — and be honest about ways to raise revenues to do it. And if we’re not going to do it, then to stop promising that goal.”

AMID CONCERN OF THE state’s budget woes, there will be other issues that demand lawmakers’ attention — some say immediate attention.

Chief among them: the ever-pressing challenge of the state’s notorious congestion problem.
Last year, a lack of funding to build roads, repair bridges, and introduce much needed public transit to our auto-dependent state was one of the biggest hurdles the General Assembly tried to overcome. Look around and you can see the problem was far from solved.

In the run-up to this year’s session, the state’s most powerful business leaders echoed their call for lawmakers to create a new funding source for transportation. The most popular idea — a 1 cent sales tax that counties could levy on themselves to fund road, rail and bridge projects — is a slightly altered version of legislation that failed by three votes in the Senate just minutes before the General Assembly adjourned in 2008.

Judging by Perdue’s recent speech to lawmakers, however, we’ll still be sitting in gridlock come next year. He says he’ll support a new transportation tax when such a plan makes “business sense.” Last week, the governor proposed a sweeping overhaul of the state’s countless transportation agencies, parroting last year’s line that the different groups are in need of reform before they receive more money.

Nonetheless, lawmakers are giving transportation funding another go. Last week, Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, introduced legislation that would revive the regional sales tax funding mechanism. Members of the House want a statewide 1 cent sales tax, a move that Cagle says isn’t likely to pass in the Senate, over which he presides. If either moneymaking mechanism were to succeed, it would require a state constitutional referendum on the 2010 ballot. In other words, there won’t be any new funds for a while.

Perdue has indicated a willingness to fund public transit, if not MARTA specifically. The Georgia Regional Transit Authority, which Perdue oversees, has been appropriated $11.6 million by the governor for new buses to shuttle commuters from intown to the suburbs. The agency requested the funds last year as well, only to be rebuffed by lawmakers.

In terms of commuter rail, Perdue received a tongue-lashing from U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., because the governor didn’t include in the budget funding for a rail line between Atlanta and Griffin, a project he said he’d support during the state’s gas shortage last year.

The good news: Lawmakers are lining up to support a bill that would allow alcohol to be sold in stores on Sundays. It won’t solve the deficit — an additional day of booze revenues would only generate $4.8 million in taxes — but it would at least provide more options for drinking away your economic sorrows.

Cheers.
Get in touch with your elected officials to let them know you support an increase in general support for public transit, sidewalks, and bicycle infrastructure in Georgia, as well as a 1 cent sales tax (aka TSPLOST) dedicated to funding transit & rail.

Presidential inauguration train tied to Ga

Via Atlanta's Creative Loafing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pics from the MLK Jr. Day of Service

Many thanks to the crew of volunteers who came out to help us clean and organize the Bike Recycling shop!

Pics below:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

No rail funds in state budget (%$!!!?)

AJC reports:

Congressman David Scott accused Gov. Sonny Perdue of stalling the state’s commuter rail project and threatening millions in federal aid when he chose not to include the train in budget proposal.

The Georgia Department of Transportation requested $15.1 million to start a commuter rail from Atlanta to Griffin. However, Perdue included no money in this year’s budget for the train.

Argh.
Seriously, Perdue? What about this?

Contact him and your other elected officials.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Op-Ed argues for increased transit funding

“Recovering Stronger,” San Francisco Chronicle:

Though the list of possible projects released this week by House leadership offered some reason for hope, it still may not go nearly far enough to truly address the challenges of low-income Americans. Instead, one of the biggest federal spending packages the nation has ever seen will largely be used to build more highways to the exurbs - missing an historic moment to make a nation that is more competitive, more inclusive and more rich with opportunity.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Comment on infrastructure bailout bill

Commentary on the developing story of the federal bailout bill from the blog of Hugh Bartling, a professor in DePaul’s Public Policy Studies program:
Congressional Democrats have just released some detailed numbers that will form the basis of economic stimulus legislation that Obama wants to sign into law by mid-February.

The devil, of course, is in the details. It appears that the $64 billion figure for “shovel ready” projects comes from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I am not familiar with their study, but some of the statements coming from AASHTO officials suggest that highway expansion and new roads are heavily weighted in this figure. As Transportation for America implies, maintenance money for bridges and highways should be prioritized over new road and highway construction. Using the stimulus package to exacerbate sprawl will simply cause further air quality and carbon emissions further down the line.

"The Bicycle Diaries" on BBC radio

If you are able to listen to BBC radio, watch out for the upcoming Bicycle Diaries series:
With more than a billion models around the world, the bicycle has found a place in every society. Since its invention in 1817 people have redesigned and used the bike for hundreds of different purposes, from sporting events and policing the streets to sharpening knives and selling ice cream. This three part series illustrates how the bike is used today and what impact it has on people’s lives.

UPDATE: BBC is live online & available in Athens via XM Satellite Radio and SIRIUS satellite radio.
According to the BBC website, this show will air Fri 9:06 am with repeats at 11:06 am , 8:06 pm, and Sat 1:06 am, 4:06 am, and Sunday 7:06 pm.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Budget crunches, bailouts, and transit

ABH features a story today discussing Georgia's deepening financial problems. But, with the prospect of both federal bailout money for states and another vote on a TSPLOST bill, we may see significant investment in transportation infrastructure. Hopefully, that means rail lines, buses, and rail-trails.

Excerpt:

Congestion in cities, the desire for rural highways to help recruit employers and environmentalists' hopes for mass transit all converge in a quest for additional funding for transportation.

Business groups and environmentalists are lobbying for a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would allow groups of counties to levy a regional sales tax to pay for regional transportation projects. A similar proposal passed the House and fell three votes short in the Senate in the final moments of last year's session.

Senators said there wasn't time to work their way through the proposal's complexities, such as assuring that voters in counties that reject the regional tax would not have to pay it.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has said he wants the Senate to pass its version of the bill this week, while House leaders have said there is little reason to rush, since the matter can't be put on the ballot for public ratification until the next general election in 2010.

Why do these media scribes lean so heavily on the word environmentalists?

Public transportation is also very much a social justice issue, a poverty alleviation strategy, a traffic reduction tactic, and a jobs creation program. It's also a fundamentally more sutainable approach to transportation planning. When gas prices spiked last summer, which they'll likely do again, transit ridership increased dramatically. In the event of another fuel price increase, having a reliable, extensive public transportation network also makes sense for economic security.

Thankfully, our local officials have expressed support for a TSPLOST approach to funding transit and have shared this with the Athens area delegation to the state capitol.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

GA Tandem Rally 2009

From our friends at Georgia Bikes!:
The holidays are over, the new year has begun and it's time to start
thinking about tandem rallies! More specifically, the Georgia Tandem
Rally, which will be held in Athens on May 22-24, 2009. We've got a
great event planned and it's Memorial Day weekend, which helps as you
might get an extra travel day this year on your way home from the
rally. You can read a meticulous summary of rally details at

www.georgiatandemrally.com

Saturday, January 3, 2009

GA lowers gas tax

Happy New Year!

Our first post for 2009 relays the bittersweet news that Georgia's already moderate gas tax has been lowered even further.

The state tax was lowered by 4 cents per gallon to 14.6 cents starting Thursday. Georgia's gas tax is adjusted twice a year based on the average price of gas. When that average price dips - as it has in recent months - the tax goes down as well. Gov. Sonny Perdue rescinded an executive order he issued in June that froze the tax as prices skyrocketed during the summer.

The reduction cuts millions of dollars for the state Department of Transportation, which had a $456 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that ended July 31, according to an audit report in September.

"Our costs are going up and our revenues are declining," DOT spokesman David Spear said Friday. "We're trying to prioritize our projects and do the things that are most needed."

The DOT budget for this year is about $2.3 billion, with about half coming from federal gas tax revenues and a comparable amount from the state. Spending could be padded by a "few hundred million" dollars in bond sales, Spear said.

Transportation funding is a problem nationwide. With motorists driving less and buying less fuel, the current 18.4-cents-a-gallon gas tax and 24.4-cents-a-gallon diesel tax fail to raise enough to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

In Georgia, a proposal to allow counties to group together and impose a regional sales tax to pay for transportation projects failed to pass in last year's General Assembly by one vote. The legislature is expected to try to tackle a statewide transportation plan in the session beginning this month.

Let's hope the legislature & GDOT concentrate on projects that are "most needed," such as commuter rail, transit expansion, and transportation-oriented bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Recklessly throwing money at road widenings and interstate construction will only waste GDOT's time and money and will exacerbate our state's transportation crisis.