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