Transit was on the minds of Sandy Springs residents and many others during Wednesday night’s "Wireside Chat" for North Fulton county. Many residents expressed concern over MARTA's portion of the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) .
According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, between both the North Fulton and Cobb calls Wednesday evening, nearly 4,500 people took part in the telephone town hall meetings.
Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker and Fulton County Chairman John Eaves took questions from local residents on everything from how long the tax will last to specifics about why light rail expansion into North Fulton is cost-effective or even beneficial.
Eaves told callers that he believes MARTA needs to expand to become more accessible and therefore more useful to a wider group of metro area residents. In response to a question about the self-sustainability of the region's transit system, he said more resources were needed now so that it can be a more effective system in the long run, bringing us up to the standards of other big metropolitan cities.
When sentiments of distrust over where the money would actually go and if the tax would ever really end were brought up, Bodker jumped in to say that, while a small group of people decided to extend the Georgia 400 tolls without the consent of the people, that wouldn't happen with the tax. He reviewed the process for the implementation, which, first identifies projects to be funded; and second, puts the option to a vote by the people.
"These projects went through a great scrutiny," he said. "This tax is not intended to create more tax."
Additionally, Bodker said a citizen's advisory committee would keep an eye on the revenue brought in by the tax to ensure it was going to the areas it was supposed to go. A public website would be created and updated with their findings so other citizens could review the intake, as well.
In response to a question about why the gas tax wasn't raised to fund transportation projects, instead of the TSPLOST, the panel replied that there had been no political will to do so.
Information about the July 31 regional transportation referendum, including fact sheets about the 157 projects on the list, is available on the ARC website.