Here's a list of some frequently asked questions with answers. Don't see your question? Look at the Atlanta Regional Commission's comprehensive FAQs sheet (PDF) or send us an email with your question.
Q. Who can vote for the metro-Atlanta Transportation Referendum?
A. Eligible voters live in these 10 counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale counties.
Q: Who can vote by absentee ballot? Do I have to be out of town to vote by absentee ballot?
A: Anyone registered to vote can request an absentee ballot for this election, and you can vote by absentee ballot even if you’ll be in Atlanta on July 31. Absentee ballot request forms can be found here.
Q: When will the light rail from the Lindbergh MARTA station to the Clifton Corridor/Emory be completed?
A: Completion of the light rail is expected to occur by 2021.
Q: 2021! That is 10 years from now! Why can't the MARTA line to the Clifton Corridor/Emory be constructed as soon as the vote passes?
A: Rail projects must go through a prescribed process that includes years of extensive study, planning, and community input. Several required phases have already been completed on the Clifton Corridor rail project including the Feasibility Study and the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), which the MARTA board approved this past March. The LPA process involved several years of community and stakeholder input, which resulted in consensus on the route and mode (light rail) of the transit line. The next phases will be the Environmental Impact Study (2013–2015), Engineering, Planning, and Design (2013–2017) and Construction (2017–2021). Additional time will be needed for train safety testing, which could take 6–12 months.
Q: Why does the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club oppose the Transportation Referendum?
A: The Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club decided to oppose the Transportation Referendum because they believe the project list is "too heavily focused on sprawl-inducing road expansion and will have a negative overall impact from an environmental perspective." (Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club) However, proponents of the Transportation Referendum insist that the project list focuses on road construction and improvements in existing population dense areas, not in undeveloped areas which could induce sprawl. Additionally, the projects were developed to ease congestion. Congested roads create "stop and go" traffic, which has significant public health implications compared to moving traffic on uncongested roads, including reduced air quality, and increased fine particulate matter and ozone precursors. (Friedman, Michael S., Kenneth E. Powell, Lori Hutwagner, et al. Impact of changes in transportation and commuting behaviors during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta on air quality and childhood asthma. JAMA. 2001, 285(7): 897–905.)
Q: I've heard about the light rail line from Lindberg Center to the Clifton Corridor, but what other projects will impact Emory and the surrounding community?
A: The replacement of the Clifton Road bridge and associated improvements on Haygood Road (additional sidewalks, bike lanes, road resurfacing) will relieve traffic congestion around Emory, the CDC, and hospitals. Bike, pedestrian, and road improvements between Decatur and the Clifton Corridor will provide safer bicycle and pedestrian access.
Q: If I work at Emory but don't live near the Lindbergh MARTA station, then why should I care about the light rail to MARTA?
A: Even if you don't plan to commute on MARTA from Emory to Lindbergh, other commuters along the Clifton Corridor will ride the light rail, which will mean a less congested Clifton Corridor for everyone. In addition, there are projects throughout the entire 10 county metro-Atlanta region, which will reduce traffic congestion, create jobs, and improve quality of life for all of us.
Q: Will the Beltline get any funds from this tax?
A: Yes. The tax will fund $602 million for a streetcar that circulates through Midtown and Downtown, connecting to MARTA in three locations, and connects with the east and west sides of the Atlanta Beltline. (Atlanta Beltline)
Q. How much money will be raised by the transportation referendum?
A: $7.2 billion in 2011 dollars. This amount would be split into two separate pots of money: $6.1 billion for the regional projects that were selected by the Regional Roundtable (which represents 85 percent of the total amount). The remaining 15 percent would be allocated to each county and the municipalities within the counties for local projects (Transform Metro Atlanta).
Q: What types of projects can local municipalities develop with the 15 percent of the funding?
A: The discretionary 15 percent funding can be spent on any new or existing airports, bike lanes, bridges, bus and rail mass transit systems, freight and passenger rail, pedestrian facilities, ports, roads, terminals, and all activities and structures useful and related to providing, operating, and maintaining the same. The dollars can also be spent as a local match for state or federal funding (Transform Metro Atlanta).
Q: Is this tax permanent?
A: The penny tax will be in place for 10 years or until the funding level is reached, whichever comes first. By law, the tax cannot be extended unless approved by voters (Transform Metro Atlanta).
Q. Can the money collected be used for items not related to transportation, such as education?
A. No. Unlike other state and local taxes, revenues raised from this penny tax can only be spent on the specific project list approved by the Regional Roundtable on October 13, 2011 (85 percent of the revenue), and on local transportation projects selected by local counties and municipalities (15 percent of the revenue) (Transform Metro Atlanta).
Q: Who selected these specific projects?
A: With input from more than 200,000 metro Atlanta residents, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable unanimously approved the list of projects that would be funded if the referendum passes. This list was chosen by the Roundtable using the following criteria: reducing traffic congestion, creating jobs, and improving quality of life. The 21-member Roundtable consisted of the county commission chair and one mayor from each of the 10 counties plus the mayor of Atlanta (Transform Metro Atlanta).
Q. What are the terms referring to the Transportation Referendum?
A. T-SPLOST is one term that has been used, though the "L" representing "Local" would more accurately be an "R" for "Regional." The most official term for it, however, is the Regional Transportation Referendum. The law that has established the referendum is known as the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) (AJC, FAQs: What you need to know about the referendum, 6/4/12).
Q. If some counties vote in favor of the referendum and others do not, will the tax occur in only the counties that want it?
A. No. If a majority of citizens in the region vote in favor of the referendum, then it will be implemented everywhere, regardless of county (AJC, FAQs: What you need to know about the referendum, 6/4/12).
Q. How much money will the tax raise?
A. Predictions suggest that the tax will raise $7.2 billion by 2011 standards, or $8.5 billion across the 10 year period if inflation is considered (AJC, FAQs: What you need to know about the referendum, 6/4/12).
Q. What is the ratio of funds that will go towards roads versus public transportation?
A. Roughly 48 percent will go towards road construction and improvements and about 52 percent will be spent of trains, buses, and streetcars (AJC, FAQs: What you need to know about the referendum, 6/4/12).
Q. Who chose the transportation projects?
A. The plans for projects were developed with input from 200,000 metro-Atlanta residents by the 21-member Atlanta Regional Roundtable, which consisted of county commissioners and city mayors from the 10-county region (AJC, FAQs: What you need to know about the referendum, 6/4/12).
Q. Could the funds from the tax be spent on something besides transportation or could the tax be extended beyond the 10 year period?
A. The funds raised by the tax are required by law to be spent only transportation projects. It would be a violation of law for the money to be spent in any other way. For the tax to continue after 10 years, either the residents of metro Atlanta would have to vote in favor of extending the tax to create further funds for transportation projects, or there would have to be an act of the Georgia General Assembly to overturn the law (AJC, FAQs: What you need to know about the referendum, 6/4/12).
Q. What happens to the proposed projects if the Transportation Referendum does not pass?
A. There is a process for the region to reconsider this type of transportation funding. It involves the legislature acting and approval by a majority of counties in the region. Counties could reconsider the question as early as 2016, but not before. If the Transportation Referendum does not pass, these projects would not occur until much later, perhaps several decades. As infrastructure ages, it also becomes more expensive to do the projects. (6/4/12 Wireside Chat)
Q. Is Metro Atlanta the only region voting for a Regional Transportation Referendum?
A. No. The entire state has been divided into regions. Each region will be voting on separate proposed transportation projects to be funded by a tax (AJC, FAQs: What you need to know about the referendum, 6/4/12).
Q. What is the meaning of "light rail"?
A. Light rail is a mode of transit service (also called streetcar, tramway, or trolley) operating passenger rail cars singly (or in short, usually two-car or three-car trains) on fixed rails in right-of-way that is often separated from other traffic for part or much of the way. Light rail vehicles are typically driven electrically with power being drawn from an overhead electric line via a trolley or a pantograph; driven by an operator on board the vehicle; and may have either high platform loading or low-level boarding using steps. (American Public Transit Association)
Q. How many projects are already "on the list" to be constructed if the Transportation Referendum passes?
A. 157 projects are on the list. Each municipality will also receive an additional 15 percent of the funding for other projects. (6/4/12 Wireside Chat)
Q. How can Atlantans submit comments or feedback about the projects, this process, or the Transportation Referendum in general? Where can one access more information?
A. A public open house was held at Atlanta's City Hall on 6/5/12. The public is invited to email their feedback on the transportation referendum to firstname.lastname@example.org. People are invited to visit www.metroatlantatransportationvote.com for additional information. (6/4/12 Wireside Chat)
Q. What job opportunities will the Transportation Referendum construction bring to the metro-Atlanta area?
A. The projects slated to be constructed with Transportation Referendum monies will support an estimated 200,000 jobs including some long term through 2040. Two-thirds of those jobs will be mid-to high-paying. Minority-based and local hiring is being encouraged. (6/4/12 Wireside Chat)
Q. What assurance is there that the money raised is actually being spent on the projects? Who is accountable?
A. None of the money goes to the state of Georgia itself. There will be an annual audit. The projects are designed as pay-as-you-go projects. A citizens review panel will oversee to ensure that money is spent as promised. (6/4/12 Wireside Chat)