Clayton Transit Needs the Full Penny

A version of this column ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
As Congressman for Georgia’s 13th District and on behalf of the citizens of Clayton County, I urge the county Board of Commissioners to approve a referendum for a full penny sales tax on the November ballot this year.
With the loss of CTRAN bus service, too many Clayton residents lost access to jobs, schools and medical facilities.
Placing a half-cent sales tax on the ballot is not a viable solution for restoring transit. It will yield only enough funds to support, at best, an anemic and limited bus transit system that fails to meet the expansive transit needs of this county.
Public transit throughout the Atlanta region and Georgia has suffered from a lack of dedicated operating budgets from state and local governments, balkanized administration by multiple transit authorities, and politics.
This has hampered Georgia’s ability to receive federal transit dollars, including the loss of major stimulus funds through the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act; a commuter rail line in Georgia that has stalled for a decade, despite over $80 million in federal funds committed; and CTRAN.
The net result is that Georgians are denied transportation choices, and metro Atlanta’s congested roads rank among the nation’s worst.
Approving the full penny sales tax places Clayton on a stronger foundation to obtain federal funds for public transportation as the federal government favors systems with a strong local commitment. Funding for federal public transportation programs has been between $10 billion and $11 billion since 2009, mostly for capital expenses related to the purchase of equipment such as buses, rail lines and rail stations and as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, also known as MAP-21.
There is also federal funding available for public transit through six major programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration: the Urbanized Area Formula Program; New Starts; State of Good Repair; Bus and Bus Facilities Formula; Enhanced Mobility of Seniors with Disabilities, and Rural Area Formula.
Clayton has so much potential. The county just needs to step on the accelerator and take off. Just look at its existing assets like the Riverdale Centre for Innovation, Clayton State University, both Georgia and National archives facilities, and the world’s busiest airport, as well as projects to come like the new call center in Morrow, the National Museum of Commercial Aviation and major developments at Fort Gillem.
The time is now for leadership and vision for this county. You have my full support to help restore public transportation in Clayton County and provide dedicated federal funding for transit systems.