“Taxed Enough Already!” That’s a pretty clear slogan right? And versatile too; In recent years various groups have used anti-tax populism to talk down a variety of legislation. Most recently, the TSPLOST referendum was cast as a battle between an uncaring, wasteful, state-level Leviathan and hard-working honest citizens. If you paid any attention to the July 31st vote then you already know that TSPLOST went the way of Fonzi, Jello pudding pops, and pogs.
Now that the dust has settled from the referendum vote, this transportation advocate is left wondering a simple question: Now what?
Here’s some quick info to provide a background for this post
- TSPLOST was the GA state legislature’s plan to regionally fund transportation projects for the next decade.
- The state was to be broken up into 12 regions which would create a list of transportation improvement projects (read road improvement: the list excluded much needed rail and transit solutions) and then regionally fund the projects through a 1 cent consumption tax.
- The TSPLOST referendum only passed in 3 regions in Georgia, and in Lowndes County the measure failed 2 to 1.
Here’s an abbreviated list of the projects that would have been funded through TSPLOST (remember that all widening projects in the city must include bike lanes):
- Construction of St. Augustine Rd. Overpass
- Jerry Jones Road improvements
- Forrest Street Widening- Park Avenue to Bemiss Road
- Oak St. Widening: Five Points to Cherry Creek Rd.
- St. Augustine Rd. at Gornto Road Intersection Improvements
- St. Augustine Rd. at Norman Dr. Intersection Improvements
To view the complete list click here and scroll down to page 8
Anyone who has driven around Valdosta knows that these projects are needed. But now that the referendum has failed overwhelmingly in our region, what will happen to these projects? Will ambulances and commuters continue to sit at the railroad tracks on St. Augustine while the train switches tracks? Will residents who use Forrest St. as a main North/South artery continue to jam up on their way to work or school? Will non-elective cyclists continue to wear lines in the dirt on Forrest St. where a bike lane could be?
We’ve contacted members of local government to find out an answer to the “now what?” question and will update you with a new post once we know some answers.
In the meantime, we need to begin to build a coalition of transportation advocates. The TSPLOST vote demonstrated a strong reaction to the legislation, but we need action to build a better transportation future. We have to begin to build a base of knowledgeable informed citizens, rather than a reactionary base of voters. Here are some suggestions that will help explain what it takes to build a more bike-friendly Valdosta:
- EDUCATION: Educate yourself on Complete Streets. Complete Streets is the idea that roads should move people, not just cars from place to place. Complete Streets advocates know that planners need to take into account cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians while including sidewalks, trees, and landscaping in road planning. Here are some other helpful resources: Georgia Bikes and League of American Bicyclists.
- NETWORKING: Talk to your peers about what you like and don’t like about getting around Valdosta. Next time you’re at the co-op talk specifically about places that you think are dangerous and make a list of possible improvements. You’ll find that others might share your desire for a bus system, or a bike lane on Williams St. By forming a network it will be harder for opponents to marginalize your opinion.
- DISCUSS: Don’t be afraid to take your concerns to your local leaders. The truth is, they like hearing well-reasoned arguments, and they like seeing individuals get involved in the process. Go to a city council meeting, meet your local traffic engineer or your councilman and begin a dialogue. Maybe you could write a letter to the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and discuss what it’s like riding a bike in Valdosta.
For more information on how to get involved, or to start a dialogue with other Valdosta cyclists stop by the Valdosta Bike Coop at 305 E. Mary Street. You can volunteer or just drop in. And stay tuned for more follow-up posts on TSPLOST.