I’ve talked to a lot people during our petition drive to put the public funding of the new stadium on the ballot. Many of those people indicate that they feel like Atlanta could put the Hotel/Motel Tax revenue to better use than building a successor facility for a building that is younger than I am.
If I could divert the funds, I’d put that money toward the transportation woes facing the metro area. For starters, the money could go towards tackling the $922 million infrastructure backlog. I, for one, am pretty tired of tearing up my tires on the potholes and broken streets around the city.
But our transportation woes are having an effect on more than just our morning commute. The New York Times recently publicized the Equality of Opportunity Project, which found that Atlanta ranks dead last for potential for upward social mobility. One theory to explain the findings relate to Atlanta’s vast sprawl and our transportation problems.
The Times article notes,
“Atlanta, which is one of America’s most affluent metropolitan areas yet also one of the most physically divided by income. The low-income neighborhoods here often stretch for miles, with rows of houses and low-slung apartments, interrupted by the occasional strip mall, and lacking much in the way of good-paying jobs.
This geography appears to play a major role in making Atlanta one of the metropolitan areas where it is most difficult for lower-income households to rise into the middle class and beyond…”
In an NYT column published after the article, Paul Krugman, further reinforces the idea that physical mobility is to blame, saying:
“And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities. This would make an effective public transportation system nearly impossible to operate even if politicians were willing to pay for it, which they aren’t. As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can’t get there.”
Supporters of the stadium project often cite the potential future revenue that the new facility will bring the city, and all the jobs it will create. But are business really going to want to come to a city where we are infamous for our congestion and inefficient public transportation? And what good are new jobs going to be if people are unable to get to them?
The stadium project itself has highlighted the problems with transportation. The preferred south site was deemed as such because of its MARTA connectivity. Now that that option is dead, maybe that will force the city to invest a little in transportation, since their priority seems to be sports over the economic security of its citizens. Atlanta is one of the fastest growing cities, and we are innovators in many capacities. I think that instead of wasting public money on building a state of the art stadium, we should be putting that money and energy into building a city that can provide our kids with a place to reach the top.
What do you think? If you could apply the Hotel/Motel tax revenues to anything besides the Georgia Dome and New Stadium, what would you want it to go towards?