Atlanta Picking Up the Tab for New Stadium as Transit Funding Stagnates

Greater Atlanta, in voting down a transit-focused package of transportation improvements this summer, demonstrated its inability to act regionally to address major quality-of-life problems.

The Atlanta Falcons are demanding a new home now that the Georgia Dome is 20 years old. Photo: PBS.org

The city remains plagued by traffic congestion, with no clear plan to fix it, in the face of rapid projected population growth. In addition, last week, Atlanta was named the sixth most dangerous city in America, in terms of violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

Mayor Kasim Reed and city leaders are now marshaling funds, not to address either of those issues, but to tackle something that is apparently considered more critical: the Atlanta Falcons’ desire for a new stadium.

Reed is floating the idea of using $300 million in revenue from the city’s hotel tax to cover a large portion of the replacement costs for the 20-year-old Georgia Dome, according to Network blog Marta Rocks! But blogger “Urban Commuter” says the city is making an all-too-common mistake:

Somehow, sports stadiums have become the new “Keeping up with the Joneses” for cities. Another city got a new stadium with a big jumbotron. It is only right that your city must get a newer stadium with an even bigger jumbotron. It is like the two middle aged guys in the neighborhood trying to one-up the other with a new grill, new car, or new power tool while ignoring the cracking foundation under their home. But who can see the foundation anyways, right? And that is what we have, ignoring the foundation of our city for a cosmetic good.

It pains me to lay criticism at Reed’s feet for this. I really like him, and think he is one of the best mayors in this country… But this is where he could drop the ball in my opinion. We watched [the transportation referendum] get beaten down by the region. But the City of Atlanta voted yes and by a pretty good margin. During TSPLOST, Reed attempted to act as a regional ambassador, which I appreciated. It was his attempt to bring the region together on a vital issue. But the region spit in his face… And while the stadium may reside in the City of Atlanta, it is used by the entire region. So if the region rejected us on something as important as improved roads, rails, bridges, and sidewalks, why would we offer them an entertainment facility that would be used less than a dozen times in a year?

The claim is that only $300 million will be used from the city hotel/motel tax to help fund the stadium. But that $300 million could go a long way in solving local transportation issues, and even longer if used as a means to match federal funds for projects.

Elsewhere on the Network today: I Bike TO shares a British Columbia study finding that bike infrastructure — especially protected bike lanes — makes city cycling safer. City Block highlights Portland’s abolition of parking minimums in certain transit-rich parts of the city. And Half Mile Circles looks at how Monday Night Football rivals Detroit and Chicago match up in a head-to-head livability competition.