That was until the CCDOT report surfaced via an Internet search. The impact was dramatic: Instead of completing the contract, it was put on indefinite hold. Why? Because what CCDOT reported was highly negative regarding this Cobb-based company and its concept.
Now why would Cobb County wish to globally disparage a company headquartered here — a company that has developed new technology capable of revolutionizing the transit business that may eventually bring millions of dollars of revenue with hundreds of jobs to Cobb?
To understand this, some history is necessary. A recent MDJ front page article quoted an attorney specializing in libel cases (retained quickly by the county after the CCDOT document electronically appeared) as saying the document was — in her opinion — “fair and balanced.”
However, relative to an earlier discussion written by CCDOT in January 2011 on the same technology, the Internet-posted report mentioned above was anything but fair and balanced.
That original 2011 CCDOT document was a three-page collection of primarily positive observations about the above transit technology. (Seventeen bullet points were reported as “positive aspects,” while 8 were shown as “negative” or “questionable.”)
It was an objective, brief report for internal use, commensurate with CCDOT performed reviews of other transit alternatives.
The new 11-page Internet-posted document, which appeared last month, used more than six pages to detail a variety of negative concerns, many of which were strongly subjective. This was an abrupt and major departure from the prior report.
The timing is interesting. One must wonder why CCDOT elected to suddenly go fully public this past April with a detailed workup on this subject, and in doing so, effectively overwrite an earlier internal report that was seen as entirely sufficient for over a year.
The answer is two-fold. First, in November 2011, at a town hall meeting hosted by Commissioner Bob Ott, privately funded maglev transit technology received a very warm reception from attendees. This alarmed Georgia Regional Transit Authority personnel present at that meeting, who then communicated with CCDOT that it had better recognize the problem a privately funded transit system might create for TIA passage, and effectively GRTA’s survival.
Second, since April, quasi-advocacy group MAVEN has attempted to convince us that giving $7 billion to politicians and bureaucrats is OK because only they have traffic solutions. But, a far less expensive, privately financed transit solution might contradict this. Hence, publicly criticizing any undesired alternatives was necessary and suddenly the highly negative, new report appeared on the CCDOT webpage for the whole world to see. A coincidence? Unlikely.
These actions don’t seem reasonable — that is, until one understands how concerned key government players and agencies are with ensuring “their” tax revenue is available for their projects, be it the Atlanta Beltway trolley, or the Cobb-to-Arts Center bus/train/transit format du jour, amongst
other disjoint, expensive plans.
But the real prize is the flow of tax monies into often co-mingled state coffers that can be used to ensure continued funding, if not financial rescue, of GRTA and MARTA.
Failure of TIA passage is therefore an unacceptable outcome to our region’s transportation bureaucracies — whom are pulling out all the stops to prevent the loss of this lifeline, even if it means 1) Artificially reducing the number of options available for transit solutions, 2) Saddling the local economy with an up to 17 percent tax increase for a 10-year minimum, and 3) Disparaging a local company in spite of its huge local economic potential.
Unfortunately, bureaucracy abhors the wise, efficient use of taxpayer funds. In fact, such use is antithetical to government culture at all levels in contemporary America. Our local transport management efforts fit this model just fine.
TIA was originally designed to address transportation issues completely — not to waste billions on subsidy-thirsty rail or bus schemes, and government growth. But instead of looking at all available options ethically and objectively, given the above events, CCDOT and other government offices appear to seek only preservation of their individual bureaucracies, along with economic opportunities limited to certain vested interests, thereby leaving real transit and traffic solutions secondary. This has been the root of our traffic management problem for years. TIA passage, as currently proposed, will simply perpetuate this.
A “NO” vote on TIA, is therefore essential.
Tom LaBarge is principal and General Manager
of Transit Analytics, LLC, in Kennesaw.