October 24, 2016 11:22 AM
Around 75 people attended a “Transit Talk” last Thursday that was designed to build awareness of and support for transit in Cobb county that has, so far, not been supportive of transit alternatives. The event was sponsored by Advance Atlanta, a group of citizens who have come together to promote regional transit solutions in metro Atlanta. Featured speakers included Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee and Cumberland Community Improvement District Chairman Tad Leithead, according to a story in the Marietta Daily Journal.
Lee pointed out that Cobb voters have been reluctant to consider transit options, citing the county’s rejection by a 70% margin of the Atlanta region TSPLOST in 2012. A proposal to run a bus rapid transit line from Kennesaw State University to midtown Atlanta was also met with a chilly reception. Lee encouraged those in attendance to become evangelists for transit. “We must convince voters that just like they invest in roads — which they do, a lot — their lives will be better off if they also invest in transit and transportation alternatives.”
Cumberland CID Chair Leithead framed the lack of transit in Cobb as an economic development issue, noting that companies like State Farm and Mercedes Benz bypassed both Cobb and Gwinnett counties in favor of Fulton County and its MARTA connections.
For Cobb County, for Gwinnett County, and for this region to be truly competitive in the markets in which we compete today, internationally, then we have got to add more transportation choices for our residents and for our visitors, for our employers and their employees, and those choices have to include a reliable, efficient transit solution, and it has to address, eventually, connectivity throughout the region.
Gwinnett County residents will vote on a SPLOST next month that would provide funding for roads, but not transit. County officials are expected to approve an updated Comprehensive Transportation Plan next year that is likely to call for expanded transit options.
The Atlanta region has multiple transit systems, including MARTA, GRTA, Cobb Transit, and Gwinnett Transit. At Thursday’s meeting, Nick Juliano, the president of Advance Atlanta, called for the region to work together on transit, saying that ultimately, the region had to be served by a single transit system.
Yet, the structure of MARTA may make that vision difficult to achieve. By law, MARTA is limited to serving Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties. Yet, the Atlanta region has grown considerably since MARTA was formed. GRTA Xpress buses ferry commuters from Cherokee, Forsyth, Henry, Rockdale, and other counties in the expanding Atlanta region.
Both the Georgia House and the Georgia Senate established study committees to examine regional transit solutions this summer, and produce recommendations that could be considered during the 2017 legislative session. The House committee has finished its three scheduled meetings, while the Senate committee is scheduled to have one more meeting. Early indications are that there won’t be a comprehensive solution recommended by the two committees. Instead, there may be recommendations to have the different agencies work together on solutions that would benefit commuters and the agencies themselves, such as a replacement for the Breeze fare system that would include better interoperability between transit providers, and possibly distance based fares.