Mass Transit – It’s Not Just For ITPers Anymore

Going simply by the requests of public officials in the Atlanta metropolitan area, the idea of more widespread mass transit isn’t just a yuppie-duppie, ITP sorta pipe-dream anymore.

Based on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s compiled Atlanta metro wish-list of projects to be paid by a Transportation Sales Tax, mass transit is a top priority, not just for old hats like Fulton and DeKalb, but also for many of the most populous counties outside I-285.

The AJC’s summary of the 436 project list shows that the 12 county region asked for over $13 billion in mass transit and $8.5 billion in road improvements.  (You can view the full project list yourself, HERE) These numbers mean next to nothing, since local governments weren’t asked to prioritize projects and those reticent of mass transit would use that larger number to argue its outrageous expense just as quickly as supporters would use it to demonstrate its need.

However, a closer look at individual county projects shows that once-hesitant mass transit counties, like Cobb and Gwinnett, are now more than ready to get into the train game.  Cobb’s most expensive requested project is a mass transit line from the Arts Center MARTA station in Midtown to Town Center/Acworth/KSU.  Gwinnett would like $1.1 billion to build a light-rail line from Doraville to Gwinnett Arena.

So what has changed?

The obviousness of the answer makes the question almost rhetorical.  Cobb and Gwinnett are very different counties today than they were in the 1970s.  Atlanta’s growth has subsumed them, MARTA or no MARTA.  Populations have soared and traffic has gotten appreciably worse as a result.  And as is so often the case – boring as it may be – need tends to trump ideology most days of the week.

Now, I’ve surely gotten ahead of myself.  This list is only representative of the wishful thinking of public officials, and not necessarily the voting population.  But based on this initial sign from Atlanta’s outer-boroughs, mass-transit is really less about Left or Right as it is about need.

And with gas approaching $4/gallon and cars providing flexible but slow commutes during rush-hour, the need for faster, cheaper alternatives might finally win out in a few counties where such options were once quite unnecessary.

9 thoughts on “Mass Transit – It’s Not Just For ITPers Anymore”


  1. My parents live up in Cherokee not far from Cobb’s proposed spot for the line from Arts Center. I have a car, of course, but I would take that line and have them pick me up for a day trip in a heart beat. Even when gas prices are lower it’s still a long, expensive drive.

    However, I fully expect to be horrifically disappointed once this referendum comes up for vote! Thanks for making me completely bitter and apathetic, north Georgia!

  2. I’m all for development of mass transit for Georgia. The development and construction phases would create many many jobs, and the service and maintenance employees who would run the system would have good jobs too. I can’t imagine a better investment Georgia taxpayers could make for the future prosperity of our state.

    1. Now, we just have to convince GDOT and the Legislature of that, not to mention some people on the national level. Last week’s budget deal pretty much gutted mass transportation at several levels.

        1. High Speed Rail funds cut entirely. New Starts funds, that provide support for new transit routes, cut 90%. Amtrak capital improvement funds cut entirely. Amtrak operating fund cut over $ 100 million.

  3. Steve, I noticed the cuts in High Speed Rail, New Starts, and Amtrak funds in the new Republican budget deal too. I don’t believe a single Democrat voted for it. Hopefully, the Senate will not pass the same. I’m really disappointed in the U.S. Congress, especially. I don’t know about Georgia state legislators, but last week I received a phone call from Broun in which I was asked to submit a question for his “public forum” and he blathered on and on and on and never even approached an answer to my question concerning raising taxes for the super-rich. I guess that’s “off the table” now.

  4. Suppose for a moment that the TIA would fund 100% alternative transportation, is the TIA favorable to Fulton and DeKalb even then (OTP counties start to kick in a penny, and we double match by adding a second penny)? How much do you want to subsidize the linkage of non-MARTA counties? Under what conditions would you …?

    If John Fulton and I invested annually for 40 years into enterprise X, which Joe Cobb and Sally Gwinnett now want to access – despite having bowed out from the beginning, do John and I need to pay Joe and Sally to take benefit from our investment? Should they instead pay a premium as latecomers?

    1. -If John Fulton and I invested annually for 40 years into enterprise X, which Joe Cobb and Sally Gwinnett now want to access – despite having bowed out from the beginning, do John and I need to pay Joe and Sally to take benefit from our investment? Should they instead pay a premium as latecomers?-

      I think this is a veryyyyyyyyyy valid question.

      on another note though, I’d love to be able to get to KSU & Galleria on train vs driving.
      I wish they would expand marta rail service in several ways-
      ring around 285
      expand rail to stone mountain,
      expand up 400 to cumming (i know forsyth will take years to even consider it though)
      follow i20, and follow it 15 miles out of 285 on either side
      follow -75/85 at least 15 miles out of 285 following each highway
      have a station a la grand central, as we had where the “gulch” is now many decades ago to service light rail from atlanta to athens / augusta/ chattanooga/macon/savannah/birmingham/columbus
      and be able to hop from that to marta

      I’d love for marta officials to steal as many ideas from DC’s rail as possible

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