Gwinnett County Residents Ask for MARTA Referendum per New State Law
(APN) ATLANTA — At the Tuesday, June 26, 2018 Board of Commissioners Meeting of Gwinnett County, several residents made public comments urging the Board to adopt a resolution creating a countywide referendum on the November 2018 ballot for the County to join the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority (MARTA).
MARTA currently includes the City of Atlanta; and Clayton, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties. Clayton County is the most recent county to join MARTA.
The Georgia Legislature, earlier this year, adopted HB 930, which among other things, makes it possible for both Gwinnett County and Cobb County to join MARTA.
HB 930 also creates a new overarching transit planning entity called the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, or the “ATL.”
If the Board of Commissioners allows the referendum this year, HB 930 states that the County will have more direct control over how the funds are spent.
However, “if a rapid transit contract is entered into after January 1, 2019, the rapid transit service to be provided through the execution of a rapid transit contract shall be from the regional transit plan and approved by the Atlanta-regional Transit Link ‘ATL’ Authority.”
Technically, the Board has until one month before the November election to authorize the referendum, but in reality, the County needs more advance notice to prepare the ballots, so the County must act soon to meet the Jan. 01, 2019 deadline.
“Most larger employers today will not locate any place that does not have an alternative form for transportation,” State Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) told Atlanta Progressive News, explaining why he introduced HB 930.
“What I’m here to ask you is to really definitely consider to make it possible for the people here in Gwinnett County to be able to choose to make a selection about MARTA,” Rev. Harriett Bradley of Norcross said.
“I’m really excited because I prayed a lot about it and I thought to be able to stand before you even to where you’re even considering it, I truly believe it’s a miracle,” Bradley said.
“I also believe it’s time for us to expand our public transportation. Of course we know all about the traffic and everything. We’ve got different people here that sometimes don’t even prefer to drive,” she said.
“I’m here also to speak about the light rail and introduction of MARTA into our community,” Andrea Stephenson of Dacula, Georgia, said.
“I can tell you about my husband, Jim. He used to take the bus… And then you changed it from 5 o’clock in the morning til 5:30 in the morning and that’s too late for him to get to work… So he can no longer take even the buses that you offer, although he loved them,” Stephenson said.
“I come from a city, New York, originally, where every day I took the subway to school or to college. And I can tell you that it is a wonderful, wonderful thing to just be able to hop on, every day, the same train, get to work without any problem. You’re studying, you’re sleeping. It’s so good for your mental health,” she said.
“In the meanwhile, here we are in Gwinnett County and we’re a little bit behind the times,” Stephenson said.
“In China, they’ve got high rail that goes four hundred miles an hour, they’ll soon have rail that goes six hundred miles an hour, replacing airplanes,” she said.
“Another thing that I would ask you to do is to consider a referendum that would bring MARTA to at least Jimmy Carter [Blvd.], and light rail from Jimmy Carter to Lawrenceville and Mall of Georgia and spots in between,” Stephenson said.
“We are now in a horse and buggy county, and I implore you to please bring us into the 21st Century,” she said.
“I’m going to be going back to Georgia State in the winter, and I’m not going to be living down there. So to get down there from my apartment… I’m going to have to go into Doraville to take MARTA down there,” Teddy Murphy said.
“Now I did see there was a plan to put a MARTA Station on Jimmy Carter Blvd. and [Interstate] 85,” he said.
“In order for our dreams of transit coming to Gwinnett to really come true, we need to fund it first. That requires the Board of Commissioners to vote on putting a referendum on the ballot. A lot of people are pushing for that to happen this year. That would be good because we could begin collecting funding needed to fund those projects,” Murphy said.
“Chairwoman Nash, we were in the same room when HB 930 was passed in the Senate. I know you worked hard on getting that bill passed… It would be a complete waste of time on all advocacy on that, if there is no referendum,” he said, addressing Chairwoman Charlotte Nash.
“I am requesting that we have MARTA on the ballot in this next election. I think we need to go forward on this, we’ve waited way too long,” Susan Gamble of Lawrenceville said.
“I had the opportunity to live between two MARTA stations for years and I rode the train every day to work and I absolutely loved it, had no problems. I lived directly between the Decatur MARTA Station and the Avondale MARTA Station. It was beautiful,” Gamble said.
“And I can’t even afford to live down there anymore, property values have gone up so much. There’s no way to even live down there anymore. I don’t see the property values going down out here,” she said.
“We really need the rail all the way out. We really need it to come out to the Arena,” Gamble said, referring to the Infinite Energy Arena, which is outside Duluth and is part of Gwinnett Center.
“I’m urging the Commissioners to put MARTA expansion on a referendum ballot in November,” Krupesh Patel, Chair of Our Revolution Georgia, and a Lilburn resident, said.
“I take MARTA every day. It takes me a while to get there,” to Atlanta, he said.
“It’s very important with Gwinnett growing to meet the transportation needs for the community and meet the economic needs. It has been shown that transportation grows the economy. With companies like NCR leaving, it’s because there’s not enough transportation in Gwinnett,” Patel said.
“I love Gwinnett County, I love Lawrenceville, I love the parks, I love the standard of living, I love the affordability of my home. I hate the transportation issues. 85 is a nightmare,” Susan Hughes, Lawrenceville, said.
“I work as a legal secretary in downtown Atlanta. I do take Gwinnett Transit almost every day. It’s a wonderful service. The buses are wonderful. The drivers are great. You also get stuck in traffic, especially when there’s a bridge collapse or something that happens, that took me two hours each way to get to and from work,” she said.
“It would improve this standard of living for commuters. Folks that still want to drive, it will take a lot of traffic off the road for them,” she said.
“Please allow a vote on this. I think you’ll be surprised how many people are in support of it.”
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)