Gwinnett Voters to Consider Joining MARTA on March 19
(APN) ATLANTA — On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, Gwinnett residents will decide in a Special Election, in a transit contract referendum, if Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) expands into the county.
MARTA is currently comprised of Clayton, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties; and the City of Atlanta. Clayton joined MARTA most recently, and this referendum is part of MARTA’s suburban expansion to make it a regional transit system.
Early Voting started on Monday, February 25, 2019 and will continue until March 15 at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, with seven additional locations open on Tuesday, March 04.
The referendum reads: “Gwinnett County has executed a contract for the provision of transit services, dated as of August 2, 2018. Shall this contract be approved? YES or NO.”
A ”YES” vote will expand transit service and add a new one percent sales tax until 2057 to pay for the estimated 5.5 billion dollar new transit projects.
Gwinnett business leaders and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce support the passage of the transit referendum and consider it vital to attract new businesses, the creation of jobs, and the ability of citizens to have the transportation services needed to get to work and sustain a growing community.
“If Gwinnett is to compete effectively in the future for the best companies and best jobs, robust transit is a necessity. Transit is the one missing factor in Gwinnett’s list of community attributes that are critical to ensure business success in the future,” Charlotte Nash, Chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Gwinnett negotiated a good contract with MARTA that gives control to Gwinnett over funds, expenditures, projects, and services; and provides Gwinnett three seats on the MARTA Board.
Also, projects only move forward upon Gwinnett’s approval, and the County can audit any MARTA financial transactions that affect its costs.
The passage of the transit referendum will expand rail service from the existing Doraville MARTA station to the Norcross area near I-85 and the Jimmy Carter corridor, and will eventually expand to Gwinnett Place Mall.
The expansion will double local bus service, Express routes, add new bus routes down U.S. 78 from Snellville into DeKalb County, and add six new park and rides locations.
It will also add new bus rapid transit (BRT) lines between Norcross and the Infinite Energy Center, and between Pleasant Hill Road through Berkeley Lake and Peachtree Corners with more non-rail lines planed.
It is estimated that expanded bus service will be available in months, BRT within five years, heavy rail in fifteen to twenty years, and everything completed in thirty years.
Passage of the MARTA referendum in Gwinnett County will provide alternative methods of transport that are more environmentally friendly than driving, and mean less of a carbon footprint in an environment that is already struggling with global warming.
“When you talk about climate change and reversing global warming, giving people options to get out of cars, to walk, bike or take transits; this is good… to support cleaner air and less greenhouse gas emissions,” Ted Terry, State Director, Georgia Sierra Club, told APN.
Gwinnett has historically been a Republican stronghold, but demographics are changing, with more diversity that supports mass transit to end gridlock and gives more travel options to people.
Gwinnett County’s current population is over 900,000 and is projected to reach 1.5 million people in the next twenty years, so to accommodate future needs, Gwinnett’s transportation system must expand.
“We have over 200,000 Gwinnett residents who leave Gwinnett to work elsewhere, while almost 200,000 of those who work in Gwinnett live outside the County,” Nash said.
“Based on the great need for our transit system to connect seamlessly with the overall regional transit system, we chose to contract with MARTA, the largest transit operator in the Metro Atlanta area. The Connect Gwinnett Plan includes a wide range of transit modes based on the needs across the 437 square miles of Gwinnett County and across time,” Nash said.
Even with Gwinnett’s rapid growth, there still lingers traditional fears that mass transit will bring more crime to the area and property values will decline.
“MARTA has one of the best records for public safety of any transit system in the U.S… and there are multiple studies that indicate mass transit does not contribute to increased crime. The Gwinnett Police Department will be working hand-in-hand with MARTA to ensure safety issues receive the needed attention,” Nash said.
MARTA police units patrol all MARTA buses, trains, stations and parking lots; and more than ten thousand surveillance cameras operate around the clock, according to the MARTA website.
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