Organizing Begins to Bring MARTA to Gwinnett County



Photograph by Gloria Tatum


(APN) ATLANTA — Following a recent poll that 63 percent of respondents are saying yes to MARTA service being extended into Gwinnett County, environmental activists and Democrats are among those beginning to organize for a possible future referendum.


On Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Art Sheldon with the Sierra Club’s Greater Gwinnett chapter attended the Gwinnett Democrats to discuss next steps in bringing MARTA to Gwinnett.


Gwinnett has seen rapid growth and changing demographics that has made it more diverse, with a twenty percent Latino, 26 percent Black, and eleven percent Asian population that is more accepting of mass transit.


On the other hand, there are some older, more conservative, and White voters, who do not believe rail is an efficient use of tax money, and who are not comfortable riding MARTA.


“People are coming from other parts of the country where riding transit is not a big deal.  We are trending toward younger people riding transit, so we have to prepare for that future,” Sheldon told Atlanta Progressive News in a phone interview.


According to the survey, the highest support for MARTA was in Districts 2 and 3, which represent the southern and eastern parts of the county.


A light rail line would probably extend from the Doraville MARTA station to possible stations at Indian Trail, Beaver Ruin, and up to the Civil Center area at Sugarloaf and Satellite Boulevard.


“We are talking about one and a half billion dollars to build a light rail system from Doraville to the Civic Center.  The roads can’t handle the traffic and to widen the highways, you are talking billions of dollars also.  Then in a few years they will be clogged up again.  It is not a long-term solution and people are beginning to realize that, and that’s why there is more support for transit,” Sheldon said to APN.


The Board of Commissions would have to approve putting the referendum on the ballot and the entire County voting for the MARTA extension.


That may not happen until 2017 or 2018 because an education SPLOST referendum (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) will be on the ballot this year.  Then next year, in 2016, the County may renew another SPLOST.


“We don’t want to have two votes and two SPLOST’s at the same time: that’s some of the reason why we may not have MARTA on the ballot next year.  We don’t want to be voting on two raises of taxes,” Sheldon said.


Sheldon explained one of the ideas to get people talking about transit now is the Great Exchange or happening August 24 to the 28, 2015.  It is a week long conversation on the future of Gwinnett.


Community leaders will encourage residents to participate in one of hundreds of hosted conversations in coffee shops, restaurants and in homes about transportation issues and what they would like to see happen in Gwinnett County.


The data gathered from the Gr8Exchange will be made available to any group including the county government and cities.  The feedback will be used to show trends of what types of transportation residents want.


“We agreed with his presentation… We are losing jobs, people can’t get to jobs, and it’s holding the entire region back,” Ilene Johnson, Communication Chair, Gwinnett Democratic Party, told APN.


“Business are leaving like NCR; we spent a lot of money to recruit NCR and now they are moving into Midtown [Atlanta],” Johnson said.


“The biggest thing we feel is needed is a change in leadership on the Gwinnett County Commission and we are going to work to get that,” Johnson said


“That’s what they did in Clayton County, but they had a more favorable Board of Commissioners.  The Chairman ran on a pro-MARTA, pro-transportation platform.  We don’t have that, but we are looking to recruit new leadership and new representation on the Board of Commissioners,” Johnson said.




  • Only by having a strong Public Transportation System , Gwinnett will move forward.

  • John "Jack" Snyder

    As Director of the organization Gwinnett Needs Mass Transit, I feel it needs to be stated that by prolonging a vote on mass transit to 2018(?) or 2020(?) or even beyond the only positive thing that will come out of this will be our county commissioners will not have to deal with this issue. It is often stated by different organizations that we will risk losing on the initiative if we force the issue for 2016.
    What about those individuals who today could get better paying jobs, or access to medical professionals and hospitals, or those who feel they are not able to drive anymore. Telling them that their needs shouldn’t get in the way of others plans is not right or correct.
    We need this to be on the 2016 ballot as a binding referendum. Are not politicians suppose to be mindful of their constituents. When did it become acceptable to forget about the needs of those this initiative would serve.
    Our U.S. Constitution starts with the words “We the People” that means everybody no matter their circumstances. If you agree to this concept then let your voice be heard, both by making phone calls to our county commissioners demanding this issue be place on the November 2016 ballot and then voting “YES” on the ballot.

  • MARTA needs to also take over Gwinnett’s part-time bus system and show GA’s most diverse county what a FULL TIME bus system looks like.

  • Gwinnett needs to come to terms that the county is changing and getting poorer by the day. The best investment Gwinnett can make at this point is MARTA and it should be a priority. There are a lot of people in Gwinnett struggling because 1) there are few jobs, and 2) gaining access to jobs within and outside of the county is more than a notion.

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