Guest blog post by Charlotte J. Nash, Chairman for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners
Gwinnett County voters will go to the polls March 19 to consider expansion of our transit options through a contract with MARTA. If voters choose to approve the transit contract that Gwinnett County has negotiated with MARTA, the expansion will follow a plan developed by Gwinnett County with substantial public participation. It would also mean the establishment of a one-cent sales tax to pay for the transit improvements and expansion.
Why are we doing this now? Gwinnett County’s population is expected to grow by another half-million people over the next 25 years or so. We all know that more travel options are needed now, but the projected population growth means additional options will be needed even more in the future. We recently developed a comprehensive transportation plan, which we followed with a detailed transit plan adopted last year. What people told us is that they wanted more transportation choices. After much thought and analysis by a lot of really bright people, we came up with a blueprint for transit for the next 30 years and beyond.
Here are the highlights:
- 5-mile extension of heavy rail from Doraville to the Jimmy Carter Boulevard area
- 3 Bus Rapid Transit routes using 50 miles of dedicated lanes
- 8 Rapid Bus routes would cover 110 miles
- 9 Express Commuter Routes covering more than 250 miles to and from Atlanta with 11 Park and Ride lots – more than double the existing service
- 12 Local Routes covering more than 160 miles and greater frequency for buses traveling these routes
- Door-to-door, on-demand Flex Service in 6 less-populated areas
- Expanded paratransit service coverage from 20 percent to 65 percent of the county, improving mobility for seniors and others with mobility challenges
- New buses, new and upgraded transit centers, improved bus shelters, new maintenance facilities, new technology improvements, and extended evening and Sunday service
As I mentioned earlier, this expansion will take place if the transit contract referendum passes. In negotiating the contract, we tried to address concerns voiced about being a part of MARTA. For example, under the contract, Gwinnett will control the funds, the expenditures, and the projects. That means that our tax dollars will come to us, and we will determine how they are to be spent. Gwinnett funds will be spent for the benefit of Gwinnett riders. Our approved transit plan will drive transit improvements, expansions and operations in Gwinnett. Gwinnett will have a say in the standards for services and facilities, and we can audit MARTA transactions that affect Gwinnett’s costs.
In short, the contract was drafted to try to ensure we would see the benefits of being a member of the MARTA system while protecting the interests of Gwinnett County.
If you are interested in learning more about the transit contract and Gwinnett’s transit plan, I would very much encourage you to attend one of the many open house public education sessions we are hosting around the county. For dates and locations, visit www.gwinnettcounty.com.
To learn how to register to vote, dates for advance voting, or other voting information, visit www.gwinnettelections.com.