Georgia Lawmaker: Funding for mass transit is "the next big lift"

The chairman of the state House Transportation Committee believes Georgia is ready for significant action – and perhaps state funding – of public transportation.

At a panel discussion on mass transit in Georgia Monday, Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, said he’s “confident we’re going to see some good things happen” on mass transit – in part because the Peach State has the right political leadership. Among those he cited were some of his fellow panelists – state Sen. Brandon Beach, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and MARTA Board of Directors Chairman Robbie Ashe.

“We have the right group of people to take a giant leap forward when it comes to transit,” Tanner said during the discussion at the American Public Transportation Association exposition at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Tanner is in a better position than most to know what’s possible. He’s chairing the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, a group put together by Speaker David Ralston earlier this year. Its mission is clear from its title – to study how public transportation should be paid for, and what governing structures would be needed if the state were to devote regular funding to transit.

Tanner does not believe lawmakers are interested in supporting transit operations – “I don’t think the state is interested in getting into the operating side.” But it could provide regular funding for capital expenses.

Tanner said lawmakers took a political risk in 2015 when they approved a plan to add nearly a billion dollars a year in funding for road and bridge construction. He thinks transit is “the next big lift.”

“If you’re going to be competitive for economic development in the future, if you want Amazon or companies like Amazon, you have to have transit,” he said.

Tanner’s thoughts echo comments made by Beach last month during a similar discussion.

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