Will Gwinnett County join MARTA? Not likely, officials say


Credit: David Wickert

Credit: David Wickert

Gwinnett County joining MARTA? Not likely, officials say

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, mass transit is gaining new momentum across the region as local governments prepare expansion plans for voter consideration. Fulton and Gwinnett counties may take proposals to the ballot next year. Cobb and DeKalb counties also are considering their transit future.

But "transit" means different things to different people. And if you're a Gwinnett County resident hoping for MARTA rail service near you any time soon, don't hold your breath. County officials have shown more interest in bus rapid transit than passenger rail service, in part because it's cheaper. And they're not likely to propose Gwinnett join a MARTA system that voters have twice rejected in the past.

Though they believe attitudes toward transit are changing in Georgia's second-largest county, at least two Gwinnett officials don't believe most voters are ready to embrace MARTA.

“I think it’s an uphill battle,” Chairwoman Charlotte Nash told the AJC this week. She said many voters would be reluctant to surrender control of the county’s transit system.

“It’s about feeling like they don’t have control about how their money is spent (with MARTA),” she said.

County Commissioner John Heard expressed a similar sentiment.

“I believe that if we put it on the ballot, a local transit SPLOST will pass – for Gwinnett County only,” Heard said. “Nobody wants to send our money down to the City of Atlanta.”

In a related matter, state lawmakers are looking at transit "governance and funding" – government speak for who pays for and controls mass transit. Some lawmakers would like to consolidate metro Atlanta's alphabet soup of transit agencies, which include MARTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Gwinnett County Transit and CobbLinc.

Some transit advocates say it makes sense for MARTA to oversee all the region’s public transportation operations. But with opposition to MARTA still alive in the suburbs, that’s not the only option. Another: MARTA continues to operate in Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties, while another agency – perhaps GRTA – serves the rest of the region.

You can read more about the state's mass transit study here. For more about the growing momentum for mass transit in Atlanta, check out myajc.com.