A second pro-transit committee joins Gwinnett MARTA push

We get an exclusive look at the transit system's ground zero for the big game.

Georgia’s environmental leaders plan to advocate in favor of Gwinnett County joining MARTA by activating tens of thousands of environmentally focused voters to go to the polls.

“We’re going to turn out the environmentalists,” said Ted Terry, a leader of “Yes to MARTA,” the second committee to register as an advocacy group for the March 19 special election.

Terry and Jeffrey Schoenberg, both high-ranking members of the Georgia Sierra Club, are listed as leaders of the Yes to MARTA committee on paperwork filed last week with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Terry, who is also mayor of the DeKalb County city of Clarkston and the newly christened vice chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, called the group a "progressive coalition."

And while there will also be an economic justice aspect (in the form of advocacy for folks who may not have other means to get around), Yes to MARTA's primary pitch will be about what Terry described as "taking 100 tailpipes at a time off the road." Terry pointed out that transportation has surpassed power plants as the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Terry said the Yes to MARTA group has access to political modeling that identified 55,000 to 60,000 “environmental voters” in Gwinnett who don’t typically participate in special elections. They’ll hope to drive as many of those voters as possible to the polls.

The strategy will involve “early voting rallies” and creating an army of informed voters who can, if nothing else, talk to their neighbors and remind them to cast a ballot.

In a vote that’s likely to be tight, turnout will be key for both sides of the issue.

“Neighbors gotta talk to neighbors,” Terry said.

If voters approve Gwinnett’s referendum, the county’s pending contract with MARTA would be ratified and residents would pay a new 1 percent sales tax until 2057 to fund dramatic transit expansion.

That expansion would include extending passenger rail from Doraville into the Norcross area; significantly expanded local bus service; and other high-capacity options like bus rapid transit, which generally operates in dedicated lanes and has fewer stops than local service.

Yes to MARTA joins another committee, "Go Gwinnett," on the pro-transit side of the battle in Georgia's second largest county. Go Gwinnett is led primarily by members of the local business community.

No formal opposition group has consolidated to the point of filing paperwork with the state, though a grassroots group of anti-transit Gwinnett residents may be assembling.

Gwinnett County is hosting a series of educational open houses on the referendum, the county’s contract with MARTA and the already-approved plan that would guide transit projects. The next meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at Grayson City Hall, 475 Grayson Parkway.

View the full schedule here.

Advance in-person voting for the special election beings Feb. 25 at the Gwinnett County elections office in Lawrenceville.