Survey: Actually, most Cobb voters like MARTA

A survey commissioned by Cobb shows MARTA is more popular in the county than its anti-transit reputation has led many to believe.

The findings, released Tuesday, appear to echo a study published last month by the Atlanta Regional Commission indicating support for transit is growing throughout the metro area, including in Cobb.

The county famously rejected MARTA when it was first created, and subsequent efforts to expand bus or train service have faced resistance from some corners.

Chairman Mike Boyce said the results show the anti-MARTA narrative is being pushed by a small group that does not represent the whole county.

“There is support for transit in Cobb County,” Boyce said. “We have to figure out how to translate that into a projects list.”

Cobb is already planning to seek an extension on the Dec. 1, 2019 deadline for holding a referendum on expanding transit under the new regional transportation authority. And Boyce has promised to give voters plenty of time to review the proposed projects.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Boyce said.

Cobb lawmakers won a special carve-out of the massive transit bill passed earlier this year that could limit transit expansion in the county. The compromise allows for areas of the county that want transit to vote for funding, while leaving areas that don't want it out.

The survey, which was carried out by McLaughlin & Associates, polled 900 likely general election voters who were contacted by landline and cell phone.

Unsurprisingly, traffic was seen as by far the biggest problem facing the county.

More than 60 percent of people polled said Cobb should spend more than it does now on transit, and 59 percent favored creating a new sales tax to fund it.

Fifty-seven percent said that Cobb should spend more on both road improvements and transit.

Among the survey’s most notable findings, 51 percent of respondents had a positive view of MARTA, compared to 17 percent who had an unfavorable view.

If Cobb were to expand bus service, 48 percent said they would prefer to join MARTA.

Ron Sifen, a citizen advocate on the county transportation committee, said pursuing anything more ambitious than increased bus service would likely take years.

“That’s going to require a whole new set of studies,” Sifen said. “I don’t think it’s possible to do that in less than two years.”