Life is too short to spend 66 minutes a day in a car, alone and in traffic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that is how long the average commuter in Gwinnett County spends getting to and from work each day. Average trip times have increased each year since 2010 because Gwinnett’s population is one of the fastest-growing in the country and, according to Sperling’s Best Places, almost 80 percent of Gwinnett commuters drive alone to work in a car. This disturbing trend will continue unless our community does something now.
Gwinnett residents will soon have a chance to go to the polls and vote to shorten their commute times. On March 19th, Gwinnett residents will vote on a referendum to fund a transit expansion plan that will give commuters more transportation options while reducing traffic congestion on our roadways and air pollution. The passage of the Gwinnett transit referendum would trigger a 1-cent sales tax to build a new MARTA train station in Norcross connected to the Doraville station, several new rapid, express and local bus routes, 11 new park-and-ride lots, and extended evening and new Sunday service throughout the system. This will allow thousands of commuters to leave their cars at home or in commuter lots while experiencing more-enjoyable, relaxing, productive and safer trips to and from work. The new trains and many of the new bus routes will be equipped with Wi-Fi.
Charlotte Nash, the Republican chair of the Gwinnett County Commission, is leading the charge in favor of the referendum. She argues that this ballot initiative is about more than addressing the gridlock on our roads — it’s about attracting new talent and keeping and creating new jobs in Gwinnett.
Two of Gwinnett’s four Fortune 500 companies, NCR and WestRock, decided to relocate its global headquarters and close its Gwinnett office, respectively, in large part to be closer to MARTA railway stations. NCR moved its global headquarters from Duluth to Atlanta and added 5,400 jobs at the Midtown location. WestRock closed an office in Norcross and moved 800 workers from Gwinnett to its Sandy Springs office. Small companies and technology startups would also be more likely to locate in Gwinnett if we had more good transit options.
Despite Chairwoman Nash’s and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce’s support for a “Yes” vote on the referendum, there will still be thousands of voters who will brave the traffic to vote “No” on anything, regardless of the benefits for Gwinnett. Supporters of the referendum cannot rest on the merits of the transit expansion plan. Voting is critical. Early voting is from March 4th to March 15th (Monday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) at eight advance voting locations throughout Gwinnett.
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Jeff Ploussard has lived in and commuted from Gwinnett County since 1995 to work in the telecommunications and nonprofit sectors. He rarely used his car for commuting while living in Chicago and Washington, D.C.