02/26/2019 — Doraville, Georgia — A sign indicating the MARTA and Gwinnett County transit referendum voting calendar is displayed at the Doraville MARTA Transit Station in Doraville, Tuesday, February 26, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Opinion: Taking full measure of Gwinnett MARTA vote

We offer here our view, and others both pro and con on Gwinnett transit tax proposal.

We’d suggest strongly that anyone opposed to the MARTA referendum in Gwinnett County hasn’t hit the wall. As in the impermeable barrier of brake lights that reliably appears on I-85 immediately north of Spaghetti Junction. On particularly bad days, the wall marches south across the I-285 border and well into DeKalb County.

And that’s only the northbound side of the I-85 spine. A similar delay play takes place in the south-running lanes. It’s an unpredictable, time- and fuel-wasting dance that can appear anytime, anywhere. Gwinnett, and the region it’s part of, deserve better.

If you think this level of public immobility is worth its very real price, we’d ask you to recall the large employers that’ve said, yes, Gwinnett is Great as its old slogan goes, but it wasn’t enough when balanced against its traffic congestion. We don’t even have to name these companies. We bet you remember them – and that they left for new quarters near MARTA stations.

A remedy that can begin substantially tackling this transportation problem is now before Gwinnett voters. We implore Gwinnettians to vote a solid “Yes” on this measure.

To do otherwise is to choose for the past, and not the future. Given growth in Gwinnett and the Atlanta metro in recent decades, clinging to yesterday really isn’t part of our playbook. Our winning record of prosperity is the result of boldly looking ahead. Improving our transportation funding to keep up with that growth is vital to keeping the good times rolling here.

The penny sales tax that would allow Gwinnett to enact the contract inked with MARTA should be seen as a model of the locally based, fiscally prudent governance that taxpayers in Gwinnett have shown they value. It is not at all a solution shoved upon the county by outsiders. No, it is Gwinnett-grown all the way. That should count in voters’ minds, we believe.

And, yes, it is a tax increase. Thus, it’s tempting to vote no just because it feels good. We ask you to think about that saved penny or two here and there. Then look at the cost of a gallon of gas. Think about the many dollars wasted while our vehicles idle in stuck traffic. The scale will heavily favor improved transportation options funded by the tax, we believe.

No, Gwinnett’s locally built, locally controlled plan won’t solve all of the problem that growth and prosperity have, in part, wrought here. But it is the best available option in hand now.

It reflects local desires to use money conservatively and produce results quickly by largely favoring road-based transit and traffic improvements over more-costly rail options. Yes, an extension of MARTA rail is in the plan, but improved, faster, more-extensive bus service and bus rapid transit comprises the bulk of the transit improvements.

Gwinnett voters should make the choice between now and March 19 to act affirmatively against the congestion that’s throttling mobility and wasting money and time as well. Vote “Yes” on the transit measure.

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