Cobb County is studying a $1.1 billion BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) proposal that would run from Kennesaw to Midtown Atlanta. Cobb is also working on a new Comprehensive Transportation Plan. And separately, Cobb is also working on a new Cobb Strategic Plan.
Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee has been telling us that he does not want the county to compile the Comprehensive Transportation Plan and then go to citizens seeking support. Instead, he has stated that the county will reach out to the community up front, and find out what the community supports, and that is what will be in the plan. That sounds great.
Furthermore, in a July 11 MDJ article, “Chairman: Public must be on board for bus plan,” Lee appears to be saying that the $1.1 billion BRT proposal will not move forward without clear community support.
However, while Cobb is publicly insisting the billion dollar BRT proposal will only move forward if it has broad community support, Section 7.2 of the most recent draft of the Strategic Plan states that Cobb will go ahead and adopt the BRT plan into the Comprehensive Transportation Plan now!
(The May 16 revised draft of the Strategic Plan has recently been removed from the Cobb website. I will also note that in May I alerted the commissioners to the inappropriateness of preemptively deciding to move forward with a project whose study had not yet been completed.)
So while we have words saying that the decision to move forward with the BRT project is contingent on broad community support, we have actions to move the project forward now, even before Cobb citizens have had the opportunity to provide their input.
Sixty-nine percent of Cobb voted NO on the TSPLOST, and I think that a large portion of that opposition was because voters recognized funds were being mis-allocated to projects that would benefit special interests, and would do little to help Cobb commuters.
Is everybody going to be equal in Cobb’s assessment of support?
If 69 percent of Cobb citizens oppose the BRT plan but the Chamber people and the CIDs and the special interests all support it, does that mean the 69 percent who oppose it won’t count as much as the 31 percent who do support it?
At the end of the July 11 article, the MDJ conducted its own (non-scientific) poll. The MDJ asked the question, “Would you support Cobb County’s idea to build a $1.1 B bus route to midtown Atlanta?” When I answered the poll question, the results at that time were:
6% don’t know
(I copied and pasted the poll results that I saw, so you can see this really was the poll result at the time that I took the poll.)
I hope Cobb is listening. 66% no. 29% yes. Proportionally, these results are almost identical to the TSPLOST result in Cobb County, which was 69 percent no and 31 percent yes. Certainly, Cobb should continue to gather input from all sectors of Cobb. I just think that the people who participated in the MDJ poll should be part of that input.
These poll results do not mean that 66 percent want Cobb to do nothing. These results do not mean that 66 percent of Cobb citizens oppose transit.
These results mean that 66 percent of Cobb citizens understand that $1.1 billion to enhance transit on Cobb Parkway is an extravagant and excessive misallocation of our tax dollars.
Sixty-six percent of Cobb taxpayers want transportation dollars used to cost-effectively improve mobility throughout Cobb County.
Cobb could improve transit service on Cobb Parkway by adding more buses and increasing the frequency of the buses. For a $5 million investment, Cobb could dramatically improve transit service on Cobb Parkway and save more than a billion dollars.
In addition to the $1.1 billion in startup costs, Cobb is projecting $6 million in annual operating and maintenance costs for the BRT transit line. But Cobb could just increase the frequency of existing service for about $2 million in increased annual operating and maintenance costs.
Cobb has other transit and transportation needs, other than just Cobb Parkway. The BRT proposal will consume future funds that would be better allocated to real needs elsewhere in the county.
Sixty-six percent of Cobb understands fiscal responsibility. Sixty-six percent of Cobb wants its tax dollars spent on projects and services that cost-effectively meet the needs of the citizens of Cobb.
Would you support Cobb County’s idea to build a $1.1 B bus route to Midtown Atlanta?
Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition.