Cobb transit chief: Bus system would take ‘10-12’ years
by Jon Gillooly
September 26, 2012 12:35 AM | 3997 views | 19 19 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bob Ott
Bob Ott
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Faye DiMassimo
Faye DiMassimo
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MARIETTA — The earliest the proposed $1.1 billion bus system from Kennesaw State University to Midtown Atlanta could be operational is 10 to 12 years, said Faye DiMassimo, the county’s transportation director.

Yet Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott pointed out that there is no funding for such a project. Ott also points out that the county’s existing bus program is already subsidized $9 million a year to operate, meaning an expanded bus program would only increase that operating subsidy.

The Board of Commissioners received an update on the $1.8 million Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis study, which is recommending the $1.1 billion bus program, at its work session on Tuesday afternoon.

DiMassimo said the above timeline meant the county had to have the funding in place to pay for the program, which it presently does not, according to Ott.

“You could probably be under construction if everything went perfectly in maybe five to seven years,” DiMassimo said. “I wouldn’t think we would actually be up and running until maybe 10 to 12.”

DiMassimo asked Jim Croy, of Croy Engineering, who has spearheaded the study along with other consultants, what he thought.

“I think you’re right,” Croy said. “If funding was available today you’re talking seven to nine years and obviously there’s a lot of funding issues that still need to be answered.”

The study recommends bus service from KSU to Midtown, a 25.3-mile stretch, using routes along both I-75 and Cobb Parkway.

The proposal would use two kinds of bus service: express bus service, which are the buses the county currently uses for its CCT system; and bus rapid transit, which are buses that have the ability to carry more passengers.

Express bus service is intended for commuters who want to get from their homes to their jobs as quickly as possible. To that end, there would likely only be three stops along the way for that service utilizing Gov. Nathan Deal’s imminent reversible lane project on I-75.

The bus rapid transit system would have more connectivity with perhaps 20 stops along Highway 41, DiMassimo said.

Funding options include federal dollars, which could pay for up to half of the project, and a “menu of revenue opportunities from partners (e.g. educational institutions, parking fees, benefit assessment district contributions, public/private partnerships). Cost sharing with the City of Atlanta is being explored,” she said.

Before the county can apply for federal funds it needs to complete a $3 million environmental study of the project being conducted by Kimley - Horn & Associates, which should be complete in 18 to 24 months.

The cost of the buses only amounts to six percent of the total $1.1 billion proposed budget, with the largest portion of the costs in fixed guideway/bus lanes infrastructure improvements and grade separations, DiMassimo said.

Most of the cost comes from the infrastructure involved in building bus stations, a maintenance yard and parking. The proposal calls for “grade separations” at 12 intersections along Cobb Parkway, which involve installing a bridge or tunnel at an intersection to allow the bus to pass through traffic uninterrupted.

Some of the stations will simply be platforms. Others, like the one in the Cumberland CID, will likely be larger.

County Chairman Tim Lee thanked DiMassimo, Croy and the other consultants for their work.

“This region has benefitted significantly from its long term planning to make sure that we look out into the future, what’s next, what the potential to help guide us and make sure we’re as effective and efficient as we can be,” Lee said.

Lee referenced the $950 million, 30-mile Northwest Corridor project along I-75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties expected to open in the spring of 2018. The project will build two new tolled reversible lanes along the west side of I-75 between its interchanges with I-285 and I-575. The lanes will be separate from the existing interstate and carry traffic south during morning commute hours and north in the evenings. North of the I-575 interchange one new, reversible lane will be added in the I-75 center median to Hickory Grove Road, and a similar new lane will extend along I-575 to Sixes Road.

“The existing managed lane project that’s going to be started soon and completed soon as well was born so to speak through a study that’s over 10 years ago, so they do have long (shelf lives), they do get adjusted, they do get modified, and that’s just part of the process,” Lee said.

Ott said what stands out to him about the bus proposal is the financing.

“It’s always good to plan,” Ott said. “There’s a lot of things you plan. You look at future land use maps and other things, so it’s always good to plan — I’m not sure at the cost this plan is costing. Especially when there’s no financing for it.”

Ott pointed out that the box fare revenue only provides 50 percent of the funding for the county’s existing bus program.

“So you got to come up with the other 50 percent for the existing route right now,” he said. “The fact of the matter is once you build something to operate it you’ve got to be able to pay for it. We currently subsidize CCT on the order of $9 million in this year’s budget. … So $9 million from our existing CCT bus line and you have express bus service right now where fare box revenue that only covers 50 percent of the cost, and you want to expand it? So that immediately says you’re going to have an expanded supplement to CCT. So I have a problem with that.”

Ott said he doesn’t see this plan as doing anything more than collecting dust on a shelf.

“My personal opinion, more than likely,” he said.

Whereas the managed lane project will be maintained with tolls, the bus program doesn’t have that revenue stream, Ott said.

“The biggest expense with the managed lanes is construction, right-of-way acquisition and construction, and then from then on maintenance on the road,” Ott said. “That is going to be covered and can be covered by the toll. … That’s not really a subsidy for a managed lane. That is a user fee for the people who are actually going to use it. .. The difference with this is you don’t have fare box revenue or fares that are enough to cover the cost of operating it.”

Ott called for short term solutions to traffic relief rather than waiting for a plan a decade out that likely won’t happen anyway.

“I think what we should be doing as a board is looking at real traffic congestion relief in the short term, and yes, we can plan, but I think right now something that’s 10 to 12 years down the road does not solve the commuting problems people have today,” he said. “We’ve got to do some short term solutions not just planning on things that really we don’t have an identified funding source. Either setting up a grid network or alternative routes. We know what the traffic patterns are, so let’s look for short, easy, you know, the low hanging fruit to adjust the traffic congestion, and you can at the same time be looking at a more long term solution, but we’ve got to be dealing with existing conditions now too.”
Comments
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SevenOneFour
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September 27, 2012
You have to hand it to Dimassimo and Lee.

They never give up no matter how ridiculous and stupid their ideas might be.

It seems they would have gotten the message when 70% of Cobb voters spiked the TSPLOST project list into the mud!!!

But no, they continue pursuing their personal agendas no matter what their constituency says.
TIC
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September 27, 2012
Does anyone out there actually believe the results of the AA were reached in an objective and unmanipulated manner?

Does anyone actually believe that Dimassimo is trying to do what is best for the future of Cobb County transportation?

She is a long time government bureaucrat who has little if any motivation to seek solutions other than those that use and abuse tax dollars for projects that have little chance of being financially sustainable or functionally effective.
mk....
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September 27, 2012
AMEN, TICster, AMEN!!
West Cobb Farmer
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September 27, 2012
I've made this comment before and I'm going to make it again....

This country, basically starting from scratch, safety landed men on the moon in less than a decade (10 years). Yes, they had the funding and the involvement of many, many smart people BUT, at the end of the day, we figured out how to fly to moon, land on the moon and safely return to earth. And we did this in about six or seven years.

So, I read that it's going to take 10-12 years to establish a rapid transit BUS service along an already established highway. Without going into great discussion here's my assessment.... This proposal/plan is completely unreal and clearly points to the fact that DiMassimo is the wrong person to be leading these efforts and that Croy is the wrong engineering firm, period.
mk....
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September 27, 2012
AMEN, West Cobb Farmer, AMEN!!!
Watcher..
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September 26, 2012
Who EXACTLY will ride this financial boondoggle/monstrosity?
URKiddingRight?
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September 26, 2012
Is Bob Ott the only commissioner that has any sense of reality?

Not only is planning for a bus system of the type that has been proposed a bad idea, if it ever comes to fruition it is one that will hogtie the taxpayers in Cobb County ad infinitum.

But the chances of it actually happening are (thank goodness) slim and none.

The real crime here is that taxpayers are wasting millions of dollars on studies and environmental Impact analyses that are destined for the trash pile.

This is simply a Obama-like crony capitalism scam for the likes of Croy and Kimley-Horn.

I strongly suspect that Lee, DiMassimo, Croy and the other consulting firms involved in this fiasco are laughing all the way to the bank.
Watcher...
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September 26, 2012
I strongly suspect that Lee, DiMassimo, Croy and the other consulting firms involved in this fiasco are laughing all the way to the bank.
Watcher...
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September 26, 2012
VFP42 doesn't like being in Cobb County. I suggest that he/she LEAVE!

A very large percentage of Taxpayers, in Cobb, love their cars and their mobility.
Watcher...
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September 26, 2012
Earth calling Ms. DiMassimo, the Emperor has NO CLOTHES nor Taxpayer dollars for this project!

Please invest your time in greatly reducing the annual $ 9,000,000 CCT Taxpayer Subsidy.
Be Careful
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September 26, 2012
First, if it's going to take 10-12 years to get the system up and running, it will cost WAY more than $1.1B. Costs and inflation with make the eventual cost skyrocket. Why hasn't anyone mentioned that?

Second, if we are paying $9M a year to prop up the current bus system, where are the projections for how much annual tax money the new system is going to suck out of our pockets? Why does nobody address that issue?

Third, I notice that NOBODY at that meeting (or the MDJ) mentioned the study just released on MARTA. It was in the AJC yesterday. If MARTA doesn't do something soon to contain costs, it will have to cut service.

Where is the comment from the transportation round table and the ARC on that? We've been bombarded by nothing but propaganda for the last year about how great MARTA is and how we need to link into it with a light rail system.
mk-nose ring
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September 26, 2012
This just proves that that politicians are led around by the nose by the engineers and road contractors.

The engineers are chomping at the bit to build 'grade separations' along Cobb Parkway. They'd be set for life!!

The Smyrna 2011 SPLOST tried to sneak one in at Windy Hill to the tune of 95 million!!

How 'bout just synchronizing the lights, for STARTERS?? The light at Terrell Mill and Windy Hill work opposite of each other- and no-one says a word!!

Kindergarden children could do a better job than DiMassimo & Croy,.. but we know it's not about moving traffic,... it's all about moving funds from taxpayers pockets to county coffers to banks accounts!!

The sad thing about Cobb,.. is it has remained stagnant for 30 years,.. while visionaries and real leaders grow their prosperity in areas like Windward , Mansell, Suwanee, Duluth, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Alpharetta.

In those areas, people can actually LIVE where they WORK! WOW,.. what a concept!!

Cobb County is a disgrace!
Honey Bear
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September 26, 2012
I know what Cobb County can do with their extra money. Plant 40 oak trees in mk's yard and make concrete bicycle paths and walking trails all around mk's yard.....and plant the trees where mk can never leave their driveway.
VFP42
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September 26, 2012
By the way, good job to the MDJ for cherry picking the commish they talked to who would provide what they wanted to print. Gotta keep the car dealers on US 41 pumping you with car ad revenue, right?
VFP42
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September 26, 2012
"The biggest expense with the managed lanes is construction, right-of-way acquisition and construction, and then from then on maintenance on the road," says Ott?

Ott must be an idiot. The biggest is expense is on me and you purchasing and maintaining our private motor vehicles, pouring infinite amounts of gasoline, oil and tires into them forever, and paying for insurance, car related health issues including but not limited to obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, rage, brokens bones, internal injuries, fatalities etc etc etc.

Boot Ott. In my opinion, he is apparently too stupid for words.
Be Careful
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September 26, 2012
To VFP42,

Are you trying to insinuate that this new bus system is going to allow people to give up their cars?

News flash, NOBODY is going to be able to give up their cars even if this system is built. You're still going to have to drive to and from the parking lots to get on the buses. And the route is extremely limited, it's going to serve very few people.

Plus, they're saying it's going to cost $1.1B now, if they had the funding available, which they don't. In 10 years the cost will skyrocket due to increased material costs and inflation.

This is a totally unrealistic project.
SevenOneFour
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September 26, 2012
@ VFP42

If anyone is too stupid for words it is you, Dimassimo, Croy and Lee!!

This "planning" falls into the category of pipe dreams.

These type of systems are proverbial albatrosses around the necks of taxpayers.

Just ask the people in Fulton and Dekalb.
Pearl Medgars
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September 26, 2012
Another angry, uneducated rant by a socialist. They just love to tell other people how to run their lives. I assume that you have total control of yours. My bad, you need to work on that anger thing a little bit first and then we might pay a little more attention. That and understaning what a fact is.
FROM TEXAS
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September 26, 2012
If buses will take 10 to 12 years just think how long rail would take probably 20 to 30 years, why so long it’s a way to keep contractors employed with needless extras on the whole design.

Funding options include federal dollars, which could pay for up to half of the project, and a “menu of revenue opportunities from partners (e.g. educational institutions, parking fees, benefit assessment district contributions, public/private partnerships). Cost sharing with the City of Atlanta is being explored,” she said.

This means more fees not taxes if you live here you will be nickel and dimed to death remember you can only charge up to 33% for Federal funded services like buses. Faye Jim are two of your biggest spending problems in Cobb County.

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