Cobb is spending $5 million on studies to support building a $1.1 billion bus rapid transit (BRT) system on Cobb Parkway (U.S. 41).
Cobb voted 69 percent against the TSPLOST last summer. Cobb voters realized that the $1.1 billion dollar Cobb Parkway transit project to be built by the TSPLOST would do little to improve transportation in Cobb, and was really about using our tax dollars to incentivize the redevelopment of private property.
Cobb is also separately spending $1.4 million to update its Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP). The CTP is expected to have the billion dollar Cobb Parkway BRT as its centerpiece project, even though the BRT study has not yet been completed.
(On a 3-2 vote, commissioners recently voted against spending an additional $368,000 on a marketing campaign to try to “educate” people into supporting the billion dollar boondoggle.)
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves and MARTA are apparently collaborating with Tony Morris of Powder Springs-based American Maglev Technologies (AMT) to build a “maglev” train from the Georgia State MARTA station to Turner Field.
Cobb has previously rejected maglev as “unproven.” If the Braves actually move forward with the maglev project, and if it is successful, this 21st century technology will have taken a major step toward becoming a proven technology. (There will still be some legitimate questions to be addressed.)
If the Braves maglev project is successful, that will become an appropriate point in time for the Federal Transit Administration to begin funding new 21st century technologies that would be significantly less expensive to build, and dramatically less expensive to operate and maintain.
AMT’s product is fully automated, and they tell us it could cost-effectively provide service every 5 minutes.
It should not be taxpayers’ burden to have billions of our tax dollars allocated to incentivizing the redevelopment of private property. Transit should be part of our overall transportation plan, but we need transit that cost-effectively addresses our real mobility needs and at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
Cobb is proposing to spend more than a billion dollars on an infrastructure that will do little to address Cobb’s real transportation needs. It would also trap Cobb taxpayers into future extraordinarily high annual operating and maintenance costs, diverting future transportation dollars that would otherwise have been available to meet our real transportation needs. AMT’s maglev technology would clearly provide superior service at a dramatically lower cost for taxpayers.
There are additional concerns with the BRT proposal to build a barrier-separated “fixed guideway” in the middle of Cobb Parkway:
• Since the BRT would operate in the middle of Cobb Parkway, transit riders would need to get across Cobb Parkway every time they board and every time they exit the bus.
• Cobb Parkway is not a pedestrian-friendly downtown street, with traffic lights at every block to control the interaction of cars and pedestrians. Cobb Parkway is a major high-speed highway. There is no way to safely increase pedestrian activity along Cobb Parkway, without obstructing the current transportation performance of this major highway.
• Cobb wants to place transit stations where it wants to encourage the redevelopment of nearby parcels of private property. However, the fixed-guideway will block left turns into and out of hundreds of businesses all along Cobb Parkway. Impairing access to hundreds of existing businesses is not a good plan for improving Cobb’s economy.
• Two lanes of BRT are wider than the existing middle turn lane. The BRT plan will necessitate widening the pavement, adversely impacting businesses from Kennesaw to Cumberland.
AMT’s maglev requires a much smaller footprint. It could be implemented without taking away the middle turn lane, and without blocking any left turns, without widening the pavement, and with minimal adverse impacts on any businesses.
For many reasons, I think maglev on Cobb Parkway would need to be a public private partnership, not purely privately-funded venture.
I am not saying that Cobb should select AMT over other new 21st century technologies. I am just acknowledging that if AMT gets the Braves deal, and if it is successful, they would suddenly be way ahead of everybody else, and a clearly better investment than light rail or BRT.
Cobb should figure out how to put the BRT plan on hold until we can evaluate the performance of maglev.
If Cobb wants to move “forward” with fixed guideway transit on Cobb Parkway, let’s do so with a 21st century technology that provides better performance at a far lower cost for taxpayers.
Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition.