$1.1B bus proposal called ‘pipe dream’
by Jon Gillooly
September 12, 2012 01:00 AM | 8182 views | 20 20 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The bus rapid transit system, above, would make more stops and carry more passengers on the proposed line from KSU to Midtown Atlanta but would come down Highway 41. The other proposed line, an express bus service, would make fewer stops and use the proposed managed lanes along the I-75 corridor.
The bus rapid transit system, above, would make more stops and carry more passengers on the proposed line from KSU to Midtown Atlanta but would come down Highway 41. The other proposed line, an express bus service, would make fewer stops and use the proposed managed lanes along the I-75 corridor.
MARIETTA — After reviewing the findings of the $1.8 million Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis study, which calls for a $1.1 billion bus system from Kennesaw State University to Midtown Atlanta, Southeast Commissioner Bob Ott called it “a pipe dream.”

The proposal recommends a $1.1 billion bus system stretching 29 miles from KSU to the MARTA Arts Center Station in Midtown. There are also routes that come off that main line that serve Acworth, Kennesaw, Marietta, Smyrna and the Cumberland Community Improvement District, said Faye DiMassimo, director of the Cobb Department of Transportation, who along with Jim Croy, whose firm conducted the study, made their presentation to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The proposal would use two kinds of bus systems: 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 carrying more passengers.

“The express bus, which would be your commuter where you’re trying to make as few stops as possible, gives a very efficient travel time going from Point A to Point B, that primarily is in the I-75 corridor using what will be the new managed lanes when they come online or the existing HOV system that’s inside 285,” DiMassimo said. “And then the arterial bus rapid transit route still goes from Kennesaw, comes down 41, makes more stops, and it serves more of the students, seniors, local trips, as well as commuter trips.”

It remains unclear how the county intends to fund this project.

“I don’t know where the money is going to come from,” Ott said after the meeting. “There is no financing for it.”

In her handout on the project, DiMassimo lists the following funding options, noting that the county could apply to the federal government to pay for half of the project, in addition to 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.”

Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee said there is always the option of a local SPLOST.

“Our one cent generates about — what? — $120 million a year, so a 10-year program, philosophically we could,” Lee said.

But Lee said he wouldn’t want to solely rely on a SPLOST to fund the program.

“Yes, this is a Cobb-led project, but it benefits a wider area, so I would initially look to help from all the other jurisdictions within Cobb and outside of Cobb and the CIDs to be partners in this project whatever happens moving forward,” Lee said.

Yet Ott is skeptical.

“It’s wishful thinking because our congressmen, Tom Price and Phil Gingrey, have said there is no money available, the voters have said ‘no,’ so we’re going to put this on the shelf, it’s going to sit on the shelf, and I don’t think it will ever happen,” he said.

Last year, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, who sat on the executive committee of the TSPLOST’s Atlanta Regional Roundtable, voted to approve a project list for Cobb County that would have allocated an $856.5 million line item for a Cumberland-Midtown light rail line. But after receiving public backlash from residents who asked how a rail line that was mostly in Fulton County would help the majority of Cobb County, Mathews and Lee scaled back that earmark to $689 million to be used for “enhanced premium transit service” from Acworth to Midtown which Lee said would be spent on bus rapid transit.

Even so, voters rejected the TSPLOST on July 31.

But while that funding is no longer available, DiMassimo said there is potential to fund the new $1.1 billion KSU-Midtown bus program with federal funds that would pay for half of the cost.

Yet before the county can apply for those 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, she said.

DiMassimo said the bus option was chosen because it was the most cost effective.

“It’s the one that gives you the best ridership for the most effective amount of resources, most effective amount of cost,” she said.

Light rail wasn’t selected because while the current proposal is $1.1 billion, a light rail line from Kennesaw to Midtown would have been closer to $4 billion, she said.

“It was a lot more and when you looked at what that ‘lot more’ got you in terms of ridership it just wasn’t the most cost effective way to go,” she said.

DiMassimo said the cost of the buses that would be used in the program only amount to six percent of the total $1.1 billion. Most of the cost comes from the infrastructure involved in building bus stations, a maintenance yard and parking, she said.

The proposal calls for “grade separations” at 12 intersections along Cobb Parkway, which county spokesman Robert Quigley described as installing a bridge or tunnel at an intersection to allow the bus to pass though traffic uninterrupted.

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

But Ott said he sees some problems that go beyond how to fund the project.

“The question that begs to be asked is, is this for economic development or is it for traffic congestion relief?” Ott said. “You know, if it’s for congestion relief I don’t see how it competes with the car on 75 or 575 because there’s so many stops that it showed on the plan we saw today. If it’s for economic development it’s an awful big price tag and with no guarantees that it’s actually going to provide additional growth.”

Ott said he has long expressed opposition to both the $1.8 million AA study and the $3 million environmental study.

“It’s a pretty expensive enterprise,” Ott said. “What the folks in favor of it say is that it’s good to plan and think ahead. Yeah it’s good to plan, but you need to be planning something that has a high probability of being able to proceed or succeed and I just don’t see this as having a high probability because of its price tag.”

Lee insists there is a difference between what this AA study seeks to accomplish and what the TSPLOST was about.

“First of all, the (TSPLOST) was introduced by the state,” Lee said. “I was asked to be part of that through legislation. It differs in a lot of ways. We developed a list that was regional in nature that addressed nothing but regional issues was the scope, and it had to come from existing projects that were in the queue.”

Some voted against the TSPLOST because they didn’t like the project list, or thought it had too much or not enough transit, or didn’t want a tax increase, or didn’t trust their government or didn’t believe there was a structure in place to carry out the project list, he said.

“So there was a lot of reasons given for people to vote against it and they voted against the specific projects, the specific list and the specific funding mechanism,” Lee said. “How that differs from what we’re doing is we’ve looked at what is our projected congestion issues and ridership needs for commuters in the next 10 to 15 years. We’ve looked at that holistically and singularly in this particular project and then vetted out very carefully what the best technology and the best route would make sense to deliver the most amount of people for the least cost and then how did that fare against other, if you would, stakeholder-type interests of economic development, air quality, and the other components looked at, redevelopment and things of that nature.”

The TSPLOST was driven by the state and put together for the region to identify regional issues overall from transportation to trails, Lee said.

“Ours (the AA study) was set up to specifically address the current problems that exist in the Northwest Corridor as it relates to congestion, to address the current demand for alternatives to the automobile and is why the CCT commuter bus system in Cobb County is so successful, and to try to look into the future what would be the best and most effective way to meet the congestion and the demand of the future through Cobb County as we mentioned earlier with the understanding that Cherokee commuters, Polk County commuters, Bartow County commuters come through Cobb to get to Atlanta, and conversely Atlanta commuters come into Cobb for our workforce.”
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September 12, 2012
I don't understand - the GRTA already operates the Xpress commuter bus system, and many of the routes are popular and used by many. All it would take is for Cobb County to collaborate and create a new express route into Atlanta in an area of Cobb that currently does not have an Xpress route already - or even create two, one for I-75 and one less fast route down Highway 41.

The County could work out funding and contribute to GRTA to pay for those routes. It would be MUCH cheaper and be in operation much quicker, and do the same thing as a while new system. WHY can't they do something simple like this instead of making it so complicated???
BUSS ted
September 12, 2012
Hey Faye, when are you giving up your reserved spot in front of the DOT and ride CCT to the Marietta Square. There's a bus stop right outside your office. Practice what you're forcing on the rest of us taxpayers.
one eye
September 12, 2012
Keep looking up in the pretty blue sky with those white clouds while your tax dollars are squandered here in the ground.

They brag about the fed paying half and what about the other half?

Oh the SPLOST will cover that, the first word in SPLOST is "special" not "slush", yet our elected leaders and their appointed cronies keep spending like SPLOST is their piggy bank to spend on their wants not county needs.

Did you vote for pretty street scapes and brick sidewalks, multi use trails and street lights that do not light the streets?

Watch your special tax dollars ($1.2M of them) beautify 41 at the big chicken.

Maybe when this "special" tax expires voters will not agree to refill the "slush" fund piggy bank.

Those who agreed to rehire Lee probably voted for the SPLOST and TSPLOST.
Cobb Taxpayer
September 12, 2012
Dumb Pipe Dream - this study was a waste of government money - just curious why any traffic releif "planner" would want to draw and attract more commuter traffic to the KSU and Town Center Area - No reason to go to KSU and Town Center to begin commutes to metro Atlanta !
The Truth
September 12, 2012
Well, I see that the language in this electronic version has been changed. This mornings version stated that Ott voted against the AA and Environmental studies. This wasn't correct. But you can't change the printed version It still states that he voted against the studies. I have no doubt this was what he stated to the reporter. But some checking on most of the things he states will reveal the truth each and every time.
Fantasy World
September 12, 2012
This is what happens when you decide beforehand what the outcome of a "study" is going to be.

It is also what you get when you don't consider all the viable alternatives that may provide a fiscally sound and functional solution to the problem.

Because of the built in bias and myopic attitude of those making, or more accurately forcing, the decisions on this issue, the taxpayers have just wasted another huge chunk of money.

The $1.8 million was used to try to rationalize what Tim Lee and Faye DiMassimo touted during the TSPLOST fiasco.

Unfortunately for Cobb County they seem to be more concerned with trying to defend and justify their position on this transit issue than truly and diligently seeking a solution.
mk-we ARE doomed
September 12, 2012
When you see that in order to produce,

you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing;

when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in good, but in favors;

when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work,

and your laws no longer protect you against them,

but protect them against you,

you may then know that your society is doomed.

-Ayn Rand
May 13, 2014
Ayn Rand died receiving social security and medicare.
Pissed in Mableton
September 12, 2012
We might as well call a MARTA referendum. It would be a cheaper alternative. Our saving grace is the MARTA law that states only county commissions who were part of the original plan can call the question. If Tim didn't have to face the commission and direct backlash from the voters, he would have easily got some friends in the state to do it.

We can't even afford to keep CCT afloat and now we think we can move to bigger things.

Another government pipe dream like the Beltline and other pie in the sky dreams that bureaucrats want to hang their hats to.
September 12, 2012
--RE: “It’s the one that gives you the best ridership for the most effective amount of resources, most effective amount of cost,” she said. --

Can someone translate?

Gotta love Faye Dimassimo.

(Will love her more when she is gone from Cobb County government).
September 12, 2012
Thus article reports bob Ott voted against both the AA study & the environmental study. I don't know about the environmental, but I do know he recused himself from the AA study vote because a family member was employed by one of the companies Croy was going to use in study.

As far as this rip off to the taxpayers study,.. I KNOW I could have come up w/ better ideas for $50 bucks & dinner.

Cobb taxpayers should be steaming mad about giving Croy Engineering 1.8 million for this big joke!

They did a 'study' in Smyrna -for $150,000, they took pictures of sidewalks ,... and wrote a description of them. A 1st grader could have done it!

The whole DOT/Croy/CID/politicians connection needs a through AUDIT!!!
Pissed in Mableton
September 12, 2012
Of course, why would it come out AFTER the TSPLOST election. So many had assumed that people were just going to go along to get along with this, it backfired. When it failed, then the blame game started (Tea Party, Conservatives, Old Timers, Apathtic Young Voters and the list goes on).

Tim and the rest of them could not tell us what the $689 million dollars would have went to. First it was light rail (last time I checked, CCT wasn't in the rail business, MARTA is), then it was Enhanced Premium Bus Service (that much for a bus route, really???), then it was going to be HOT lanes, then something else. In other words, just vote for it and we will figure it out later. Byrne called that out during the election, 'why would I approve something that I can't explain?'

In Mableton, we have been studied to death. Studies, consultants, visioning studies, task forces, and more. Not a damn thing has happen but increased crime, vacant buildings and excuses on why the studies are not yielding results.
Just Sayin'
September 12, 2012
Tim...another SPLOST??? Dude, you had NO support on the last one. Do you really think you can convince the citizens of Cobb County to pay that much for some buses. Perhaps you should run for office in Disneyland.
D.G. in Clarkdale
September 12, 2012
Its my understanding that there isn't even one "public transit system" in this country that pays for itself. In effect it becomes another subsidized money pit for taxpayers and adds to the "entitlement" mentality that exist among certain segments of the population. As for going to the Feds for funding, it just gives "them" more control and the last thing we want is more federal government intrusion at the local level. I mean this country is already 16 trillion in debt, its insanity to follow them over the fiscal cliff.
The Truth
September 12, 2012
Ott is so full of himself. He has no input other than what he tells his minions before hand and then always has a story to tell after the fact. And the line that he voted against the agenda items approving the studies is a lie. He vote to approve the selection on both. Then grandstanded on the actual contract approval. I hope this is the beginning of a 4-1 vote so the public can see how evil he is
September 12, 2012

Someone is EVIL because they speak their mind and vote their conviction?

Now that is about as ignorant a comment as I have read in this forum and there have been a lot to choose from over the years.

Please do everyone a huge favor and spare us your meaningless


September 12, 2012
Cut Annette some slack. Everyone knows she’s going after Ott because her boss wants her to. Isn’t that right, Annette?
September 12, 2012
Bob Ott is the only one not drinking the Timmy Obama Power Aid; this is just a bait and switch. We bring an overpriced bus system out later we morph it into Light Rail, that’s how we pay back our cronies. Remember Sam Olens blessed us this Miss Light Rail it’s not about traffic it’s about spending big money. Brought to you by Jim Big Payday Croy why not drive a Rolls Royce when a Chevy will do!!

MARIETTA — Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott is puzzled by Chairman Tim Lee’s proposal to take $110 million from an $856.5 million earmark for Cumberland-to-Midtown rail and use it on an Acworth-to-Midtown bus route, considering there’s already a route there.

This is eleven months ago what does Bob know and he thought this was a lot on money.

“I would wonder what kind of bus route we’re talking about when we already have bus service,” Ott said. “I believe its Georgia Regional Transit Authority Express Bus from Acworth to downtown. You know, $100 million is an awful lot of money for a bus route. I’d be kind of curious as to exactly what it is that’s being proposed.”

You fools voted Timmy Obama Lee back in office and someone has to pay for all those thousands of 4 by 4 signs.

MARIETTA — After reviewing the findings of the $1.8 million Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis study, which calls for a $1.1 billion bus system from Kennesaw State University to Midtown Atlanta, Southeast Commissioner Bob Ott called it “a pipe dream.”

Not from Texas
September 12, 2012
If these projects were not planned years, and sometimes decades in advance, private Ott would not have any airports to fly to. He should think of this when he runs his baseless mouth. If these kinds of planning activities were not occuring, then you would be complaining about that. If you are really from Texas, perhaps you should go home.
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