BRT off the SPLOST ballot, but the motor’s still running
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
August 19, 2014 04:00 AM | 5639 views | 7 7 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
STATE DOT ENGINEERS are proceeding with preliminary work on a possible Bus Rapid Transit system down the Cobb Parkway corridor, even though the controversial proposal has been pulled off the upcoming Nov. 4 SPLOST ballot by Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee.

“We have some scoping under way on Highway 41 (Cobb Parkway), to understand what opportunities there are to make improvements along 41 and so they don’t preclude a future BRT, in terms of building bypasses and that kind of thing,” state DOT Commissioner Keith Golden told the MDJ editorial board last week. “It’s in the conceptual development stage for if and when the BRT comes forward.”

Lee removed preliminary funding for the $494 million BRT from the SPLOST for fear its presence on the ballot would kill the chances of passing the special purpose local option sales tax.

“The BRT is one solution to the congestion in that corridor and there probably are a combination of other solutions that would finally get you to where 41 needs to be,” Golden said. He also noted that whenever the DOT works on a project that involves federal funding, it is required to engineer the project to handle expected traffic growth during the ensuing 20 years.

“Sometimes, you get it right, but most of the time, in this area, the growth outpaces your forecast,” he added.

That’s a good problem to have — except for when you’re actually stuck in traffic.


GOLDEN said he likes BRTs in concept.

“They give you the flexibility to change the route if the one you’re using doesn’t make sense. It’s not like if you have fixed rail and it doesn’t work,” he said.

As for the Cobb proposal, Golden asked, “Do you widen 41 or do you modify it to accommodate the concept? Does BRT have a place (in congestion solutions)? Certainly it has a place. But it has to go where people want to go and it has to pick up where people want to be picked up. You’ve got to have those originations and destinations, and Cobb County has to decide whether they think that’s the right thing for them.”

“But transit for those in Cobb wanting to go downtown and possibly using this managed lane concept? I think you’re gonna see more of that. People want more of that, but we just don’t know yet to what extent people are willing to pay for it.”

Golden said there’s not a single transit system in the country where operating costs are paid 100 percent from firebox revenues.

“So, it needs to be what your citizens want and what they’re willing to pay to operate and maintain the expense and cost of. All transit systems are expensive to operate and maintain. I think they have their place, but you’ve got to make sure you get the right place and that’s what your citizens want, I know.”

The reversible “managed” lanes soon to be under construction parallel to Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb will be traveled not just by cars, but also by CCT’s express buses. And there will be no extra charge for riders, either. Private vehicles traveling in those lanes will be charged a fluctuating toll, based on congestion levels at any given moment. But bus riders will only pay their usual fare.

Also, Golden doesn’t see use of the managed lanes by the express buses as undercutting the rationale for building a BRT because they would be aimed at different riders. The BRT would move people back and forth from stops along Cobb Parkway, while the CCT buses go direct toward the perimeter and beyond.


IF COBB VOTERS FAIL to pass the SPLOST this November, don’t expect the state DOT to step up and pick up the funding slack that results. That was the message from Golden.

“We don’t have anything to step up with,” he said. “We used to have some discretionary dollars, but now it goes out by formula to cities and counties. And then we have about $600 million in debt service on top of that we have to pay.”

Gov. Nathan Deal and the DOT look closely at what local communities bring to the table when they come asking for road funding, he said.

“What’s the local government doing to leverage some of their funds? Cobb is a leader at doing that. Cobb has great history of coming down with solutions and plans and not asking for the full amount of funding. A lot of communities come in and say they need everything.”


YOU’LL ALSO RECALL that Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin sent up a trial balloon last year, suggesting streets around Marietta Square be converted to one-way — or what some described as “a giant traffic circle with right angles.”

The balloon was shot down almost as quickly as it went up.

But Golden said if the mayor wants to send it back up, well, “We could work with him on that.”


AUSTELL’S Erica Thomas, who won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, was among those who spent the weekend in Ferguson, Mo.

Thomas said she drove there Saturday night with seven young people to speak at a Sunday rally put on by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, a group in which she is a leader.

“What prompted me really to go other than to speak is that I wanted to be able to get to the young people and try to get them to calm down and see if we can try and figure out another way, because I’ve done rallies and I’ve done protests, but there’s a way to go about all these things,” he said. “You can’t just loot and act crazy, that’s not going to make change. It’s going to make you look crazy.”

Thomas, who faces no Republican opposition in November’s general election, wants to see Darren Wilson, the police officer accused of shooting to death 18-year-old Michael Brown, arrested.

“I want him arrested and to be on trial just like anyone else that would have shot someone six times,” Thomas said.


TWO well-known faces at the Cobb courthouse — Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring and Superior Court Judge Rob Leonard — are among the “Rising Stars” for 2014 chosen this month by The Fulton County Daily Report.

Boring heads the crimes against women and children unit under District Attorney Vic Reynolds and has been in the public eye this summer as the lead prosecutor in the felony murder/negligence case against Justin Ross Harris, who is accused of leaving his 22-month-old son to die in the father’s hot car.

Leonard was appointed as State Court judge by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010 and then to the Superior Court bench by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2012.


EVENTS: Lowell Lovinggood will discuss the history of Powder Springs at Thursday’s “Evening With History” at the Marietta Museum of History. The talk will be at 7 p.m. in the Virginia Tumlin Community Room. Cost is $5 for non-members. ...

The Georgia Symphony Orchestra will host its fifth annual “Noteworthy Race” — a 5K fundraiser Sept. 20 in the Barrett Lakes Office Park in Kennesaw. And this one will have a special twist: Runners are being encouraged to wear black tie/formal attire, and prizes will be awarded for the “Best Dressed” runners. For info, go to ...

The Sprayberry High School Touchdown Club will host “The Sock Hops” singing four-part harmonies to 1950s and ’60s hits at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Quarles Auditorium. Proceeds go to the John Paty Field House loan. For info, call Wanda Patterson at (770) 973-0681.


COBB’S POPULATION grew by 29,022 people between April 1, 2010 and April 1, 2014, to 717,100, according to figures released on Monday by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Cobb’s population grew by 9,600 between April 2013 and April 2014 and has grown by an average of 7,256 people per year during the 2010s, according to the ARC.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Be Careful
August 22, 2014
First, no more SPLOSTS. There is nothing "special" about them anymore. They have become part of the standard operating budget.

Second, I'd like to point out that there are already TWO bus services in Cobb.

We have the CCT, which has been a riderless money pit since the day it opened.

And, we have the GRTA express bus service from KSU that hooks up to a MARTA station.

If you see those buses on I75, they are mostly empty as well.

WHY, WHY, WHY spend almost a billion dollars on a THIRD bus service that nobody will ride.

Why would anyone with a dash of common sense think that with 2 riderless bus services already, that a third will be any different.
teh braves
September 19, 2014
The Braves are the SPECIAL PURPOSE, Tim Lee is Navin R Johnson, the SPLOST is the carnival, and we taxpayers are Patty Bernstein.
A Thought
August 19, 2014
Ms. Thomas - While the facts have not yet come out, one fact is clear. Many of those "protesting" have only one thing on their mind, and that has little or nothing to do with the man shot and killed. Looters, criminals, thugs for lack of a better word, are using this as an excuse to run wild. Your cause, whether or not I agree with it, will be diminished greatly.
August 19, 2014
"Golden said there’s not a single transit system in the country where operating costs are paid 100 percent from firebox revenues." [sic "farebox"]

What Mr Golden didn't say was why. Government began cornering the market, so to speak, with what was perceived as a never-ending stream of tax dollars, squeezing private ventures out of business. (Who can compete with a well-funded competitor who has governing power over you?) Efficiency of operation didn't really matter because they'd always get funding to cover losses.

Over the years, activists presuming to speak on behalf of lower income people, began establishing low fares as a right. Entitlement took root. Because fares were low, operational services are cut back as the lack of funds becomes a greater reality. Worse service begets a population of customers who have no other choice but to ride public transit... a race to the bottom.

Now that funding for operations (tax subsidies) doesn't come as easily, addicted political leaders are having trouble grasping that reality. Bureaucrats who pride themselves on qualifying for matching federal funding continue their same routine in hopes they'll finally break through and get more tax dollars. They don't see any problem with the current approach. It's the ignorant taxpayer who simply doesn't understand THEY have to work harder to pay for a system (ie- pay more taxes).

One other thing: Mr Golden asserts that BRT routes can be reconfigured easily. This is untrue. The BRT configuration that actually stands to have any impact on congestion (albeit very small) requires the construction of dedicated lanes and multiple flyovers at intersections. Undoing all of that in one location and reestablishing it at another is no small task! The cost is similar to elevated fixed rail! At least with some forms of elevated fixed rail, you stand to get capacity that could actually create a positive impact on commuting congestion.
August 19, 2014
Spot on!

If gov would get out of transportation, folks would have a lot more options ...and they would be options that people want, too.

just a suggestion
August 19, 2014
I would suggest that E. Thomas should shut her mouth and wait until the facts are out. Here, in America, you are innocent until proven guilty.
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