Mayors from cities in Fulton County now have a better understanding of what they need to do, as city leaders, to bring the reality of rapid transit to their municipalities.
“When it comes to rapid transit, we have got to get away from the idea of everything having to be on the north side,” said Union City Mayor Vince Williams.
Dec. 14, 12 mayors from the county attended a special called meeting of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners at the Fulton government center in downtown Atlanta. It included a discussion of findings regarding the regional transit study.
The study, conducted earlier this year by the Atlanta Regional Commission, focuses on five possible scenarios of public transit in Fulton, all of which were presented at the meeting. According to a news release, the study included six months of analysis and will be part of the county’s transit master plan.
The Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has a heavy rail train line that runs south to the airport station in Atlanta and north to the North Springs station in Sandy Springs, with plans to extend it north to the Forsyth County line, but no light rail system.
The scenarios include expanding MARTA’s heavy rail lines and adding light rail lines, bus rapid transit and/or arterial rapid transit, and some would be tied to a quarter- or half-cent transportation special-purpose local option sales tax in addition to the one already approved by voters in 2016.
In addition, the hour-long meeting also included a discussion regarding animal control in the county.
According to Williams, this was a great opportunity for these mayors, as well as board members including two newly elected ones – District 7 at-large Commissioner (chair) Robb Pitts and District 4 Commissioner Natalie Hall – to hear these findings and share ideas with the mayors.
“This rapid transit has been something that we have been studying for more than a year, and we have had several excursions to cities like Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth where we could look at the real scope for rapid transit,” he said. “For the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia to be real game changers, we have got to view how public transit fits into the entire metro equation.”
Williams said the city has to have faster, more reliable mobility for all people, which would positively affect economic develop, not only for greater regional connectivity but also enhance transportation options.
“And when this happens, we will see a greater return on investment,” he said.
Williams said with his municipality as well as other south Fulton cities being so close to the world’s busiest airport in Hartsfield-Jackson, light rail has got to come to the south side.
“A lot of developers and people wanting to bring their businesses to the south side ask about public transit availability when they talk to us,” he said.
Fulton Commission Vice Chair Bob Ellis said now that the county’s voters have approved TSPLOST, its officials are devising plans for public transit options.
“If you go back a couple of years ago when we were meeting with the mayors and talking about transportation projects and arrived at moving forward with TSPLOST,” he said, “at that point we talked about public transit but at that time, there was no real developed plan, with citizen input, and there was nothing that folks thought they could assimilate around that could be delivered in a relatively timely fashion and could fit into a financial structure. Now, flash-forward to today and the county and cities have developed some optional scenarios that were formed with citizen input on something that was doable on paper that could come online but more importantly, could be interwoven with projects that the (Georgia) Department of Transportation wanted to do.
“The timing and need for coordination is really almost immediate. The plan that was put before us could really mesh well with what the state hopes to do. I am encouraged and we had a lot of feedback from mayors in north and south Fulton, so I think the framework is there for us to go to the state Legislature and say here is a potential action plan and the Legislature needs to be thinking about how this could be funded.”