MARTA for Gwinnett
MARTA for Gwinnett
Bringing regional transit to Gwinnett County


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• When is the vote?
March 19th, 2019. The deadline for voter registration leading up to the referendum is February 19th, 2019. You can check your registration status here: Georgia My Voter Page

• Will transit solve our traffic problems?
No, sadly. The point of transit is not to fix traffic nor reduce congestion. The point of transit is to allow for alternatives to that traffic and congestion for as many people as possible. Induced and latent demand for road space, as well as naturally occurring growth, will make sure that traffic is always a factor.

• Why shouldn't we use the money to build more roads?
Just as more transit won't solve traffic, more roads will not solve traffic, for exactly the same reason. What is important, though, is that transit can carry many more people in a given amount of space than cars, making it more space efficient and able to scale up to growth far easier.

There's also air quality, and green-house gas emissions to consider. The emissions generated per person are much less for transit than for single cars.

• Why should we trust MARTA?
While the agency has had problems in the past, and there are certainly things still needing fixing, the agency is just about in the best position it has ever been in. It is operating at a net gain, has excellent bond ratings, is already undergoing large maintenance projects, is already implementing service quality upgrades, is already replacing and growing its bus fleet, and is planning to replace its entire rail fleet, all without extra funding.

• Why should we build more transit?
Our transit system is one that is limited in its reach, but also one which is actively working to change that. With the passing of the MARTA expansion tax in November 2016 in the City of Atlanta, the agency has already started rolling out new bus services and planning is well underway for Light Rail, Bus Rapid Transit, and Streetcar expansions within the city. With both Fulton and DeKalb looking to have similar expansion efforts, as well as already underway work in Clayton, MARTA will be growing in scope and reach for decades to come, and with that, the usefulness of transit as a whole.

Despite its current limits, MARTA is already the 9th largest transit agency in the nation, serving nearly 341,000 riders a day across its bus and rail system. In Gwinnett specifically, GRTA commuter buses account for over 26% of the I-85 HOT lane morning commuters, despite being only 2% of the vehicles.

This ridership will grow as more companies and developers continue to build near existing transit lines, and the metro in general grows, coupled with the network effect of ongoing expansions. That is, when transit grows, it reaches new potential riders, while also adding new destinations for those already within the service area.

• Will transit lower my property values?
More than likely, no. Transit is, more and more, considered a prime amenity which can be leveraged by developers. As such, land that is both in a desirable area, and near transit, is likely to be more valuable than land that is not. Most impacts to property values come from conditions other than transit, and more reflect the desirability of the neighborhood in general.

Research has been carried out within the metro, and overall, proximity to a high-capacity transit station has shown to be a massive boost to values and demand for that land. 61% of new office construction is within half a mile of an existing MARTA station, and rents near stations ask for nearly 25% higher rates than the overall market due to the demand for access. All of this is a trend that is continuing from previous study that found general trends of lower vacancy rates and higher rents near stations than beyond them.

• Will transit bring crime?
More than likely, no. First of all, MARTA is the second safest transit system in the nation. MARTA Police units patrol all of the buses, trains, stations and parking lots, and more than 10,000 surveillance cameras operate around the clock. Additional precincts and officers would likely be established to help cover the Gwinnett sections of the system.

A 1996 study analyzing crime around the then relatively new MARTA rail stations of Kensington and Indian Creek, at the easternmost end of the Blue Line, found that if MARTA expansion had any effect on crime rates at all, this effect was "marginal, rather than dramatic." 12 types of crime were tracked over the 3.5 years before and the 18 months after each station opened, over an impact area within 10 to 15 minutes of the stations.

Furthermore, a 2014 examination found that, when there is crime, it is rather well correlated to the condition of the neighborhood around the station. That is, that the safer the neighborhood, the safer the station is likely to be.

• Will my taxes be used for another county's projects?
No. Gwinnett's contract with MARTA has many safeguards against spreading funds collected within Gwinnett to outside entities. Chief among these is the direct assurance that money collected in Gwinnett must be used for the benefit of Gwinnett. In addition, any money barrowed by MARTA for Gwinnett projects must be approved by the county.

You may read a summary of the contract here if you would like.

• How will I know our interests are being kept in mind?
Gwinnett county will have a few different guards in place to ensure that the county's interests are being met. First, Gwinnett with have three appointees to the MARTA Board, as assigned by state law. Additionally, any tax revenue collected within Gwinnett is, with the exception of a portion agreed to fund overall agency operations in exchange for access to the larger system, required to be used to the benefit of Gwinnett. To enforce this, the county government must approve of any debt issued by MARTA using funds collected within the county for projects serving the county.

Other controls are in place, including but not limited to an agreement that MARTA will work with the county when designing future Transit Oriented Development, an agreement for MARTA and Gwinnett to jointly plan all projects, and for Gwinnett to control eminent domain for MARTA's projects within the county.

You may read a summary of the contracthere if you would like.

• I won’t be able / want to use transit, so why should I pay for it?
Please see our The Need page for a detailed response. In general, though, it’s because the county as a whole will see benefits, which will inevitably circle back to even those persons who don’t use the system. The county will continue to gain population, and with that will come the need to move more people. Roads for personal cars simply aren’t enough to handle everyone; neither in efficiency of space nor in efficiency of economics.

Luckily, transit in general helps with both of those issues. First, transit can either directly increase the potential capacity of any road it operates on compared to simply personal cars, and, from that, transit enables high-density financial activity. This means more money, over all, in the county’s coffers than would have otherwise been there, and therefore the county can afford more, and higher-quality services overall.

Furthermore, in times of personal, or large-scale emergency, having a secondary method of transportation at the ready is a form of ensuring that mobility is maintained.

Finally, expanded transit could mean a world of difference in personal opportunity for many people. The increased access to jobs, education, government services, recreation, and so many different amenities could very well be the difference between perpetuated poverty, and a bright future. With that opportunity comes reduced long-term crime rates, and reduced long-term poverty rates. Both of which can save everyone a lot of heartache, and a lot of money.

• Why should we join MARTA if we already have a transit agency?
MARTA offers a scale and capability that Gwinnett County Transit is, sadly, unlikely to grow anywhere near. Gwinnett County Transit simply does not have the experience, nor resources to operate high capacity transit as efficiently as MARTA does.

MARTA has four plus decades of operation experience of a large, urban bus fleet as well as urban rail. The agency has had years and years of practice at studying, designing, funding, and implementing large-scale projects across multiple jurisdictions, with more to come.

By joining MARTA, Gwinnett would be able to directly tap into that wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as take advantage of the existing scale of MARTA's system to build off of, saving resources by eliminating unnecessary redundancy.

• Why should we join MARTA if we already have GRTA?
Similarly to why Gwinnett County Transit is unlikely to grow to match what MARTA has to offer, GRTA, as it is currently established, is unlikely to be able to fill in the rest.

Though GRTA is an agency with a larger geographic reach, it is much smaller than even Gwinnett Community Transit in its scope of operations.

MARTA still represents the only agency in the metro with the scale and experience to tackle the large-scale projects needed for a county like Gwinnett.

Of course, GRTA would still be able to make use of MARTA's infrastructure (commuter rail lines, stations, bus lanes, etc.) as it comes in from beyond the core counties. As such, expanding MARTA may very well help GRTA grow in the long run, offering more opportunities to reach out into the further-off metro area.