Chairman: Public must be on board for bus plan
by Nikki Wiley
July 11, 2013 12:20 AM | 3246 views | 29 29 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee says he wants to see a $1.1 billion bus line come to fruition, but he needs to hear public input before proceeding.

The proposed 25.3-mile bus rapid-transit route, which would extend from Kennesaw State University to Midtown Atlanta, has already cost the county $4.8 million for an analysis and an environmental impact study.

As the county looks to update its transportation plan through 2040, as mandated every five years to be eligible for federal and state grant dollars, it’s looking for public opinion on the bus route.

“A lot of the things we do are shaped by who was the loudest at the last possible moment before the decision was made,” Lee said.

Though Lee admits he is personally behind the project, he maintains he won’t take action if the majority of Cobb residents aren’t on board.

But measuring public opinion won’t be easy in a county with more than 707,000 residents.

Cobb County Department of Transportation has planned a series of polls, public meetings and committee meetings to gauge interest.

“When we deliver a plan, it will be the plan of the people that live here,” Lee said.

Faye DiMassimo, director of the Cobb transportation department, is optimistic that residents will make their voices heard.

The last time counties across the state attempted to gain support for funding a far-reaching transportation project, it failed overwhelmingly. The penny sales tax, known as Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or T-SPLOST, was shot down by voters in July of last year.

Though T-SPLOST failed in a landslide, turnout for public meetings exceeded expectations, DiMassimo said, and a town hall meeting style that allowed constituents to telephone their concerns into elected officials was popular. She’ll follow that format, and establish focus groups and committees, for the transportation plan update.

The defeated T-SPLOST combined with an expected 27 percent population growth in Cobb County by 2040 has left officials looking for ways to determine how residents, commuters, business cargo and visitors can best travel and how to pay for improvements.

But Lee says this time is different.

One of the reasons T-SPLOST failed, he said, is because the commission went to voters with an already established funding source and a limited list of projects. This time, he says he wants the public to speak before the commission decides anything.

When the commission presents a plan in the fall of 2014, he doesn’t want the commission to be seeking support. Lee wants the support to already be there.

The bus route isn’t expected to be completed for at least 10 years because it will involve extensive infrastructure modification allowing buses to travel under highway intersections avoiding traffic.

Other transportation projects are in the works. A $951 million reversible toll lane project along Interstates 75 and 575 through Cobb and Cherokee counties is expected to open in 2018 and aims to take relief off the congested thoroughfare. Cobb Community Transit buses will use those lanes to transport commuters more quickly.

Would you support Cobb County's idea to build a $1.1 B bus route to midtown Atlanta?


Comments
(29)
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Oh Brother
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July 14, 2013
A billion dollar bus. Memo to Cobb County officials: I didn't even bother *Iooking* at houses in Cobb when I relocated to Atlanta because of its lack of real rapid transit.
moliere
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July 11, 2013
All right, people who oppose this plan, what transportation plan do you want? What ideas do you have that will A) help students and workers get from Cobb to downtown and back and B) ease congestion on the roads for those who have to drive? Ever consider that this might help KSU by increasing their enrollment, getting potential students that might otherwise attend Georgia State (a leading regional university that is actually accessible by transit)?

You don't like the price tag? Well things cost money. The private sector isn't going to come in and solve this need no more than the private sector builds highways. The private sector will come in AFTER taxpayers have built highways and collect toll revenue, but they WILL NOT build highways. The private sector does not build airports either, incidentally. Which is probably why Hartsfield is the only airport in the metro area: the city of Atlanta is the only place that lacks the anti-tax attitudes that destroys useful, needed projects. Several attempts to build an airport in Gwinnett? Went absolutely nowhere because no one wanted to pay for it.

For goodness sakes people, stuff doesn't get done by osmosis and in a lot of cases it doesn't get done by the private sector, who would much rather sell you a $700 I-Phone or a $300 Xbox or something else that you don't need than provide something useful and worthwhile that helps people get to work and school. So what ideas do you have?
JJJ444
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July 14, 2013
Rail. Light rail or heavy rail.

"The bus route isn’t expected to be completed for at least 10 years because it will involve extensive infrastructure modification allowing buses to travel under highway intersections avoiding traffic."

This is a road building construction project disguised as transit. Don't be fooled.
My Goodness
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July 11, 2013
Such vitriol from these writers! And dare I say it? Bigotry. Most of the negative people who spend their time feeding their hatred of all things they didn't choose, are only happy when he or she benefits directly.

Perhaps the ones who should be given the opportunity of addressing this should be those in the district who could and would benefit! My heart goes out to them.
@mygoodness
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July 11, 2013
Advocating for fiscal responsibility is not racism and is not bigotry. There were a lot of people who stated a dislike of Tim Lee. Other than Texas, you are the only other person who disparagingly generalized about other people that you don't like.
steve K
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July 11, 2013
The best thing that can happen for Cobb County is to vote Tim Lee OUT OF OFFICE.
Aaron B.
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July 11, 2013
Why vote him out? Why do you think him so bad?
Craig Kootsillas
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July 11, 2013
The last time Cobb Commissioners passed an update to the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP), they did so in spite of the fact that - by their own calculations - their plan would result in budget deficits over $2 BILLION.

Then again, that's how Commissioners get support for their initiatives... by promising everything to everyone then turning around and saying "This is what people asked for" as they did during the recent budget crisis.

It's a safe bet that transit groups and other special interest groups will be giving input during development of this plan.

Some call it "outreach". I call it "marketing".

Let's hope conservative taxpayers - those that just want to be left alone - also get involved.
Beer Me
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July 11, 2013
How about giving some public transit options for those of us in East and West Cobb. I'm not driving 30 minutes in the wrong direction to the nearest bus stop when I could be halfway to work in that same time period...
Aaron B.
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July 11, 2013
Beer Me -- You're very right. That would be completely impractical. I think a better plan would extend Marta from Arts Center Station to Cumberland Mall. Also Marta should be extended from H. E. Holmes Station through Mableton, Austell and Powder Springs. Thus Cobb County needs two Marta lines to improve its transportation options and quicken commuting time towards Atlanta and the rest of the metro region.
Big Shanty Girl
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July 11, 2013
1.1 billion for a bus line? Absurd, ridiculous,

idiotic, no way!
Ol' Retired Doc
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July 11, 2013
Here we go again; it's another Timmy fiasco. Say no, no, no way!
Be smart for change
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July 11, 2013
Why spend $$ on busses with 5 people inside, when if the County used the current rail close to every major location in Cobb. Rail built and owned by the State. Now leased out.

KSU - downtown, the rail now ends about half a mile from KSU.
Aaron B.
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July 11, 2013
You make a good point. The Cobb DOT does have plans to re-use the rail lines for commuter rail. I think that would be a better use of the money than road alterations for the express bus route. But, I need to know more about Commissioner Lee's transit plan. I wonder if he takes the CCT bus? He should in order to know what riders and bus drivers go through.
HA
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July 11, 2013
Didnt Cobb County vote no the first time around? I say let the county rot and let them deal with their horrible traffic.
OMG, stop it already
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July 11, 2013
Nobody wants to spend $1 billion for a bus service. Who's clamoring for this service anyway? Light rail or maglev would be more popular than this idea, which is saying a lot.
Aaron B.
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July 11, 2013
Yeah, for real. You have it right, that rail is the better solution than a over priced bus route that probably won't serve enough people or simply make the CCT's route 10 faster between Cumberland and Arts Center. More profound improvements are needed than this one proposed in the article.
Be Careful
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July 11, 2013
Well for one, it's not a "penny tax". It's a 1% tax increase. There's a huge difference between the two.

Second, GRTA already operates a bus between KSU and midtown. How many people ride it? Is it profitable? Do they need more buses to handle the load?

Why on earth should the county pay a billion dollars to duplicate a service that already exists.
Rick Z
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July 11, 2013
GRTA does provide service on this route, but it is extremely limited in terms of frequency and hours of service. If the county were to provide extensive enough service that riders would feel comfortable using it, it could be quite worthwhile. They potentially can serve a lot of riders with stops by KSU (and arrange to have KSU's campus shuttle connect with it); Town Center; maybe something by where they'll build those two new roads by Franklin Road near Life U and SPSU; and then the Cumberland bus transfer point. Then, on to Midtown, with access to MARTA at that end.

Got to keep in mind, though, that KSU operates throughout the day and into the evening; and entertainment venues in Midtown operate well into the evening. If the route is to serve those populations, those hours must be taken into account. In my opinion, it might be better to invest in more extensive service than in a 10-year infrastructure project to give the buses clearer sailing than the rest of the drivers on the road. (Yeah, I know the contractors would all prefer that plan.)
Aaron B.
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July 11, 2013
Rick Z is very right. There are very simple improvements that the CCT has yet to make, like extending bus service hours. For example, I wish that the last route 15 bus operated from the Marietta Transfer Center at 11PM to return around 12:45PM. That would help a lot of people who live along its route that return from Atlanta and other parts of the region. Route 30 is a good night time alternative, but a rider may need to walk about 20 to 30 minutes to their destinations.
Boot Tim Lee
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July 11, 2013
Not again!

NO!
why is that
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July 11, 2013
Why does the public have to be on board for spending public transportation dollars on public transportation?

The hard sell should be when we want to spend public dollars on hardening the ground so people who want to make any use of that hardened ground have to go out and spend thousands of their own dollars EVERY YEAR on a private motor vehicle.

We need a constitutional amendement requiring that public transportation dollars be spent ONLY on public transportation systems that can actually TRANSPORT people!

The gub'ment always talks big about privitization. How about private vehicles use private roads? THAT would be a big win for the taxpayer! Maybe the TEA party will tall about it at their next meeting (that they all drive to, of course)
sue lansley
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July 11, 2013
Read my lips NO NO NO NO
Michael Duke
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July 11, 2013
Run a monorail from KSU to Belmont Hills via town center. Stay 20' above existing railroad lines and out of residential areas to avoid conflict. Down the center of I-75 would work well too. Gravity and momentum would keep the train moving for practically nothing. Check out the system in Seattle; where it has paid for itself over 1000 times
Mike In Smyrna
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July 11, 2013
The Seattle monorail project was a boondoggle. The monorail authority was dissolved in 2008. The last proposal (2005) to expand the system was defeated by the voters 65% to 35%. The monorail is actually a byproduct of the Seattle World's Fair.
George Burdrll
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July 11, 2013
Good Grief that system hasn't done squat! There isn't a single transit service on the planet that doesn't operate at a loss!!!
Aaron B.
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July 11, 2013
That sound wonderful! Yes, we definitely need to copy other transit systems.
FROM TEXAS
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July 11, 2013
These plans never seem to have anything for working class people will there be bus service to the airport. Downtown and to airport is what working class people need black, white Asian or Hispanic. We want some of that so-called free stuff; you always leave out the part about the Federal taxpayer picking up seventy percent of the bus ride. Shouldn’t I get a gas card rebate for working driving my car to work and feeding the Giant Democratic Plantation system that Lynden Baines Johnson put in place? We don’t get free phones to run hookers and drug deals and bet the NSA isn’t even listing to that data bet that phone traffic wouldn’t uncover much. If Ron Sifen would be on the board you might be able to sell the deal he actually makes since not dollars out of traffic problems.
Aaron B.
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July 11, 2013
Hi, Texan,

it's possible now to take the CCT buses to Atlanta and then take Marta to the airport. It can take a while, but one can arrive on time to their flight. However, you must really think about the timing in order to rely upon a second CCT bus if bus 30 or bus 10 cannot deliver you directly to your destination. For example, bus 15 runs through my neighborhood and its my primary bus. Its last run through my neighborhood is around 9:30 PM; I must meet that bus around 9PM at Windy Hill and Cobb Parkway and thus leave Arts Center Station on the 8PM 10 bus. If I miss that bus, it's a very transfer or I must take the 10 until Marietta TC and then take a $10 taxi or walk about 4 miles to my house. Thus I must choose a flight that will arrive at a good time in order to rely upon CCT buses. Also I'm afraid to say that Sunday service is absolutely necessary! I know it's good to observe the Lord's day, but some people need to work on Sunday nonetheless of faith. Cobb County will only be behind if it does not start CCT bus service on Sundays.
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