The Metro Atlanta Northern Crescent Transit Summit is an opportunity to bring what's being done to study traffic issues at the government level to business and civic leaders, said Demming Bass, Cobb Chamber of Commerce's chief operating officer.
"We realized, outside of the transportation world, not a whole lot of people understand what the possibilities could be," Bass said. "The purpose of this event isn't to advocate transit over roads. This is educating people on how could high-capacity rail affect businesses and economic development."
Local officials including Faye DiMassimo, Cobb transportation director, will give presentations about the current status of traffic and transportation projects.
Also, Phoenix METRO Light Rail CEO Steve Banta and former Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Pat McCrory will speak about the planning and implementation of transit systems in their respective cities.
"Phoenix is similar to what could happen to Cobb," Bass said. "It connects to Arizona State University. Here, it would connect to Kennesaw State University all the way down to major business centers in Cobb down to Midtown."
To conclude the event, Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead will lead a panel discussion with local leaders, including Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee.
"We'd like to see everybody walking out a bit more knowledgeable, and elected officials and advocates learning, if this ever does come a reality, that we follow the best practices like Charlotte or Phoenix," Bass said.
The event is co-organized by the Northern Crescent Alliance, which includes the Cobb, Gwinnett and Greater North Fulton Chambers of Commerce, along with the Council for Quality Growth. The summit came about as a result of Gwinnett and Cobb receiving federal funds to complete alternative analysis studies exploring transit options.
Cobb officials are working to select a team of professionals to complete the $1.6 million study, which includes $345,000 in local dollars. The study will examine what modes of transportation would be possible, where they could be built and how it would be funded.
"What's important is these studies are the last step," Bass said. "Once they come back and everything looks appropriate, then you're clear to get federal funding to fund these projects."
Local funding is also possible as a state committee finalizes the list of projects for the 2012 transportation sales tax referendum, Bass said.
"Everybody is going to be voting, and some of these projects may be on there," he said.
Located along the proposed transit corridors are 11 of Atlanta's 12 Fortune 500 headquarters, three of the area's largest job centers and a majority of the city's worst bottlenecks, but the implications don't just affect business, Bass said.
"(Citizens) owe it to themselves to learn as much as they can," he said. "Obviously it's important to citizens because they are the ones stuck on Interstate 75 arriving late to day care and missing soccer games. It's quality of life stuff that you can't get back."