Plan B focuses on relieving some of the worst congestion on our roads and offers a realistic plan to reallocate existing financial resources to better meet our transportation needs without a tax increase.
GPPF includes transit in its Plan B. However, GPPF focuses on using transit to meet our real transportation needs, rather than using it as an excuse to build an ultra-expensive and unnecessary infrastructure whose purpose is to incentivize development on nearby private property.
GPPF also focuses on providing good transit service for people who would use transit at a reasonable cost for taxpayers.
Cobb County should carefully review GPPF’s recommendations.
Cobb County continues to pursue bus rapid transit (BRT) for Cobb Parkway. The BRT would replace the existing middle turn lane with a “barrier-separated” “fixed guideway” in the middle of Cobb Parkway. The fixed guideway would basically be an entire roadway used only by the BRT vehicles. A physical barrier would keep other vehicles out of the BRT fixed guideway, and it would also block left turns into and out of hundreds of businesses along Cobb Parkway.
(I will temporarily refrain from continuing to refer to the BRT plan as the $1.1 billion BRT plan, because Cobb County is in the process of “repackaging” how it wants the public to perceive the BRT project. Look for Cobb to begin telling us that Phase One will “only” cost $500 million.)
Atlanta has the lowest population density of any city with more than 3 million people. Atlanta also has widely dispersed major employment centers. Fixed guideway transit is ill-suited to meeting the transportation needs of a region with low population density and widely scattered employment centers.
Ultra-expensive fixed guideway transit enables the region to address one or two corridors in a region that needs a good transit network that provides efficient connectivity from many places throughout the region, to many places throughout the region.
By contrast, in 2004, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) produced the Regional Transit Action Plan (RTAP) that could have provided an extensive regional transit network, improving mobility throughout the entire Atlanta region, for far less money than Cobb’s BRT proposal for one corridor. And the RTAP would have provided far greater transportation benefit for far more people.
Regardless of the population density along Cobb Parkway, Cobb’s plans for BRT are an extravagant and unnecessary expenditure that disregards future high operating and maintenance costs that will consume future transit funds that would have otherwise been available to meet our transportation needs elsewhere in Cobb.
GPPF’s Plan B does include some “BRT.” However, it clarified at its Aug. 28 policy briefing that it is not recommending any fixed guideway BRT. GPPF’s version of BRT has some BRT features, but no separate fixed guideway for the BRT vehicles. Eliminating the fixed guideway may eliminate more than 90 percent of the cost.
It is easy for Cobb to delude itself that it can build the BRT, because it figures it can get hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington for construction costs. The bigger problem for Cobb taxpayers will be the ultra-expensive ongoing annual operating and maintenance costs. BRT will consume future dollars that would be better allocated for other real transportation needs in other parts of the county.
We have a lot of people in Cobb with a lot of different circumstances. Some people need transit for transportation. Cobb needs good transit service, but Cobb also needs transit that operates at a reasonable cost for Cobb taxpayers. The BRT proposal is careening toward trapping Cobb taxpayers into future extremely high operating and maintenance costs for one corridor. It will not provide better mobility in the corridor compared to other less expensive options, but it will consume future dollars that would have been better allocated to meeting our real transportation needs in other parts of Cobb County.
We cannot afford to squander our scarce transportation dollars on projects that do not cost-effectively meet our real transportation needs.
Ron Sifen of Vinings is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition.