Roswell Mayor Jere Wood calls for one regional transit agency for metro Atlanta

By Maria Saporta

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood would like to see metro Atlanta create “a unified transit system” rather than creating another planning agency that would keep the current “multitude of agencies” delivering transit services to the region.

Mayor Wood sent over a “letter to the editor” explaining his position. We thought it would be good to share it with all of you (with just a few stylistic edits).

Letter to the Editor

Gov. Nathan Deal has said that Metro Atlanta needs a unified transit system to replace the multitude of transit agencies now working independently of each other.

Unfortunately, the “Transit Governance Council” proposed by the Governor’s Task Force would not create a unified transit system, only another planning agency similar to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

We need less bureaucracy, not more.

Metro Atlanta needs a single authority to operate transit, not a multitude of agencies. A single transit authority would cost less, be more efficient, and be better positioned to make regional plans and coordinate regional service than a multitude of agencies.

MARTA, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA), and the Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton transit agencies should be merged into one transit authority.

DeKalb and Fulton mayors have proposed a regional transit authority governed by a board of directors elected from population based districts by the citizens of the five counties served by transit — Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, and Gwinnett.

The Regional Transit Governance Task Force calls for a board appointed by and answering to the governor and local elected officials from 13 counties, not proportionate to population or monetary contribution.

Many of these counties not only do not have a transit system, they have no plans for a transit system.

The mayors propose that the regional transit authority operate a transit system that would eventually serve all of metro Atlanta.

By comparison, the Task Force calls for the Transit Governance Council to plan and coordinate a multitude of transit agencies.

The mayors propose that over time all transit agencies be merged into the regional transit authority.

But the Transit Governance Council proposed by the Task Force would perpetuate separate and independent transit agencies.

The regional transit authority proposed by the mayors would answer to the people. The Transit Governance Council would report to GRTA.

Last year, 17 mayors in DeKalb and Fulton counties signed a resolution supporting the proposed one cent sales tax for regional transportation conditioned upon creation of a regional transit system. They recognized that their citizens will vote for a regional sales tax if it will build a regional transit system.

If the governor and the state legislature want to win the support of voters for the one penny regional transportation sales tax, almost half of which would go to transit, they need to offer the voters a unified regional transit system, not another bureaucracy making plans for a multitude of transit agencies.

Before the legislature asks the citizens to vote in favor of raising taxes, they should consider giving the voters the right to elect the board of the Regional Transit Authority that will be spending the citizens’ money.

City of Roswell

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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