Fast Track Forward Initiative, which is promoting transit for the July 31 vote, will hold kick-off April 25

By Maria Saporta

Proponents of transit in metro Atlanta will be kicking off the Fast Track Forward Initiative to inform voters on what is at stake when they go to the polls on July 31.

The Livable Communities Coalition of the Metro Atlanta will be holding a kick-off event on Wednesday April 25 at the restaurant, Shout, at Colony Square from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, will be the keynote speaker.

Several efforts are underway to publicize and promote the one percent regional transportation sales tax referendum in July.

But Fast Track is the one entity that is zeroing in on what the referendum will mean for the future of transit in the 10-county region.

The project list developed by the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable identified a total of 150 projects worth a total of $6.14 billion. Of that total, 52 percent is slated to go towards transit projects.

That includes funding for the Atlanta BeltLine; a rail line between the Lindbergh MARTA Station and the Emory campus; enhanced transit service along the I-75 corridor from the Arts Center MARTA Station to Cobb County; enhanced transit along the I-20 East corridor towards south DeKalb; the resumption of bus service in Clayton County; funding for the regional XPress bus service; $600 million to bring MARTA’s rail system to a “state of good repair;” as well as some planning transit funds for Gwinnett, the multimodal passenger terminal in downtown Atlanta and commuter rail.

In an email announcing the Fast Track kick-off event, Jim Stokes, interim executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition, wrote that the region will have an opportunity to support the creation of a more extensive transit system.

“This summer, voters in the 10-county Atlanta metro area will decide whether to finance the development of a more robust system, one that will improve the quality of life in the region and enhance the region’s competitive viability,” Stokes said. “You have joined us in the past as we strive to create a better transit system. We need your help now to finish the task.

The list of transit projects that will be on the referendum has been controversial in some parts of the region. Some people in Cobb County have questioned the merits of having a light rail line between Atlanta and Cumberland Mall; while some people in DeKalb County have argued that they are not getting a fair share of MARTA rail.

“We all know that Atlanta faces daily gridlock,” Stokes said. “Our goal is to educate potential voters about the positive impact the referendum’s transit projects would have on the business productivity and quality of life in Atlanta.”

Howard Franklin, campaign manager for the Fast Track Forward Initiative, said the key will be getting voters who support transit to come out to the polls in July.

“Primaries typically have low turnouts, so If we can engage 5,000 to 10,000 of those voters, we can have a major impact on the outcome,” Franklin said. “We want metro Atlanta area residents to understand the importance of this election.”

The Fast Track Forward Initiative is an outgrowth of the LCC’s Fair Share for Transit initiative, launched in January 2010. That’s when the coalition worked with dozens of other community organizations to make sure transit would play a major part of the Regional Transportation Roundtable’s project list.

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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