Now is the time for Gwinnett County to expand mass transit
By Guest Columnist AISHA YAQOOB MAHMOOD, director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund
Growing up in Gwinnett County, some of my fondest memories include weekend trips to Jimmy Carter Boulevard to get our ethnic groceries, stock up on some great Indian food, and hang out with our friends at Global Mall. Businesses along the Jimmy Carter corridor have helped bring pieces of home for many Asian communities for over 25 years. To this day, my friends and family from neighboring counties plan trips to Gwinnett, as it is revered a nexus for so many immigrant communities.
As our communities grew, Asian American businesses started branching out up north toward Pleasant Hill Road and Duluth; this area has become its own cultural district for Asian communities, with restaurants, cafes, and stores that serve Korean, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Indian, and many more.
Although the thriving immigrant population in Gwinnett has brought culture, food, and business to our neighborhoods, the influx of new families and development has signaled a need for expanded, accessible transit infrastructure. In addition to the rapid population growth of Gwinnett, the state projects that by 2050 our population will exceed 1.5 million people, including many Asian American and immigrant communities. Already today, getting through Jimmy Carter Boulevard or Pleasant Hill Road on a weekday afternoon feels impossible. Adding more lanes or expanding our roads is not the option – Gwinnett, now is the time to expand mass transit.
That is why I’m so excited to vote for Gwinnett’s newest transit expansion plan that will be on our ballot this November, and everyone I’ve spoken to from my community feels the same. The new plan would implement a modest 1% sales tax for the next 30 years to cover a massive expansion of the existing Gwinnett County Transit bus system, a newly developed bus rapid transit program, and bring MARTA heavy rail to the Jimmy Carter corridor – further opening up access to different parts of the city for various communities.
The proposed expansions to be funded with this transit special purpose local option sales and use tax will help mitigate the traffic nightmare that has caused delays and distress to metro Atlanta residents for years. This plan will include more local bus routes, shortened service wait times, increased connectivity to neighboring counties, and an increase in paratransit services. Robust expansions like these will bring about unprecedented mobility in Gwinnett County.
For Asian American and immigrant-run businesses, this means more accessibility to customers and easier access for employees. For our families, this means greater access to jobs and intuitions of higher learning. And for Gwinnett, this means more connectivity to other parts of our region and being open to new opportunities.
For my family in particular, we’re looking forward to increased paratransit opportunities and connectivity with other parts of the metro Atlanta area. Growing up in the northern suburbs of Gwinnett County, my sister, who has a disability, rarely had access to paratransit; when she did have access, she was limited in where she could go. With this transit plan, we’re hopeful that the paratransit expansion will give her the mobility she needs to visit friends in other parts of the metro region, shop at her favorite malls, and be more independent.
As we get closer to our Nov. 3 presidential election, my organization, the Asian American Advocacy Fund, is encouraging voters to support the transit refere
ndum that would help bring more mobility, opportunity, accessibility, and connectivity to Gwinnett County. AAAF has just launched our Move with Gwinnett campaign to inform our voters about the benefits that this expanded transit plan brings to Asian American and immigrant communities in our region. For more information about our campaign, please visit our website.
Note to readers: Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood serves as director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund, a grassroots 501(c)4 social welfare organization dedicated to building a politically-conscious, engaged, and progressive Asian American base in Georgia. Prior to joining the Asian American Advocacy Fund, she served as the policy director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta.