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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

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.



  1. SteveBrown February 7, 2012 11:36 pm

    The legislature obviously does not understand the dynamics of the Atlanta region. I will disagree that mass transit needs to be in every county.

    There are some possible solutions that would make a great deal of headway toward a win-win for both sides, but I am leery of the legislature being able to handle the task.Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia February 8, 2012 5:08 pm


      What strangely seems to be missing from the conversation is that there are different types of transit than just MARTA heavy rail or even light rail. There could be a more nuanced approach taken to transportation planning as some counties, like Fulton and DeKalb, may need a more transit-heavy approach because they are more densely-populated, while counties like Cobb and Gwinnett which are transitioning from suburban to urban may need a more mixed approach that involves a mix of heavier transit, commuter rail, bus and light rail while farther outlying counties may only need commuter rail and commuter bus. Report

    2. ScottNAtlanta February 9, 2012 11:46 am


      I couldn’t agree more. Fayette county has 106,567residents according to the 2010 census, but if you add Dekalb, Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnette, and Clayton you’re talking 3,365,297. We have a desperate need for alternatives. I dont see anyone dictating that Fayette Co. should implement public transit. It would be silly. You need density for that. MARTA needs to be able to go where the need is, and to do that it needs funding. Investment in infrastructure like MARTA pays back in ways other than fares. It pays back by expanding the tax base in areas around train stations (and a Cumberland to Perimeter Center, or the Lindbergh Avondale thats slated to be funded) which will spur development. People in urban areas want to live near transit if given the choiceReport

  2. ScottNAtlanta February 8, 2012 2:55 pm

    This might sound simplistic, but why cant these municipalities get together on their own and make this happen without the State having to be involved? They contribute very little money, so why should they dictate the terms. There seems to be broad consensus among the parties involved that this needs to happen, and to a surprising degree, how it needs to happen. An appointed “governance committee” would be disastrous. The State has shown time and again they just dont “get” transit. They should leave it to those that need it, as stated in the Mayor’s letter, limiting the conversation to the 5 immediate counties that have (including Clayton) transit. Someone in Fayette Co. should not have any input in dictating terms of regional transit since they neither want it or need it (so they say)Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia February 8, 2012 5:01 pm


      The state doesn’t get transit? Have you seen the sickeningly dysfunctional and incompetent mess that is the Georgia Department of Transportation lately? Its pretty clear that not only does the state not get transit, but they also don’t get roads and/or transportation in general these days and couldn’t “get” transportation if it hit them over the head repeatedly like it has been doing increasingly for at least the past decade.Report

      1. ScottNAtlanta February 9, 2012 12:00 pm

        @The Last Democrat in Georgia

        I was trying to be nice…if there is blame to be laid anywhere its at the feet of the former Gov Sonny Perdue whose ignorance and incompetence led us here. It just makes my blood boil when I hear about money he diverted to line his own pocket…he should be in jailReport

  3. SteveBrown February 8, 2012 3:08 pm

    ScottNAtlanta – I could not agree more. Everyone needs to call their legislator.

    The real problem is the solution has to come from the legislature. I could sit down with Jere Wood and other regional leaders and probably devise an excellent compromise in under two hours, but it is not our decision to make (at least not yet).

    We in Fayette County have not against any other jurisdiction funding whatever they so desire. Even ARC transportation planner David Haynes agreed that Fayette could not sustain transit for the next 50 years.Report

  4. SteveBrown February 8, 2012 11:19 pm

    Rep. Ramsey and Rep. Setzler dropped a bill today regarding the TIA. I have read some of the language but not the entire text. I believe they are aiming for counties to come together and form their own referendum (like Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton having a joint tax which they would govern). I think this makes a lot more sense than trying to homogenize the region into a “one size fits all.”Report


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