Remove Fayette from transit plans
If you are planning on living in Fayette County beyond the next five years, this is your decisive warning. I pray to God that you are paying attention and you will act.
On Wednesday, March 2 at 3:30 p.m. (140 Stonewall Avenue; Fayetteville) I am introducing an official resolution asking that Fayette County be removed from all regional government mass transit plans. You need to be at this meeting in a show of support.
There has been a secretive movement by specific Fayette County leaders to pull our county into the tar pit of regional mass transit, dragging us down with the rest of the metropolitan Atlanta counties, stealing our tax dollars to keep other counties’ heads above the heavy pitch to keep from drowning.
The lies have been exposed. Our previous Fayette County Chairman Jack Smith and our other regional government representative Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele continuously voted us into the regional mass transit plan called Concept 3.
They kept telling us they opposed mass transit in Fayette County. This Concept 3 mass transit plan is now being merged into the 2012 Regional Transportation Roundtable referendum and latest round of regional transportation plans.
The Concept 3 plan designates Fayetteville and Peachtree City as “transit centers,” (Source: Transit Planning Board Final Technical Report, Concept 3, p. 16, figure 2.2, System Framework). The plan calls for buses from Clayton County, Henry County and Coweta County to come rolling into Fayette (the busiest route being Riverdale to Fayetteville). In fact, we are the heart of their new “cross-regional corridor” for mass transit.
For years, our region has been heading toward creating a regional mass transit system, joining MARTA with all the other bus transit systems. As a matter of fact, “Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said a regional transit agency is among the ‘reasonable options that we have this [legislative] session,’” (“Regional Transit Agency in Mind” AJC, Feb. 17, 2011). Obviously, in a regional transit system, we will not be able to control our own destiny.
The odds are Chairman Herb Frady, Commissioner Lee Hearn and Commissioner Robert Horgan will oppose my resolution and, instead, favor linking Fayette County via mass transit to Clayton, Coweta, South Fulton and Henry counties.
I have lived in DeKalb, North Fulton and Cobb counties as well as the city of Atlanta. I have family living in Gwinnett County. I can attest that those mass transit counties have proven the trains and buses are highly ineffective and very costly.
MARTA began as a way to shuttle the working poor to metropolitan job centers. This is why MARTA connects to some of the roughest areas in metropolitan Atlanta.
The big joke about linking crime to mass transit was the yarn about the guy taking the bus from one of those rough areas, going to your house and stealing your 40-inch TV and taking it back on the bus. However, if we said crime was not an issue around mass transit, we would be lying.
MARTA bus drivers have been attacked by criminals. Recently, the father of a 14-year-old boy whose throat was slashed just minutes into the New Year at MARTA’s Five Points station sued the transit authority, claiming a uniformed police officer ignored the teen’s request for help. Later, another man was shot to death at the same Five Points station.
Last year, a 19-year-old criminal law student was shot and killed for his new touch-screen cell phone at the East Point MARTA station. Another incident at the end of 2010 was a woman who was kidnapped from the MARTA Lakewood station and sexually assaulted.
People have been shot getting off of buses at night. Moreover, K-9 units have been added to conduct sweeps of MARTA trains and stations. In addition, a series of fires on transit buses have raised concerns about the safety of the Gwinnett Transit and MARTA fleets, although no one has been injured in any of the incidences.
The quotes below from the article entitled “MARTA identifies Five Points shooting suspect” (AJC, Jan. 8, 2011) really says it all.
“Rachel Rodriguez, who moved to Atlanta almost five years ago and has used MARTA to get to sport and music venues, said the recent violence has changed how she uses mass transit. She won’t be taking the train to her new job near Midtown’s Arts Center Station.”
The article continues, “For the first time since moving here, I could use MARTA to get to and from work, but I’m concerned that as a young woman, it would be unsafe to use it at night by myself,” she said Saturday. “I’ve encountered the usual cast of crazy characters that you would encounter riding on mass transit in any city, but that’s not what makes me feel unsafe ... I rarely see MARTA officers in the trains or on the platforms.”
One evening years ago, I convinced my wife, who refuses to ride, to take the MARTA train to an event so we could avoid having to search for a parking place downtown. When we arrived at the station downtown, we were threatened by a man who was, luckily, unarmed. In truth, I still take the MARTA train from time to time, but would NEVER allow my wife or my daughters to go by themselves.
The most baffling and uneducated comments made about mass transit are related to costs. I cringe when I hear local government officials say if gas prices get around five dollars a gallon we will have to rely on mass transit. Their inexperienced and unqualified opinions prove they have no idea that only around 20 percent of the operating and maintenance costs of local mass transit are cover by rider fares. Guess who is paying the balance?
The transit riders and everyone else ends up paying for the other 80 percent in additional taxes. In fact, we calculated the mass transit train to Peachtree City will cost around $144,000 per each roundtrip rider.
Why not buy them a Mercedes and call it a day? But hang with me for a second — as part of the regional transit system, we will not only pay excessively for our county mass transit in additional taxes, but we will also be administering the financial bailout for mass transit in the most populous counties.
MARTA and the transit system in Gwinnett are hemorrhaging red ink. Clayton County had to give their transit system up. In March 2010, MARTA had to cut a quarter of its services.
Next we have the obvious. Most of our residents are not going to tolerate the multiple bus transfers required to get to work every day. Handling bus transfers into the MARTA system to get to Atlanta employment centers will make for a longer and less convenient commute.
One local resident told me she tried going from the nearest MARTA stop to Dunwoody and the trip took 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach her destination (one-way).
Most of the bus routes in Concept 3 for Fayette are east-west routes not heading toward the employment centers. So for Fayette riders, we would have to take the route from Fayetteville to Riverdale to even begin moving in a northerly direction.
Wednesday, March 2 at 3:30 p.m. will be the day a majority of our Fayette Board of Commissioners commits to mass transit in our county, or they try to protect the wonderful, affordable quality of life we have always enjoyed. You need to be at this meeting.
Fayette Commissioner, Post 4
Peachtree City, Ga.