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Commission Chairman Smith explains his 'Yes' vote for mass transit in Fayette

Fayette County Commission Chairman Jack Smith says he does not support a transit system for the county’s future, but his attempts to get bus and rail service deleted from a regional plan failed.

Smith, who served on the Atlanta regional Transportation Planning Board by virtue of his chairmanship, said he indeed did vote for the regional plan, dubbed “Concept 3.”

The plan, which has no funding at this point, includes two bus routes through Fayette County and a light rail line that would stop in Peachtree City with a downtown Atlanta destination.

Smith said he voted for the plan because it “preserved” an option for Fayette to have transit if it is ever needed in the future.

“That’s not to say we have to take it, or that we’d even want to take it, but at least we have the option,” Smith said.

If such an offer was made today, Fayette County would have to say no to transit, Smith said.

“The voting public, according to what I know today, has no interest in footing the bill for any type of mass transit into Fayette County,” Smith said. “My position is I have no interest in footing the bill for any mass transit into Fayette County.”

Smith said that during the development of the Concept 3 plan, he argued against the placing of “arterial rapid bus lines” through Fayette.

One would go west-to-east from Newnan through Peachtree City and Fayetteville to McDonough and the other would go south-to-north from Fayetteville through Clayton County to an area near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Smith said he argued against the bus service because buses won’t truly be rapid since they would sit on the same roads snarled with regular automobile traffic.

“It doesn’t make any sense to do that because you’re not going to move any faster or any smoother than you would in a car sitting in regular traffic,” Smith said.

As for the “light rail” portion of the plan that would have a line stopping in Senoia, Peachtree City and Union City, Smith said it could take 50 years or more for such to become reality, if it ever does.

“The reality is that it will never be built without funding,” Smith said. “Currently there is zero funding and there is zero funding in the foreseeable future.”

Should funding become available, Smith said it makes more sense to build a light rail service in the median of Interstate corridors instead of putting them on existing rail that’s used by other railroad companies which is part of the current Concept 3 plan.

Smith noted that the two main reasons people ride transit is that it is either cheaper or quicker than driving a car.

“The income level in Fayette County is high enough that the difference between $1.80 (what MARTA currently charges for a one-way fare) and zero would not entice people to ride rapid transit in any manner unless it was truly rapid,” Smith said.

Smith also said that there has been no analysis that shows it is cheaper to run transit than it is for the state to build more highway capacity.

“Frankly, I don’t think there’s an economic model that exists that would support building transit into Fayette County,” Smith said. “... Someday it may be, but that is way, way into the future.”

While former Peachtree City Mayor Steve Brown has criticized Smith for even participating in the transit planning process, Smith said that was the only way to insure that Fayette County wouldn’t get stuck with something it didn’t want.

“The only way to have a voice in that is to participate,” Smith said.

Smith also suggested that if gas prices rose dramatically in the future, it might be in Fayette’s favor to be in a position to take advantage of transit options.

“The impossible thing to predict is what will happen with gas fuel prices and the economy,” Smith said. “There may come a time when people will be demanding mass transit and there may not. But I don’t see it on the horizon at the moment.”

The original version of the Concept 3 plan, Smith said, had a bus line that extended from Hartsfield to rural Woolsey. He questioned the reasoning for bringing the bus service to Woolsey and the transportation planners shortened the route to end in Fayetteville instead.

Smith said he suspected that the Woolsey location was suggested to pick up ridership from people commuting through Fayette from Spalding County, although no one ever admitted it.



DragNet's picture any case, why is ex-mayor Brown lapidating Smith for participating in planning discussions that may affect is beyond my comprehension.... Oh! I see now, it's the ostrich complex.

"Making you think....twice"

He doesn't support mass transit in the county but he votes for it. Duh!

Woolsey has hit the big time with their own MARTA bus stop. Congratulations Woolsey!!! I guess the transit station will be right next to the new section 8 apartment complex in downtown Woolsey.

Yet another politician whom has forgotten why he is in office, TO REPRESENTIVE THE PEOPLE WHO ELECTED YOU. The majority DO NOT want mass transit, it only brings problems; look at Lenox/Buckhead and what happened.

What sort of "problems" did mass transit bring to Lenox/Buckhead?

ginga1414's picture

What happened to independent thinking? It looks like we are being governed by The Atlanta Regional Commission. I remember a time when our officials stood up for what the people of this county wanted, not what the Atlanta Regional Commission wanted.


ilockemup's picture

Real simple, Bacon, so you can understand.

Since the MARTA station was openend at Lenox Mall the Atlanta crime statistics reflect a severe increase in all crime at Lenox: assaults, robberies, purse snatching, shop lifting, loitering, disorderly conduct, etc. The numbers don't lie.

I'll guess what you are thinking----- "That's all of Atlanta". Wrong again, you don't bring home the bacon on that one.

Go one mile north of Lenox. Hello Phipps Plaza--- high end shopping, no MARTA. And--- a mere fraction of the crime at Lenox.

I agree with the other poster--- none of our local politicians can stand up to ARC. They shake in their boots.

NUK_1's picture

It's SOOOOOOOO far to walk from the Lenox train station or take a bus to Phipps that somehow magically all crime is committed next to the train station.

I'm not sold on any of the transportation plans I have seen that include Fayette, but the hysteria over MARTA and "crime" is a total joke that is not backed by facts but by total ignorance and a blind resistance to change.

There is no shortage of idiots that would pay $5 or $6 for a gallon of gas in this county/country that goes directly to others in who fact hate this country, but at some point, maybe it's time to get a broader perspective instead of living in the dark ages. Mass transit actually works well in some places. Amazing, but true.

meanoldconservatives's picture

<strong>"...the hysteria over MARTA and "crime" is a total joke that is not backed by facts but by total ignorance and a blind resistance to change."</strong>

Years ago I lived in some apartments within a mile of Cumberland Mall. Suddenly, the decision was made to create CCT and connect Cobb County with MARTA in Atlanta. I can't remember whether MARTA came to Cumberland or if CCT ran to Atlanta. All I know is suddenly there was a huge bus stop on the fringes of the mall parking lot that had never existed before. Within 3 months there were numerous break-ins in the apartments and parking lot robberies. Within 6 months my car was burglarized. The dash was almost ripped out by some amateur trying to get my stereo and the battery was stolen. Not to mention broken glass everywhere. I had lived in those apartments for 8 years before CCT came in. No burglaries were ever reported during that time. There had been some prior cases of vandalism, but no car break-ins. I immediately left and came back to Fayetteville. Friends who remained there dealt with the aftermath in and around the mall.

Those are "facts". But, I'm sure to an expert like you that was all coincidental and just happened around that same event. What you theorize will never change those "facts".

NUK_1's picture

Taking ONE bus stop example that you personally observed and extrapolating that ONE example nationwide is myopic. I won't even start with the concepts of correlation and causation because that's going to be way above a lot of people's thinking.

Like I said, I haven't seen any proposed transportation plan that I think is "good" for Fayette yet, but the idea that public transportation always = higher crime is not accurate.

With gas prices yet again rising and businesses telling GA leaders that gridlock has even now surpassed GA's terrible education system as the #1 reason not to locate here, I think it's past time to think outside the box on public transportation. Building more roads hasn't come close to keeping up with the world creating more people and they stopped making land a helluva long time ago. Obviously, the way it is now is not anywhere close to being sustainable.

meanoldconservatives's picture

I never extrapolated my observation anywhere. Where did I say my experience indicated proof that it then happens nationwide? Well??? You made the blanket statement that "it is not backed by facts". The point was, it has happened and I provided the facts to prove that it has. Obviously you believe your "way of thinking" is above many of ours. But, you made the blanket statement, not me. Perhaps that is a sign of your own personal "ignorance" and "myopia" about this subject.

I don't have to pay $6 bucks for gas because I have a golf cart. My husband works five minutes from the house, and fills the car once a month. If everyone would move closer to where they worked, it wouldn't be an issue. But, oh, wait. Pilots don't want to live next to the airport. And nobody wants to live in the crime ridden places in which they work.
Union City is trashed, Clayton Co is becoming crime ridden, and now it's happening at the Shopping Center in F'ville. Look at all the cars that were victims of break and take in the parking lot outside of the movie theater a month before Christmas. It was never that bad.

Crimes rates rise when public transit comes in and MOVES through places where the crime is high. If it only stopped in low crime rate communities then the crime rate would remain low. It makes it easier for criminals to travel to places that they normally would not to commit crimes in places where they know that people have more luxury.

Name me one place that mass transit "works." And where there are not slums located adjacent to the bus stops and subway lines.

ginga1414's picture

This is just more political double talk. When the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition asked the county for traffic studies justifying construction of the Bypass, we were told that the Atlanta Regional Commission had done the study, the ARC had the figures, and the figures were not available to anyone. When the WFBC sent an Open Records Request to the Atlanta Regional Commission asking for traffic studies justifying the Bypass, we were told by the ARC that they had not done a study and did not recommend that Fayette County build the WFB. MORE DOUBLE TALK!

Jack Smith says he voted for Concept 3 MARTA "because it “preserved” an option for Fayette to have transit if it is ever needed in the future". Why didn't he explain, or the Citizen ask just how his voting against MARTA would have put the kiss of death on it forevermore? MARTA has never been effectively managed, as evidenced by its always having been run "in the red ink" pool to the extent that it is now drowning. If I were a high public official as Mr. Smith is, I would want the voters to know why I am taking a public stand against them. Is there proof positive that voting against MARTA today would nix rapid transit in the future? I don't think so. If we had the kind of congestion that warranted rapid transit and expanded bus lines 50 years from now, any rules against it now would be changed to allow reconsideration.So don't be fooled, folks...MARTA wants all the participants it can get.

Our commissioners have taken the position that we need the West Bypass to route traffic away from Fayetteville. They have nothing to back that up, either,other than saying we need it. All the Bypass does is end at Coleman's Auto Salvage, Coleman's Lumber, and Coleman's Store. People don't want to hear that we need MARTA when all they have to do is take a look at the existing MARTA routes to find high crime areas.

PTC Observer's picture

November can't come too soon with "logic" like this.

CrimsonTide's picture

You couch potatoes love to criticize people like our dedicated Fayette County Commissioners, but you yourself can't seem to get off your fat butt and run for office. Mr. Smith and the other commissioners devote countless hours to the citizens of Fayette County. So, if you think you can do a better job, give it a whirl. Otherwise , shut the piehole, get off your mom's PC and get back in the basement.

The Process continues!

PTC Observer's picture

You assume a lot

ginga1414's picture

In order to run for any public office one must have plenty of money and connections. It isn't just your everyday Joe who can run for office. It takes money to run a campaign. It takes backing from the right people to run a campaign. However, because of our forefathers all of the "couch potatoes" do have the where with all to voice our opinions and I am extremely grateful for that privilege. That is one of our basic rights here in the USA; freedom of speech. It is a good thing that we have folks our there who aren't afraid to speak their minds. It is a good thing that we have folks our there who question the powers that be. I couldn't possibly serve as a public official and I know that about myself. I don't have that much self-confidence. I feel what it takes to be the most affective public official is heart combined with knowledge and respect for ones fellow citizens. The two most important aspects, in my humble opinion, are heart and respect. One can always obtain the knowledge. I certainly don't have the money, connections or self-confidence. If you don't have a basic respect and love for your fellow citizen, the people will know it and that is the problem here. I have talked to enough folks to know that there are a whole lot of folks out there who feel our commissioners have no respect for their thoughts or feelings.

PTC Observer's picture

Ginga1414 you have the credentials to run for office based on these comments. Let me know where to send the check.

The fact is that people that attempt to “bully” others into silence are the precursor of fascist states.

All those that run for public office offer themselves up to public ridicule and must expect personal attack. I was not attacking Mr. Smith, or his seemingly hard work on behalf of the county. I do however question Mr. Smith’s judgment and insight into what is best for the county.

Mr. Smith’s vote in favor of mass transit into our county is misguided and contrary to the best interests of this county.

Therefore, I can’t wait for November to attempt to vote him out of office.

If you run, let me know.

Ga 74 in PTC is now 3 lanes. On the GDOT web site there is a plan to make GA 54 an overpass at GA 74. Its only going to get worse. How bad does it need to get?

We do not need to think of transit only in relation to Atlanta.

South Side transit could link the town centers of the south side. Newnan, Fayetteville, PTC (PTC does not have a town center - time to get one), Senoia, Sharpsburg and so on. Trunk line to Atlanta. Excursions for fun are just as possible as commuting.

The old model of transit has stations that look industrial and cold. A modern station is integrated into the community, restaurants, offices, retail, housing integrated into the station itself. The station is a nicely styled commerce center. Awesome. It goes to quality of life. We want to avoid the eventual grid lock of the north side while we maintain our quality of life.

For the folks selling fear - Fayette County is not doing so well economically. We need a injection of prosperity. Look at all of the abandoned light industrial all over FC and PTC. We need positive growth, expanded economic base.

Functional transit built with vision and an eye to quality properly integrated into the community can help to rejuvinate the region while retaining the positive characteristics of the south side and avoiding some of the big city problems that no one wants.

Where is the vision?


No thank you. I lived on the other side of Newnan's town center, and it was a PITA to get passed it everyday to and from work. One of the things I love about PTC is that there is no town center and the mess that comes along with it.

Why don't you ask my father, who works for NYC transit authority, what the transit has done to the communities it now passes through? Ask him how many people, and the kind of people, that live close to the transit system. Maybe you should go live next to the subway lines in the slums - you'll think twice about inviting trouble into this community.
Thanks, but no thanks. I left NY to get away from that.

C-Tran will stop operating in Clayton County on March 31.

I guess that means that there will be a big drop in the crime rate in Clayton County.

OK, I am being sarcastic.

But the claim that Fayette County should oppose public transit because buses and trains only bring crime is an old, silly argument. It seems to trump discussion of the benefits public transit can bring to Fayette residents.


PTC Observer's picture

Refresh your memory and read this one again.

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