Gwinnett to vote on joining MARTA, but not in November
ATLANTA (AP) — Gwinnett County’s board of commissioners has agreed to give residents a new chance to join MARTA, Atlanta’s public transit system. But the vote will not occur during November’s midterm elections as some transit advocates had hoped and was instead delayed until March.
WABE Radio reports the five-person board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow the referendum.
Gwinnett residents have twice voted down joining MARTA, but a growing population and changing demographics have led advocates to believe that attitudes toward public transit may have changed.
Expanding and connecting the region’s patchwork of public transportation services is seen as a way to combat growing traffic problems that plague the metro Atlanta area.
Board Chair Charlotte Nash called the vote historic.
The board’s decision comes on the heels of a new transit law passed by the state legislature in March and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal that creates a regional transit authority called the ATL to oversee planning and coordination across a 13-county metro Atlanta region. The legislation also allowed the counties to levy a one percent sales tax to be used for transit projects, but it must first be approved by voters.
Gwinnett is set to be one of the first counties in the region to act on this provision with the referendum.
The board was widely expected to set the vote during the midterm elections in November, which includes a highly-watched race for governor. But it instead set the date for March 2019, drawing the ire of transit advocates who say the special election slot will draw fewer voters and may hurt the referendum’s chances of passing.
Resident Pam Cox said she was fed up with traffic and wants solutions sooner, according to WABE. “We need to move this forward in November, not March. I’ve waited long enough,” Cox said.
But Nash said that delaying the vote was needed to secure the support of some commissioners and dismissed fears that timing would affect the outcome.
“I think the same opportunity exists for every single voter in the county to register their opinion no matter what the date of the referendum is,” Nash said, according to the station.
Information from: WABE-FM, http://www.wabe.org/