House Bill 930, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday, allows 13 metro Atlanta counties to raise sales taxes for mass transit, if their voters approve. But some counties are more open to the idea than others. Here’s a look at the status of transit in each county.
Cherokee has two local bus routes, a van-pool service for commuters and an on-demand local bus service, which operates by appointment instead of on a fixed route with bus stops. It’s also serves by the state’s commuter bus system. Chairman L.B. “Buzz” Ahrens said the county might consider expanding its transit service in the future. But he said Cherokee would be more likely to see seek a referendum for road improvements than for transit.
Clayton voters agreed to join MARTA in 2014 and recently celebrated three years of local bus service. The county also is setting aside money for a MARTA rail extension out of the 1 cent sales tax voters have already approved. Chairman Jeffrey Turner doesn’t see Clayton adopting an additional sales tax to expand transit anytime soon.
Cobb offers local and commuter bus routes and recently began a study that could lead to an expansion of its transit system. Chairman Mike Boyce said the study should be done by year’s end. Many believe a countywide transit vote would fail. But HB 930 gives Cobb the option of creating a special district that could (with voter permission) impose a tax only on parts of the county that want more transit. Boyce said a decision on how to proceed won’t come until next year.
Coweta offers an on-demand bus service anywhere in the county and connects to a MARTA bus top in Palmetto. Eventually, the county plans to expand that “Dial-a-Ride” service and to launch fixed-route bus service around Newnan. There’s no timetable for the fixed-route service.
DeKalb County has MARTA rail and bus service and recently began a transit study that could lead to expanded service. CEO Michael Thurmond said early public feedback suggests DeKalb should focus extending rail service to Stonecrest and the Clifton Corridor and on improving existing service. The plan should be completed this fall. Though DeKalb is focused on implementing a sales tax for road and bridge improvements, Thurmond didn’t rule out a future transit vote.
Douglas offers a van-pool service for commuters and transportation vouchers for seniors and the disabled. It’s also served by the state’s commuter bus system. The county plans to launch four fixed bus routes next year, but there’s opposition to the proposal. County commissioners must decide whether to accept a regional grant for the service later this year. County Commissioner Kelly Robinson said there are no plans for a transit referendum, but that could change if the new bus routes are a success.
Fayette has an on-demand bus service for seniors and the disabled. Chairman Eric Maxwell said county commissioners have not discussed HB 930, but he doesn’t believe Fayette is interested in expanding transit service.
Forsyth has an on-demand van service. It does not have plans to expand transit service, and Chairman Todd Levent said he does not believe residents would support a transit sales tax.
Fulton has MARTA rail and bus service and is looking to expand transit service. County and city officials recently agreed on a transit plan that, among other things, calls for new bus rapid transit service on Ga. 400 and on South Fulton Parkway. They must soon decide whether they want to hold a referendum on a .2-percent sales tax this fall or wait until at least next year.
Gwinnett offers local and commuter bus service and is looking to expand transit service. It’s finalizing a transit study that calls for extending MARTA rail to Jimmy Carter Boulevard, new bus rapid transit service and expanded local bus service. HB 930 gives Gwinnett the ability to hold a referendum to join MARTA this year. The county also could opt to wait and hold a transit referendum that does not involve joining MARTA. Commissioners must decide soon how to proceed.
The county provides on-demand bus service and recently launched its first fixed bus route in north Henry. As demand grows, the county may consider expanding its fixed-route service, according to Communications Director Melissa Robinson. But she would not speculate on whether voters would embrace a transit sales tax.
Paulding operates an on-demand bus service and is served by the state’s commuter bus system. It may expand its bus service as its population grows, according to Scott Green, director of operations for the Board of Commissioners. Green does not believe voters would support a transit tax.
Rockdale is served by the state’s commuter bus service, but offers no local transit service. Transportation Director Brian Allen said the county has no plans to call for a transit referendum.