Happy Monday, Cobbers. Yet another weekend of blue skies, sunshine, and beautiful fall weather. Yet another horrible reference to Star Wars in the title…

In this issue, we are going to focus on my favorite topic: transit! Here’s a quick outline:

  • Current status of transit
  • Opportunities for improving transit
  • Why it’s important to move forward now
  • What you can do to help

As always, I will also be doing a preview of tomorrow’s Work Session and Board of Commissioners Meeting and I’ll have suggested news and links at the end.

Our Current Transit In Cobb Is A Failure

Those are harsh words and it pains me to say it. I truly believe that one of the most important things we can do today to improve transit in the future is to promote more people riding it, but I can’t consciously recommend it as an option to friends, colleagues, or family.

This is based on my experience of trying to use it last week to go from Marietta to downtown Atlanta for the Hawks game.

Ooooh. Look at that Rapid 10 with connections to MARTA and a bike rack in the front?!

Here are some takeaways from that experience:

  • Knowing that I needed to transfer from CobbLinc to MARTA, I showed up at the Marietta Transfer Center with my BreezeCard but no cash as I expected to either be able to reload my BreezeCard or pay with Credit/Debit
  • The customer service window at the station was closed and there were no BreezeCard kiosks to add value to the BreezeCard
  • The bus only accepts fare payment via BreezeCard or cash and if I wanted to add value to my BreezeCard online, it would take 24-48 hours to update?!
  • I repeat, it is the year Two Thousand and Twenty-Two and our transit system does not accept credit or debit cards.
  • Previously, bus drivers have allowed me (and others) to ride without paying, but because I had to transfer (and didn’t want to evade fares), I decided to get cash at the nearest ATM located across the very busy South Marietta Parkway.
  • After that 40-minute walk, I get back to the transfer center with multiple police cars, a firetruck, and an ambulance responding to someone suffering a mental health crisis. One of the police cars was parked in a way that blocked the operation of the buses. Good news is that the individual was transported by ambulance and here’s hoping they get the help they need.
  • Finally, an hour after I arrived at the transfer center, I get on my bus. The actual bus riding experience was great and I arrived at State Farm Arena in under an hour! The only issue is the bus-to-rail transfer didn’t work and I had to pay a second fare to complete my trip…

After this experience, I was left wondering why do we make it so difficult for someone to take transit? Is it because we want it to fail or do we just not provide current and prospective riders with the decency and respect we all deserve?

If you’ve seen me do my public presentation on Transit and Sustainability, then you have seen that I reference Steven Higashide’s Better Buses, Better Cities and his seven factors of attracting more riders: Coverage, Frequency, Fast, Convenient, Reliable, Comfortable, and Affordable.

I highly recommend this book! Let me know if you want to borrow my copy:)

Although coverage, frequency, and speed will require large investments, convenience, comfort, and affordability are factors that we could fix with far smaller investments. This is more about policy and operations than large investments. We don’t need a large referendum to fix these issues…

Opportunities to Improve Transit in Cobb

I won’t really get into all of the details on the options we have before us other than highlighting the questions we have to answer.

Where does it go?

This is the basic question that is solved by the mapped proposals. Where transit is expanded, the frequency and the mode of transit are all very important factors.

Who will be the operator?

As of now, this is a decision between MARTA and CobbLinc. There are pro’s and con’s to either option.

How much will it cost?

If we want it done right, A LOT. The problem is we don’t ever try to do transit RIGHT. We see how much money/resources we have to spend on it and then we allocate those limited resources.

Why should we do it?

You think this would be easy, but the county, its elected officials, staff, and even the public needs to take a step back and answer this question. Do we want our transit to be a check-the-box solution for those who need it or do we want it to be a viable alternative for everyone thus reducing our dependency on the car and its negative impacts?

When will we do it?

This is the question we face today. As you can see above, there are a lot of different ways we can go and tons of possibilities. You’ve probably heard my favorite saying…

The best time to invest in transit was yesterday. The second best time is NOW.

You can quote me on that. The Marietta Daily Journal already has. We failed to put a referendum to expand transit on the ballot this year and the primary reason for that was how rushed everything was as we reached multiple deadlines.

Although 2024 seems like a long time from now, it’s actually critical that we move forward with the process towards a referendum right now. As I mentioned in the last issue, Commissioner Jerica Richardson’s position on the Cobb Board is at risk due to her being drawn out of her own district.

Whether you think it’s right or not, or even your opinion on what you think will happen, the truth is we don’t know. There is a chance that in 2023, the Cobb Board of Commissioners becomes paralyzed with four commissioners, two of which have been outspoken in their opposition to transit.

It’s important that before the end of the year, the Board of Commissioners adopts a resolution giving Cobb Department of Transportation staff direction to start the process towards a 2024 referendum.

Failure to do that means we might find ourselves in the same position we were in earlier this year with looming deadlines and unfinished plans.

What can you do?

So glad you asked! There are two things you can do to help the county move forward:

  1. Attend public meetings and provide public comment
    -Lucky you! Your first opportunity to do this is tomorrow, October 25th, at either the Work Session (1:30PM) or the Board of Commissioners’ meeting (7:00PM)
  2. Contact your Commissioner
    -Lucky you! We are here to help! We will help you figure out your commissioner and give you the talking points/script to help reach out

Interested in doing one of those things to help out? Fill out this form!

Upcoming Commissioners’ Meetings

As I’ve alluded to, the next few Commissioners’ meetings will be a critical opportunity to move transit forward.

Work Session on Tuesday, October 25th at 1:30 PM

Although public comment is not allowed at work sessions, the only agenda item is “to present information necessary to prepare for a 2024 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax ballot referendum in November 2024.”

I’ll be attending to see the presentation and discussion and I’d love to be joined by other advocates. I know the timing is difficult, but it’s important we attend to witness and show our support.

Board of Commissioners’ Meeting on Tuesday, October 25th at 7:00PM

Although there is no item directly focusing on transit, it’s important that we attend and show our support in public comment. Don’t know what to say? Don’t worry! We can help! Just fill out the Volunteer Interest Form!

One of the primary items on the agenda is the Home Rule issue regarding Jerica Richardson’s district.

Here’s the agenda for the meeting (there are no additional public hearings)

Future Board of Commissioners’ Meetings

At some point in future Board meeting, the issue will likely come to vote as a resolution. It is important that for that meeting, we show up and support the passage of the resolution. Future Board of Commissioners’ Meetings are scheduled:

  • Tuesday, November 8th at 9:00AM
  • Thursday, November 17th at 7:00PM
  • Tuesday, November 22nd at 7:00PM

(Note: I don’t know if the meeting on November 17th is a replacement meeting for the 22nd or an additional meeting. I will find out ASAP)

If you’re interested in joining us at a future meeting, please fill out the Volunteer Interest Form and we will keep you updated!

News & Updates

The former Marietta Mayor William Dunaway doesn’t want to close city streets to dumpsters, but his reasoning is car-centric/congestion focused.

The Highway Boondoggle Report includes 3 projects in Georgia, yet is missing the top-end 285 project…

Smyrna Approves Concept for Parking Deck includes this quote from mayor Derek Norton:

“The other thing we’re going to try to do is work with the Smyrna Arts Council to see if there’s any way we can kind of put the city’s stamp on that deck and make it not look like just any other deck, actually look like it’s part of the city”

Can I suggest adding retail to the outside of the deck? Like this Strong Towns article suggests?

Example of street level retail surrounding a parking structure…

1.2 Mile Segment of Beltline Westside Trail is Officially Open!

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid visited the White House to talk about infrastructure investments

Although voters are voting early in record amounts, there are some worrying trends about turnout from younger voters…

Thank you again for reading! I know this issue focused a lot on transit, but time is critical for us to be involved and make a difference! Future issues will be focused on biking, land use, sustainability and other topics as well.

If you have anything you want to write about, please email abettercobb@gmail.com with your ideas, suggestions, or content.