It’s been a minute few months. Life happens. Rest assured, I, and many others, have continued the advocacy work behind the scenes to move forward our initiatives regarding transit, safe streets, and land use and housing.

This week could be considered one of the most important weeks in the history of Cobb County for two reasons:

  1. On Tuesday, December 12th at the 9AM Commissioners meeting, County Commissioners will vote on moving forward with the project list for the Mobility SPLOST referendum
  2. The County’s Unified Development Code public meetings will wrap up with public input on the current draft of the code assessment.

Your input and attendance is critically important at these meetings as it is a unique opportunity to witness history and have our voice heard.

Commissioners to Vote to Approve Project List, Move M-SPLOST forward for 2024 vote

Here are the agenda items related to the M-SPLOST on the agenda for the Dec 12th 9AM Board of Commissioners meeting:

To recap, there are two things of significance:

  1. Hear and adopt a resolution accepting the Proposed Program of Projects for the MSPLOST and authorize staff for the development of a MSPLOST ballot referendum for November 2024.
  2. Approve a MoA with Cumberland and Town Center CIDs for educational and public outreach for the November 2024 MSPLOST

So it’s official: with this vote, Cobb County will take the next official steps towards a 1%, 30-year 2024 MSPLOST referendum which will transform our mobility in the county.

So what’s in the project list? This image provides the best breakdown of how revenue will be spent.

What’s on this list?

  • 7 Bus Rapid Transit routes
    • Marietta to Cumberland
    • KSU/Town Center to Marietta
    • Cumberland to MARTA Arts Center (Along I-75)
    • South Cobb to Marietta
    • Cumberland to MARTA Dunwoody (Along I-285)
    • Cumberland to MARTA H.E. Holmes
    • South Cobb to MARTA H.E. Holmes
  • 3 Arterial Rapid Transit Routes
    • Marietta to East Cobb (Johnson Ferry/Roswell Rd)
    • Marietta to Moores Mill Road (Along either Atlanta Rd or South Cobb Drive)
    • South Cobb to Cumberland
  • 12 Local Bus Routes
  • 3 Rapid Bus Routes (Note: I don’t like this definition of routes as it’s confusing with BRT/ART above)
    • Kennesaw to MARTA Arts Center
    • South Cobb to Cumberland
    • Johnson Ferry Road to MARTA Dunwoody
  • 3 Commuter Routes (I like the lack of additional commuter routes)
    • Busbee Park & Ride to MARTA Five Points
    • Marietta to MARTA Five Points
    • Acworth Park & Ride to MARTA Arts Center
  • Paratransit for qualified individuals within 3/4ths of a mile from fixed route service
  • Circulator Shuttle (no areas specified)
  • Microtransit zones throughout the entire county
  • 6 new Transfer Centers (Marietta, Cumberland, South Cobb, North Cobb, East Cobb, and Riverside/South Cobb
  • $300 million for bus stop upgrades (this is great!)
  • $500 million for bike/ped near fixed route bus network (this is also great!)
  • $500 million for Transit Supportive Operational Improvements (this could be code for “road improvements” but is necessary with where the county is today)
  • Nearly $500 million for System of Good Repair and Operating Reserves

A lot of this referendum is set up to make the county competitive for Federal grants and support, specifically the timeframe (30 years) and the holdover of some revenues for reserves and good repair.

To review the entire document, go here:

What’s not on the project list? The “Aspirational Transit Projects” including heavy rail, commuter rail, and other service upgrades.

County-wide poll shows general support for “transit tax”

Last week, a poll was released that was sponsored by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce to let them know how they should support an upcoming referendum. The top line received all of the headlines with 63% of respondents supporting a transit tax, but the devil, as always, is in the details.

Here are the results and these are my takeaways:

  • The headlines that read “63% support transit tax” comes from this question:

That is a different result than 47% of people supporting the M-SPLOST:

  • What could drive such a difference between 63% and 47% support? Well it’s simple really. These poll results continue a pattern since 2018 of multiple polls and surveys showing vast majority support more transit, but the actual support for a referendum is closer to 50-50.
  • Multiple results showed that the upcoming M-SPLOST will need to be car-focused, at least in its messaging.
    • A plurality (43%) of respondents define transit as “Cars” (WTF?)
    • A plurality (41%) of respondents said traffic was the #1 reason to invest in mobility
    • A plurality (38%) said that more roads should be the solution to fix congestion

Unified Development Code provides opportunity to address housing shortage with missing middle housing, but limits impact due to prioritizing the protection of “Single Family Homes”

The county is currently undergoing a multi-year process to complete the Unified Development Code. Currently in the 2nd of 5 stages, the Code Assessment was just released. At 149 pages, it’s some dense reading, but understanding this process and document is important because the completed UDC will be one of the most important documents for the county.

You can read our annotated code assessment here (feel free to leave your comments and questions as well): Annotated UDC Assessment

Also, read our guide with suggested recommendations here: A Better Cobb’s UDC Guide and Recommendations

Our key takeaway from the current assessment is that in Theme 3.1-3.3, the document goes into detail about the housing shortage, how exclusionary zoning has caused the housing shortage, and then how allowing missing middle can help to address the housing shortage. Unfortunately in 4.1, the document then prioritizes the “neighborhood character” of low-density single family housing districts.

So we say the problem, why the problem exists, how to fix the problem, but then limit the effectiveness of the solution.

If missing middle is not allowed in low-density districts, then we are effectively blocking the solution in about 85% of the land in the county. That’s not going to be an effective solution to address the housing shortage crisis.

In a county that is expected to continue to grow, is running out of available undeveloped land, and already is experiencing a housing shortage, we need to be more aggressive in finding solutions to address the need for more housing.

The UDC Public Meetings wrap up this week with the following schedule:

So that covers this latest issue of A Better Cobb. We hope to see you at the Board of Commissioners meeting or at an upcoming UDC meeting!