As we approach the new year, I truly hope everyone is having an enjoyable holiday season. Now is the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on the past, present, and future of our county and our role in shaping it for generations to come.

There are a million ways to do this but I’m going to channel Sportscenter and do a Top 10 List of the top news stories and opportunities coming up in 2023.

Here is my top 10:

  1. Progress towards a comprehensive transit referendum in 2024
  2. More smart, “missing middle” housing throughout the county
  3. Developing a sustainability or resilience plan for the future
  4. Chattahoochee Riverlands Construction Starts
  5. More multi-use trails and bike lanes throughout the county
  6. Improve transit experience NOW
  7. Smyrna launches local circulator service, more Braves transit to follow?
  8. Parking minimums are relaxed or abolished
  9. Higher engagement from younger, more diverse voices at county meetings
  10. Cobb becomes more competitive and aggressive with federal grants programs

What do you think about that list? Something on there that you don’t agree with? Something missing? Let me know in the comments!

Now, I’ll go into a bit more detail about each item, why it’s important, and the current status and opportunity for our impact.

Progress towards comprehensive transit referendum in 2024

This is at the top of the list because it is a generational opportunity to change how our county moves around. After decades of car dependent suburban sprawl development, will we finally develop, approve, and fund mobility options that are sustainable, safe, accessible, and equitable?

This process officially started in November and was funded at the last Commissioners’ meeting in December, but we still have a long way to go.

Here are some resources to recap where we today:

The good: We have officially started the preparation process! Promising start from the county to focus on three goals: 1. mobility within activity centers, 2. mobility between activity centers, 3. Serve the community
The bad: Still lack of regional connections. Bus-heavy proposal will be difficult to get electoral support. Cities will want their “slice of the pie” possibly reducing the potential for regional connectivity
Opportunity for impact: Cobb 4 Transit is positioned well to develop a grassroots coalition of support. Upcoming public meetings and feedback opportunities. Spreading the word!

More Smart “Missing Middle” housing throughout the county

This is one of the most important things we can do to change our county to grow in a sustainable way. If your most important issue is better transit or more bike lanes- or even affordable housing– then land use is equally as important because transportation and land use are codependent partners (and the current relationship between car dependent infrastructure and sprawling land use is very toxic).

It’s also the number one way we can reduce GHG emissions…

In the initial meetings of the Unified Development Code, having a diversity of zoning types was mentioned and this is a great opportunity to start focusing on making our zoning INCLUSIVE of the missing middle types of housing and not EXCLUSIVE like it currently is.

The good: Unified Development Code process could be the vehicle to start including missing middle housing. Was mentioned by the planning team in the initial presentation. Smyrna just approved a 3-over-1 mixed-use development. Running out of land for more SFH development (maybe that’s good?)
The bad: People still freak out about ANY densification. Current attendance at UDC meetings has been overwhelmingly NIMBY. Lack of public messaging supporting new housing types.
Opportunity for impact: Showing up to future UDC meetings. Connecting with existing HOAs and Neighborhood Associations. Focusing on short-term wins (ADUs, duplexes, etc.). Spreading the word!

Developing a Sustainability or Resilience Plan

Confession: I am sick and tired of plans and studies.

As true as that is, I see no other way to move this county forward than for the county to move forward with a comprehensive, executive-level strategic plan.

This is the perfect time to highlight a group of amazing GT students in Dr. Garcia’s Sustainable Cities class who spent the previous semester producing a Climate Vulnerability Assessment. You can review their findings and recommendations on their website, and their extensive recommendations can be grouped into 3 categories:

  1. Plans, Plans, Plans
  2. Transportation impacts everything
  3. Mitigating impacts on most vulnerable (low income, children, aging)

Cobb is already Platinum certified by the ARC Green Communities Program, but there’s so much more we can do when it comes to policy, infrastructure, and community support programs.

The good: Keep Cobb Beautiful programs already shows there is a strong community supporting these sustainability initiatives. Other cities have already shown how to do it. Current county staff is knowledgeable and passionate, just underfunded and lumped into “beautification and trash”.
The bad: Doesn’t seem to be a priority for current politics. Current county plans and documents NEVER mention sustainability. A class of GT students have done more than what I’ve seen from the county.
Opportunity for impact: Get the county to commit to what the GT students suggested. Focus on quick wins. Push for a plan.

Chattahoochee Riverlands Begins Construction

The Chattahoochee River is such a unique and beautiful resource that separates the City of Atlanta and Cobb County. Unfortunately, for decades, it has been used as a barrier between people and as a dumping ground for waste and industry.

I lived a stone’s throw from the river for years and it’s beautiful to see the changes that have already been made and the comprehensive Chattahoochee Riverlands project would be a world-class jewel for the region that I believe is as impactful as the Beltline.

Vision for how the Riverlands Trail might look.

It’s amazing that Cobb is leading the way in funding and constructing the first phase of the project and Phase 1 construction is expected to begin in 2023 for the portion between Nickajack Creek and Veterans Memorial Highway. Seeing the initial pilot be successful will lead to greater expansion of the entire corridor.

The good: Construction will start in 2023!
The bad: Still limited in the number of crossings over the river. Vinings will be a known hurdle for connectivity. Funding, funding, funding.
Opportunity for impact: Use the trails when they are open!

More Multi-use Trails and Bike Lanes Throughout the County

Multiple trails will complete construction in 2023 and some other projects will continue progressing through the design and engineering phase.

I did a comprehensive overview of the bike lanes in Cobb County in an earlier issue and not much has changed since then.

Biking map for Cobb. Blue=Existing, Purple=Planned, Grey=Under Construction Source: Bicycle Routes of Metro Atlanta

I do expect the final portion of the Mountain to River trail should be completed in early 2023 and the new trails near Kennesaw Mountain Park on Burnt Hickory Rd, Whitlock Ave, and Cheatham Hill Road should all be completed. I already see people using these trails every day when I drive past.

Unfortunately, bike lanes have been removed from the Lower Roswell Road project.

The good: Mountain to River trail should be completed. Miles of trails near the Kennesaw Mountain Park along Burnt Hickory Rd and Cheatham Hill Road will be completed. Noonday Creek Trail extension and the Austell-Powder Springs Trail should continue to progress.
The bad: Still lack of protected bike lanes along streets. Silver Comet Connector still on hold. Bike lanes along Lower Roswell Road have been removed. Constant NIMBYism with every bike lane or trail project.
Opportunity for impact: Join public meetings and provide feedback. Launch Cobb Streets for All. Connect bike shops and other stakeholders.

Improve Transit Experience NOW

Before we even start talking about transit expansion or referendums, there are opportunities to improve the transit experience today. Anyone who joined us in taking transit to the Braves game or has ridden transit for other reasons have seen that there are some simple things that can be improved immediately.

I wrote about how transit today is a failure and my public comment was that I can’t even suggest friends or colleagues to ride it today.

It’s insane that we are in 2022 and the only options to pay for fares is to either pay in cash (exact change) or using an already existing Breeze Card that you paid for at least 24 hours in advance. No options for credit cards or digital payments.

So yeah, making it easier for people to actually take transit would be a great start in 2023. Beyond that, we should see the county start making progress in replacing the bus stops throughout the county.

The good: Bus Stop replacement program is launching in 2023. MARTA/ATL/CobbLinc are working on a regional fare payment program. Cobb hired a new staff person in charge of experience and communications.
The bad: These seem like simple, low hanging improvements that should have been done years ago. Regional fare payment app seems to be taking way longer than necessary.
Opportunity for impact: Ride transit. Provide feedback when you do. Demand better.

Smyrna Launches Circulator Service, more Braves transit to follow?

Smyrna is launching a microtransit service in early 2023 which will be one of the first city-run transit projects Cobb has seen. This is a direct result from the Battery and Smyrna wants to connect their developing downtown area with Cumberland and the Battery.

Projects like this, although not perfect and with too much of a focus on economic development benefits, are still important for three reasons: 1. It’s a city stepping up and filling a gap of transit service 2. Localized, microtransit circulators and shuttles will be important in any future transit strategy 3. It helps to normalize transit for and eventually leads to more usage and support.

The questions are will other cities offer increased transit service and will the Braves be an even greater catalyst for more transit service?

It would be great to see expanded transit service for every Braves game so that routes don’t end before the game is over and strand those who took transit.

The good: A city pitching in for a transit project is nothing but a good thing. It will hopefully be marketed well and attract new riders.
The bad: Very limited times (Thu-Sun evenings was the last I saw).
Opportunity for impact: Ride the new service once it launches. Stay engaged.

Parking Minimums are relaxed or abolished

This is a new concept for the area, but not a new concept across the country. It’s simple: we are utilizing far too much of our land for cars and empty parking lots are THE WORST.

This is actually one of the suggestions that the GT Class suggested for the county and with the Unified Development Code and cities looking at how to grow, there is a new opportunity to start chipping away at this now.

This won’t be something that can be changed overnight, but changing zoning and land use codes for future development and repurposing existing, empty, blighted parking lots into community gathering spaces can be achieved in the short term that serves as a catalyst for long-term change.

Not Just Bikes did a great video about removing parking spots in Amsterdam. Vox did a video about the high cost of free parking. City Beautiful published a video about parking on Black Friday, when demand should be highest.

Even Midtown Atlanta is starting to be looked at for having too much parking.

Here’s a great article about the financial impact of parking on Strong Towns.

The good: UDC meetings mentioned looking at reducing parking minimums for mixed use developments. Some cities are starting to look at these codes.
The bad: Nothing has been achieved yet. The car is still dominant factor and businesses shy away from any removal of free parking.
Opportunity for impact: Just simply continue looking around as you drive at all of the empty parking lots. Point it out to your friends. Push for less parking on new developments.

Higher engagement from younger, more diverse voices at county meetings

I attended most of the County Commissioner meetings and as many town halls and public meetings as I could in 2022 and there was one common theme: the same people kept showing up to every meeting. There is no question these attendees are older, whiter, and more conservative than the electorate. You know, the “bike lanes are communism” crowd…

My hope in 2023 is that we start seeing a younger, more diverse demographic of our neighbors attend and participate in public meetings. Their voices are just as important but yet are missing in the public engagement process.

This is honestly one of the biggest areas I’ll be focusing on this year and I encourage everyone to show up to meetings when you can AND invite a friend or neighbor.

The good: Lots of opportunities to be involved.
The bad: Starting from 0. Very hard to get people engaged.
Opportunity for impact: Create an engagement calendar. Show up. Invite others. Partnerships with KSU student groups and other potential groups.

Cobb becomes more competitive and aggressive with federal grants programs

Over the past couple of years, the county has received millions of dollars in Covid-related ARPA and CARES funding and is eligible to compete for billions in new competitive grants in the IIJA and IRA legislative acts.

I have grave concerns that Cobb County, along with the rest of the Atlanta region, is woefully unprepared to compete for these grants and the lack of state leadership and coordination only holds us back more. Earlier this year, Cobb applied for federal grants for 3 projects, all of which failed to be approved.

The good thing is that we have two Senators and U.S. House members who are now empowered to make specific requests with Earmarks and Competitive referrals.

As an example, US House Rep David Scott just earmarked federal money for the South Cobb Transfer Center, a pedestrian bridge over 41, and Chattahoochee Riverlands.

The good: There is lots of money and expanded programs available for Cobb to compete for.
The bad: Are we serious about competing? Lots of money so far has gone to planning and engineering, not actually building. Truly worried about how much of these funds will just go to consultants and engineering firms and not moving dirt.
Opportunity for impact: Keep up with projects. Stay involved in public meetings. A Better Cobb will start a project tracker.


This will be a fun exercise in the future to see how far we progressed on these 10 items. It might seem like a lot but a lot of these are things currently happening or being proposed. Things that we can have an impact on if we get involved.

To simplify things, we can categorize the above ten items into four categories: Mobility, Land Use, Sustainability, and Engagement. Pretty much fits the core reasons for A Better Cobb!

You’ll also probably see a pattern for each item on how we can have an impact: Get Involved and Spread The Word. If we do those two things, I think we can accomplish some great things together this year.

Other Burning Questions in 2023

  • What happens to Jerica Richardson and her elected position representing District 2?
  • How will Mableton launch as a city and who will be elected on its first council?
  • Will the failed cities try for another cityhood movement?
  • What will the results of the Strategic Plan be?

January Meetups

We’ve got two important meetings planned for the start of the year and you are encouraged to join us at both!

On Saturday, January 14th at 4PM, Create Austell is hosting their launch party at Cowork Austell. Create Austell is a social group that wants to make Austell great by focusing on Housing/Land Use, Mobility, Sustainability, and Culture. Register and RSVP on the Facebook page or the Eventbrite page.

On Sunday, January 22nd at 2PM, A Better Cobb will be hosting a 2023 Kickoff and Strategy meeting at Schoolhouse Brewing. This is where we will meet other advocates, talk about our priorities, and then break off into groups to discuss how we achieve our priorities. If you’re interested in biking, transit, land use, or sustainability advocacy, I highly encourage you come out and join us!

LAST CHANCE ALERT! Don’t forget to do the surveys for the strategic plan, transfer facilities, and Unified Development Code. Deadline is RIGHT NOW.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Commissioners meetings are on the 2nd Tuesday and 4th Tuesday of each month.

  • Tuesday, January 10th @ 9AM
  • Tuesday, January 24th @ 7PM

So as we close out this year, what are you looking forward to happening in Cobb County in the next year?

Are there any of these items on the list that you are most passionate about?