Archive for the ‘MARTA gwinnett county atlanta’ Category

This week I’m taking the train a bit more due to much higher gas prices. Getting to work in the morning is usually hassle-free. If the train isn’t at the Doraville platform, I’m greeted by a cool breeze in the early a.m. hours. MARTA whisks me downtown within 30 minutes — even with the change at Five Points which at that time, doesn’t smell like the basement of a KFC.

Going home in the early afternoon is another story. Yesterday, the trains were packed with conference attendees and students. Still, the ride wasn’t too bad except for a strange thing that happened at Peachtree Center. I think a fellow passenger was trying to grab the bar behind me, but ended up almost hugging me instead. Another passenger noticed and said, “I think he tried to hug you.” I replied, “I could always use a little love.”

When the train approached the Brookhaven area in the ATL, I noticed (as I wrote in my recent Tweet) that some gas stations were completely out. Hurricane Ike has definitely left his mark here in the Peach State. The good news is that our temps. are finally going down — hopefully for a very long time.

At a recent party, I asked two educated adults who represents them in Congress. “I don’t know,” the young couple responded in unison.

I felt like a guest who was on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” several years ago. The guest asked the audience to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.” They struggled with it. Then the guest asked the audience to sing “The Brady Bunch” theme song. They knew every word. Carson was shocked. That episode of “The Tonight Show” proved how apathetic the country had become in the early 1980s.

Fast forward to today’s election season. Now I know that most people are aware of the two main contenders running for the White House. But many folks are like the young couple I met at the party when it comes to local officials. What we all need to realize is that it’s important to know the politicians who could affect us most. That would include our Congressmen, state and local representatives. This Tuesday, we have a runoff for the chairperson position on the County Commission.

The job of county chairperson is more important than ever. That person has a lot to do with our social, economic and environmental well-being. There is no doubt that the contenders —- incumbent Chairman Charles Bannister and District 1 Commissioner Lorraine Green —- are qualified, experienced members of the commission. But if you’re voting in this runoff, ask yourself, “Will either of these candidates serve in the interest of the people?” Will either Bannister or Green find ways to expand public transportation, relieve traffic, reduce crime, curb immigration problems and beautify the county while keeping taxes low and attracting business and tourists? I wish both candidates and their Democratic challenger —- Vincent Passariello —- good luck when either of them assumes the new position. It not only sounds like a tough job, but a serious balancing act.

On Tuesday, look beyond the plethora of yard signs and digital billboards and elect someone who cares about your needs.

I’m interested in a couple of issues.

> Cycling. With gas prices up, more cyclists are hitting the roads. I’m convinced that this county needs to accommodate cyclists like myself by building more connecting paths and sidewalks. I hope that the next County Commission chairperson will look into expanding cycling and pedestrian opportunities throughout the county.

> Rail in Gwinnett. Much has been said about a proposal to expand rail service into our county. Many AJC readers have written in opposition to expanding rail. A lot of people have said they are against it because they wouldn’t use it.

What they don’t realize is that an expanded rail system would be a win-win for them. With rail in Gwinnett, more commuters would ride trains rather than drive on the roads. A consumption-based tax system where funds could be earmarked for a Gwinnett rail system would create jobs and a cleaner environment and attract tourists.

Whether it’s MARTA or a separate Gwinnett system, this county needs to build a massive rail network.

There is much at stake in this runoff and general election. If you want a better quality of life, get to know your local candidates and get to the polls.

A recent survey indicated that most residents in Gwinnett County, (a large suburban county north of Atlanta)view MARTA (Atlanta’s transit system) favorably. The majority of my fellow county residents say that we have had it with traffic.

Who can blame us? Roads called Ronald Reagan Parkway are choked with SUVs, Hummers and minivan. With few alternative routes, bike paths and sidewalks, we are stuck in a maze of traffic headaches that have become a major migraine with no end in sight.

While the positive results of the survey are good, I’m convinced that if a vote were held today, the measure to bring good public transportation to the county would be defeated for the third time. Yes, my fellow county residents have defeated this measure in the past because they felt that a transit system would bring crime to the county. Even with gridlock and rising gas prices, many hardworking taxpayers are willing to put up with these problems instead of paying for a MARTA-like system.

Aside from the funding dilemma, recent setbacks have tarnished MARTA’s image with news of trains that break down, buses that are late and escalators that malfunction. It is no surprise that bringing MARTA to Gwinnett is a tough sell to residents.

Whether it’s MARTA or not, the county needs an improved public transportation system created through some type of middle-of-the-road approach. Perhaps a MARTA-like expansion/improvement plan funded through a combination of private and public initiatives is needed. OK, more taxes are an unpopular idea in Gwinnett where low taxes have attracted business and housing for well over three decades. Since it is obvious that the FAIRTax is popular in the county, how about trying something similar to it to make alternative transportation a reality?

Fuel prices are expected to go even higher soon due to an $18 billion repeal of tax breaks for petroleum companies. While those extra funds will be earmarked for future alternative-transportation research, it is most likely the oil companies will pass the costs on to the consumer. We might see gas hit $4 a gallon soon.

Higher fuel costs might slow the local economy, but their impact will not be felt equally across Gwinnett’s general population. The effects will be felt most strongly by those who live paycheck to paycheck. They are the folks who rely more on public transportation to get them to their jobs and to buy necessities. They are the folks who run the check-out line at Wal-Mart or serve you at Denny’s. It’s a tough choice for them. Will they deal with the costs of operating a vehicle or accept public transportation fare increases and continue using these existing systems?

The county can alleviate our traffic woes with more roads, but it is a Band-Aid approach. The county couldn’t add roads fast enough to accommodate the number of cars coming to the area. More roads also lead to more gridlock, stress and poor air quality.

The county has added more roads and buildings, which are expected with a growing economy and tax base, but county legislators should have been thinking about public transportation funding all of these years. The results of not doing anything can be found on roads like Buford Highway, which features gridlocked intersections, too few sidewalks and plenty of congested strip malls. There is hope with live-work-play communities around the county, but one has to deal with the traffic to get to them.

Imagine a county with trains, streetcars, continuous sidewalks and bike paths. With bold leadership and creative thinking, it can be possible.

Just think if the county made this happen, we could not only attract more quality residents, but perhaps tourists as well.

A tax plan to fund an expanded transportation system might be unrealistic to our legislators and skeptical citizens, but doing nothing is the worst option. Gwinnett must find a balance. Something must be done.