Cobb County looks to expand transit options, possibly join MARTA

A one-cent tax in Cobb County could on the ballot in 2024.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 7:46 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Cobb County, one of the fastest growing in the metro area, is considering improvements to its own transit system and it could include a long-sought connection to Atlanta.

80% of county residents who use public transit use it to get to work and school, according to commission chairwoman Lisa Cupid.

“It’s important to us, not just talking about mobility as a sexy thing; as a new thing, this is an essential thing,” said Cupid. “This is an essential component to get people to work and to get people active and moving and contributing to our county.”

Census data shows Cobb County currently has more than 771,000 people – roughly 5,800 more than 2020 numbers. But some bus stops lack benches, shelter, proper lighting, sidewalks, or safe intersections nearby. Often, the wait time for a county bus is an hour or longer.

The most likely method of gaining funding, Cupid says, would be a one-cent sales tax that would be posed to voters in 2024 and would cover transit improvements over 30 years.

While any plans are still in the very early stages, Cupid says they’ll take the rest of this year to garner input from residents before making any concrete decisions. She said it’s about giving people more options to get where they need and want to go.

“There’s energy where there is movement and so I think the more options we provide, the more vibrancy that we have to our county,” Cupid said. “And that can be recreational, but it also is to basic amenities, people getting to supermarkets, getting to jobs, getting to work.”

“We wonder why people don’t take transit sometimes and why ridership is down: because we don’t really push it or fund it or support it in ways that we should,” said Matt Stigall, who serves on the county’s transportation advisory board.

“After housing, transportation is one of the highest costs for families and people,” he continued. “I want to be able to have transit as an option anywhere I go in the county for whatever reason I have.”

There have been no solid plans to add MARTA stops in Cobb County, although it’s something Cupid said residents have expressed an interest in.

Opponents of the changes fear a changing dynamic in the county could ride in with new transit changes.

“The need for mass transit simply does not make sense in a suburban environment, and my fear is that the real driver for it is to advance an urbanization agenda for County, and in so doing, diminish the quality of life we have come to expect here in Cobb,” Lance Lamberton, president of the Cobb County Taxpayers Association wrote in a post to the group’s website on March 16.

“Our entire area will always be changing,” said Stigall in response. “That growth and that change is a good thing… and I believe we should welcome it and figure out how to grow sustainably and equitably.”

Public transit can be a reliable form of getting people to and from job interviews, work, and medical appointments, Cupid points out.

“This lady came by my office crying, because she was in need of medical services, and she had to walk over a mile to get to the hospital,” said Cupid. “That’s one example of many that I’ve heard. People having to walk one and two miles to be able to get to a bus stop that will take about an hour to get them to their job.”