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Suburban Atlanta Pol: Why Fund Transit When We Can Wait for Robo-Cars?

11:19 AM EDT on September 9, 2015

Gwinnett County chair Charlotte Nash and her preferred mode of transport.
Gwinnett County chair Charlotte Nash and her preferred mode of transport.
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Gwinnett County is outpacing the Atlanta region in population growth. People who live there need transit to get to work, so much so that a recent poll found that 63 percent of likely voters were in favor of expanding MARTA service into the county.

Gwinnett’s transportation director has asked for funds to restore bus service after cuts enacted some eight years ago. Fortunately, notes Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist, this year Georgia voters gave counties the okay to hold referenda on a local sales tax to be used for transportation projects, transit included.

Sounds like a no-brainer for Gwinnett. But Givens, citing a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, writes that a key political figure has something else in mind.

Despite percolating interest, though, Gwinnett County chairman Charlotte Nash said it is still too soon for the county to take a large step forward when it comes to public transportation.

“Quite honestly, I’d just as soon not be the first,” Nash said of the referendum.

And who knows -- with the advent of self-driving vehicles and services like Uber, she said, the transportation needs of Gwinnett County and the region could quickly change. People may be less interested in rail, she said, if they can relax in a private pod.

So, yeah. The leader of the Gwinnett County government and one of the “100 most influential Atlantans” would rather wait for the pods than invest in transit, which exists.

Here’s Givens:

That’s a pretty incredible statement from Nash when you consider what’s happening right now in the county …

That this opinion has worked its way into our regional leadership, affecting long-term plans for mobility and the way we shape our built environment, is concerning.

Everyone in Gwinnett better all pray for super-affordable, autonomous-car awesomesauce -- because that’s the only thing what will end up working in a place that’s continuing to grow its population in a ’carpet of sprawl’ fashion that is seriously lacking in walkable, connected urban centers.

Elsewhere on the Network: City Observatory on how modern zoning codes have outlawed mixed-use urban development; Broken Sidewalk looks at how sprawl affects the road fatality rate in Louisville, Kentucky; and Better! Cities and Towns reviews the new book by New York City traffic guru “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz.

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