Fulton mayors push for regional transit system

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The mayors of Fulton County’s smaller cities called on the General Assembly Wednesday to develop a regional mass transit system that would serve residents from all over the metropolitan Atlanta area.

“We would like a regional transit system that includes other counties besides Fulton and DeKalb,” Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos said at a capitol news conference.  “We also want regional funding . . . we will look to the Legislature to provide that.”

Galambos joined with mayors from other Fulton cities who are concerned about some aspects of HB 277, legislation that provides for referendums in 2012 where citizens from regions across the state will vote on whether to levy a 1 percent sales tax to pay for highways and other transportation projects.

While the mayors support the general goal of HB 277, they said it does not provide for an equitable method of funding mass transit services in the Atlanta region.

Fulton and DeKalb counties have collected a 1 percent sales tax for nearly 40 years to provide money for the construction and operation of MARTA.  That one-penny tax would continue to be collected in those counties in addition to the one-penny tax imposed under HB 277, but without assurances that the extra money would be used to pay for transit services.

“Is this equitable?” Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker asked.  “It is not . . . Clearly, mass transit needs more support.  We’re looking for more funding.”

“We’ve got to find a way to level the playing field among all cities and counties,” College Park Mayor Jack Longino said.  “We’ve got to figure out a way to regionalize this.”

The one Fulton County mayor who did not participate in Wednesday’s news conference was Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who helped lobby the Legislature to pass HB 277 in this year’s session.

The best hope for developing some kind of regional transit system that would bring in local bus systems from counties like Cobb and Gwinnett to work with MARTA may lie with a legislative study committee chaired by Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta).  That panel held the first of several planned meetings last week.

“It’s a matter the Legislature will have to work through,” said Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), who attended the news conference and is also the city attorney for Sandy Springs.

© 2010 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Eva Galambos , Fulton County , Jack Longino , mass transit , mayors , Mike Bodker , regional transportation referendums