Last week’s historic vote by Gwinnett County points to a future for MARTA that many of us could not have imagined even five years ago. But at one time, decades ago, there was genuine hope that MARTA would be a system that would truly serve the full region.
When MARTA was still a theoretical concept, in the 1960s, it was positioned as a system that would serve the five largest counties — DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb. In 1971, only Fulton and DeKalb counties adopted the 1% sales tax referendum that sustained MARTA as its sole local government support for more than 40 years.
We have seen the tremendous growth in Fulton County over these decades, and much of that growth can be contributed to the availability of transit. At the same time, we have seen the limitations of a two-county transit system. For years, commuters have complained about MARTA’s limitations. We have seen more changes, and we’re about to see a lot more.
In more recent years, Clayton County joined the system, and in 2016 City of Atlanta voters overwhelmingly agreed to add “More MARTA” to serve residents inside the city.
Our region has been debating the need for transit for more than 50 years. But the conversation in communities around the region has evolved from “Why do we need transit?” to “How can we get more transit?”
From discussions about the future of the Beltline to the expansion of Bus Rapid Transit, Fulton County is uniquely positioned to benefit from these investments. Even with 1 million residents, we have tremendous inbound commutes, with workers making there way here from all over the region. We also have many commuters making their way from North Fulton to Central or South Fulton, and vice versa.
I applaud Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and her colleagues on the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners for granting their residents the opportunity to join the MARTA system. It’s exciting to see that decades later, the MARTA vision is truly coming to life.