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North Fulton wants All Aboard for MARTA Expansion?

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While MARTA is enjoying a stellar end of the year, the AJC has asked a few North Fulton heavy-hitters to weigh in on their perceptions of public transit access. In opinions that seem a far cry from the past, interest appears to be strong for better public transit options to connect the suburbs to the city center. Citing young people's affinity for public transit, a growing population and lots of economic investment, the mayor of Sandy Springs and the developer of Avalon in Alpharetta each penned op-eds for the AJC's blog. The pieces illustrate the dynamic, if not tumultuous, path toward better transit options in the metro area, and how the cities along the Ga. Highway 400 corridor might like to join in.

In the first piece, Rusty Paul, mayor of Sandy Springs, bemoans the departure of financial tech company WorldPay for downtown Atlanta, saying that Sandy Springs has all the necessary components to attract the younger demographic the company is after. While there are four MARTA train stations in Sandy Springs, the suburban city cannot claim the vibrant, urban-oriented lifestyle many millennials — "information-age" "techo-wizards" according to Paul — seek, and it seems a bit naïve to claim it does. While he cites the recent push for ultra-high speed Internet by providers in the area, the case is likely to hinge on the ability of middle-aged, upper-middle-class Sandy Springs residents to pay for the expensive Internet. Even still, he takes a pro-MARTA stance and calls on his city's residents to take advantage of the amenity afforded to so few others in the greater metro: proximity to a train station.

Mark Toro, managing partner of North American Properties, which recently developed Avalon, cuts to the heart of the transit woes that afflict Alpharetta — namely the lack of transit. He criticizes Atlantans, pointing out "the widespread aversion" many in the city have for public transportation. As a New York transplant, Toro makes an eloquently stated point that the lack of transit usage might relate to preconceived, unfounded notions about the type of people who use MARTA. While personal aversion might keep some away, the lack of convenience with far-spaced train stations and sometimes unreliable bus service also plays a key factor. Toro calls on residents of north Fulton to get over themselves, realize that MARTA goes to more places than the airport and come to the conclusion that public transit isn't scary. And as a MARTA user, he says he puts his money where his mouth is.

A third piece, by the COO of the Atlanta Streetcar, goes on the defensive regarding that accident-plagued project, touting safety measures, training and just how damn advanced the streetcars will be. Could all of this be indicative of the support needed for T-SPLOST 2.0?

· MARTA, northern suburbs and streetcar [AJC]