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Despite Support, There's a Long Road to Gwinnett for MARTA

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A new poll by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce indicates that residents in Georgia's second most populated county are interested in joining MARTA, reports the AJC. The poll comes just a month after service began in Clayton County, marking the first growth outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties since the system's inception 43 years ago. Back in 1990, a similar poll indicated that an overwhelming majority of Gwinnettians — some 70 percent — opposed MARTA, fearing it would inject their utopian suburban livelihoods with bad elements. But a lot has changed in 25 years; Gwinnett is the most ethnically diverse county in the state, far from the bastion of pasty-whiteness it once was. Despite the evidence of MARTA support, the head of the Gwinnett County Commission, Charlotte Nash, doesn't think the issue will come to voters any time soon.

Overall, Nash may be right, for now. While the poll indicated that 63 percent of respondents would like to see MARTA service extended into the county, only 50 percent would be willing to pay the penny sales tax that'd make MARTA transit a reality. Seems like 13 percent of Gwinnett residents don't understand how the world works.

Beyond the results of the survey, a piece by Bill Torpy offers interesting revelations about how the MARTA board has operated in the past. For example, despite not participating in the system, Gwinnett County (and presumably other places) had a seat on the MARTA board. While that may seem absurd — Torpy calls it representation without taxation — that's not even the most ridiculous part. At some point, it seems, a serious proposal was floated to rename MARTA to something like "Breeze." Thankfully that didn't happen.

Given time, even those ardently opposed to MARTA service admit that the tides are changing. Tea Party leader Steve Ramey, who doesn't seem too keen on MARTA, acknowledges that drastic changes have occurred in the county in the last few decades. (He told Torpy, "I hardly go anywhere unless I have my car, and I hardly go anywhere unless I'm armed.") Ramey believes that, with a new generation of Gwinnett residents, public transit will come. If a man with a gun who's fighting for the status quo admits defeat, you know eventually MARTA will win out. But it's kind of sad to know it's such a struggle.

· Poll: Gwinnett residents in favor of MARTA [AJC; subscriber]
· Has Gwinnett gotten SMARTA? [AJC; subscriber]
· MARTA's Expansion Plans are Materializing Right Now [Curbed Atlanta]
· National Media: Something's Rotten in Suburban Atlanta [Curbed Atlanta]