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ARC survey: 51 percent of metro Atlantans are now willing to pay for better transit

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That includes 56 percent of Gwinnett, Georgia’s second most populous county.

A photo of a MARTA train near downtown Atlanta.
Atlanta’s biggest problem right now? Transportation, ARC respondents said.
Curbed Atlanta

Could the majority of metro Atlantans really be onboard the public-transit train? Even if it directly impacts their wallets?

Yes, indeed, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s fifth annual Metro Atlanta Speaks public opinion survey.

Results of the 2017 survey were released today, and they bring encouraging news for anyone who believes public transportation is the only route out of the Atlanta region’s gridlock woes.

Conducted by Kennesaw State University’s A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service and Research, the survey posed questions about crucial quality-of-life topics to about 5,500 metro Atlantans across 13 counties.

For the first time, ARC officials asked this year if residents would be willing to fork over more tax dollars to fund expansion of transit in the metro. Across the region, 51 percent replied, “Yes.” In the metro’s two most populous counties, Fulton and Gwinnett, that number was higher: 56 percent.

Other results suggest support for transit is growing, in general, across the land.

One reader’s utopian vision for a regional transit network.
Submitted; Jason Lathbury

Almost half of respondents (49 percent) said the best longterm solution to traffic is a more robust public transit network. That’s up from 43 percent just last year, and 41 percent in 2013, when the Metro Atlanta Speaks survey debuted.

Back in 2013, 88 percent of respondents said improving public transit is “very important” or “somewhat important” to metro Atlanta’s future. Not bad.

But this year, 94 percent of respondents were all aboard.

In summation, Doug Hooker, ARC Executive Director, said in a press release: “Offering increased transportation options is vital to our region’s economy and quality of life.”

For the fourth straight year, inadequate transportation options topped the list of respondents’ concerns, with 27 percent saying it’s the biggest problem Atlanta faces right now, the ARC reported. (Only 9 percent said the economy is the region’s biggest issue, down from 24 percent four years ago.)

None of this is to say metro Atlantans are universally eager to start tossing their hard-earned coin at new transit projects.

On a more sobering note, the ARC pointed out:

  • One in seven respondents—14 percent—said they’d not be able to pay an unexpected $400 expense, about the same percentage as last year.
  • Another 15 percent said they’d have to borrow money or pawn or sell something to cover the cost.
  • And nearly one in five metro Atlanta residents said they had to skip meals or reduce portion sizes to save money.

Still, the survey could be an encouraging sign that—well beyond Atlanta’s city limits—transit is gaining traction, a TSPLOST-style initiative could have legs, and antiquated, anti-transit thinking of yesteryear could be fading.