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Sandy Springs mayor: metro needs light rail or will become ‘second-class’

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In his State of the City address, Mayor Rusty Paul throws support behind regional transit

A light rail train moves down Capitol Avenue, surrounded by new, modern buildings.
Light rail as part of a proposal for the redevelopment around Turner Field.
Carter via AJC

On Wednesday, residents in the City of Atlanta began to pay an extra half-percent of sales tax to fund MARTA expansion within the city limits.

The funds represent just one part of the groundswell of support for transit that’s come from the city—and from a few places across the metro—over the last few years. Many are beginning to understand the correlation between population growth and traffic, and the potential of transit to begin to alleviate the problems.

Recognition is one thing, but action is another. Despite countless studies and surveys across the metro, Atlanta is currently the only municipality actively funding transit expansion.

However, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul—always a strong proponent for alternative transportation—declared in his State of the City address that metro Atlanta needed to build a regional light rail system or risk becoming a “second-rate” city, according to Reporter Newspapers.

Even for a transit advocate like Paul, the statement is notable.

Sandy Springs is the second largest city in the metro area, and it’s reaped the benefits of MARTA access even as other North Fulton cities have been opposed to the system.

The mayor learned a lot about regional light-rail systems on a recent trip to Dallas with other metro leaders, he said. In addition to transit, he also was impressed by tolled express lanes, which Sandy Springs has also begun to explore as an option.

With Sandy Springs becoming more bullish on transit, while wielding money and political clout, perhaps other metro leaders will get on board. Literally.