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Clock’s ticking for Gwinnett to decide if transit expansion makes November ballot

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The metro Atlanta county can’t miss another opportunity to invest in the future of transportation, transit proponents say

MARTA train on rails.
Next stop: Norcross?
Curbed Atlanta

It’s been nearly a year since Gwinnett County voters turned up their noses at the idea of welcoming MARTA into the community.

But signs point to the possibility that the suburban county—the second most populous in Georgia and quickly growing—could be warming to the idea of mass transit.

Last March, Gwinnett voters roundly said “No” on a referendum that would have implemented a one-penny sales tax increase over the next 40 years to support boosting bus services, creating bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, and a heavy rail link to Atlanta’s cruciform system.

However, months after the failed vote—and after Gwinnett’s board of commissioners welcomed a few new transit-friendly faces—county officials announced they were sketching a revised plan for potential transit expansion that could pave the way to a vote at the end of 2020. And in September, the board of commissioners launched the Transit Review Committee to help assess the appetite and potential for upgraded bus services, BRT routes, and rail.

Now, the clock is ticking for the board to determine whether the issue will find its way to the ballot in the November election.

Legally speaking, the county has until the end of July to answer that question, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

However, the paper notes, county leaders need to come to agreements with agencies like MARTA and The ATL before calling a vote, so it looks like the decision will actually need to be made by the end of May.

Transit advocates have been lobbying for a change of heart at the ballot box this year.

MARTA for Gwinnett, for instance, has laid out the potential plans for transit expansion in the county, including maps of prospective routes and explanations of the need for better—and more—mass transit.

“With limited bus service from GCT and GRTA, Gwinnett County is woefully underserved for its size, population, and economic position,” the advocacy group’s page reads. “This has already started impacting not only the quality of life for the county, but the long-range economic outlook as well.”

The organization acknowledges that the route maps presented are largely conceptual, but that voters can’t miss another opportunity to invest in new transportation options.

“By heavily investing in transit of all kinds,” as the group’s guiding statement continues, “Gwinnett County would be setting itself up for decades of sustainable population growth, for helping people of all walks of life enjoy what Gwinnett has to offer, for continuing to attract competitive businesses, for reducing its impact on the environment, and for providing alternatives to clogged roads.”