Lt. Gov Casey Cagle appears to be gearing up for the next legislative session with the future of transit in metro Atlanta on his mind.
At a recent Gwinnett Chamber luncheon, Cagle said regional and state leaders need to have a talk about the future of transit, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
That includes discussion about MARTA, and what role it would play in a statewide transit network, Cagle reportedly told the GDP. He said that the talk was unlikely to take place in 2016. He went on to say:
“We really need to look at, in my opinion, a new structural model for MARTA with a different brand and somewhat of a different mission,” Cagle said. “We really do need a commuter rail option with in our state and I think MARTA, with the existing infrastructure that’s there, may be able to be retooled and looked at to create a value added for the citizens …
House Speaker David Ralston also praised the role of having reliable transit options in attracting new businesses to Georgia in a speech earlier this month at a conference sponsored by PolicyBest.
Getting the support of House and Senate leaders like Ralston and Cagle is key to MARTA’s ambitious plan to nearly double the size of its existing system.
The transit agency needs state lawmakers’ approval to hold a referendum in the 2016 general election. If MARTA is successful in lobbying for that approval, voters would be asked in November to approve a half-percent sales tax hike in MARTA’s existing service counties — Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton.
MARTA could leverage the additional money to build a heavy rail expansion along Ga. 400 to Alpharetta, a heavy rail expansion along I-20 East in South DeKalb and a light rail or trolley system to connect MARTA to the vastly underserved Emory/CDC corridor. It might even be enough to help the city of Atlanta expand streetcar service.