A Letter to Senator Lindsey Tippins: MARTA to Cobb County

Dear Senator Tippins,

I wanted to talk to you directly about some recent comments you have made concerning the implementation of some sort of mass transit system from Atlanta to Cobb County.

“People in north Fulton County have been paying a 1 penny MARTA tax for 50 years, and now, for them to get MARTA, they’re trying to have another half penny levy so they can get what’s promised to them for 50 years. I told the governor, I said that does not instill a great deal of confidence”

North Fulton County has consistently rejected the idea of MARTA rail making its way north. Yes MARTA is asking for additional funds to build such a rail line, likely due to insufficient state funding of the system, which is a much larger issue. Historically, desire for such a line has been weak because of other various fears about the kind of people MARTA might bring north with it. You cannot blame MARTA for that.

Chairman of the board of MARTA Robert Ashe has repeatedly said many times that MARTA will not go where it is unwanted. Yes, north Fulton has been paying the MARTA tax, all while making every effort to ensure heavy rail doesn’t go through their neighborhoods. Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) wouldn’t even let DeKalb County residents choose their fate. Too much opposition remains.

“If you started a double MARTA track right now, I won’t live long enough to see it. It will take 15–20 years to get the thing done”

That estimate seems exaggerated, but surely if Atlanta can come together and rebuild a destroyed segment of I-85 in just six weeks, we can do this heavy-rail or light-rail extension of MARTA in less than a couple of years with the proper incentives.

“Talking in terms of economic development, when you say what can you do and how quickly can you do it, that is the quickest option”

Sharing the CSX freight lines with some sort of commuter rail system with pull-offs is a waste of time and money. Nothing about this option would make Amazon or any other large tech company perceive Cobb county to have a functional mass transit system worthy of their first, second, or even third headquarters. We need to go big or go home to attract these kinds of companies.

I work for Salesforce in Atlanta and their local headquarters is located directly on top of the Lenox MARTA station. This single choice has allowed them to be consistently ranked one of the best employers in Atlanta. I would not take your freight competing for rail cars to Cobb. None of my techie co-workers would take them either. People in the technology industry can see right through these hacky proposals and their many inefficiencies.

I am so thankful that Cobb County is changing its transit tune and that legislators, such as yourself, are finally embracing mass transit as a means to solve our vehicular traffic woes and attract businesses to Atlanta. It is never too late to do the right thing, but the right thing now, just as it always has been, is to embrace MARTA. There will always be a price to pay for the myopia of legislators past.

MARTA is not a one-size-fits-all system any longer. Keith Parker has turned the organization around and, despite his recent departure announcement, has left MARTA in excellent standing. I believe this standing will persist. They are planning light-rail along the BeltLine and the Clifton corridor and working to continue the expansion of heavy rail. Just as it was inadequate for the City of Atlanta to take transit into their own hands and build a streetcar that competes with traffic, it is equally inadequate to build rapid transit that competes with freight. MARTA is the best option and with Suntrust Park-level incentives, MARTA right-of-way heavy or light-rail could be built in no time.

Thanks again for supporting mass transit! Keep it up.

Cheers,
Alex Groleau
Citizen of Atlanta