MARTA study states that North Fulton approves public transit expansion but a deeper analysis makes the preferred option less clear.

A 2014 MARTA study had a 76% percent approval rate for a potential MARTA expansion to Forsyth county. The overall consensus seems to be that people are in favor of expansion.

However, a deeper dive into the numbers of the study shows that Heavy Rail is not the preferred way that people would want to expand MARTA along GA 400. Additionally, the questions asked in the survey may be misleading.

At the time of the study, MARTA already had two options for a locally preferred alternative.

In August 2013, MARTA released a study to identify the Locally Preferred Alternatives (LPA) along the GA 400 corridor. The final two alternatives were identified:

1. Heavy rail transit (HRT) from the existing North Springs MARTA station extending north within the Georgia 400 right-of-way to Windward Parkway.
2. Bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail transit (LRT) along the same GA 400 alignment as the Heavy Rail option.

There are two important things to remember about the options in MARTA’s Locally Preferred Alternative study. First, both options share the same alignment along GA 400. Second, that bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail transit (LRT) are grouped together in the second option.

The expansion options presented in the 2014 MARTA survey were inconsistent with the two Locally Preferred Alternative options.

MARTA commissioned a survey in March of 2014 for Kennesaw State University to gather public opinion on MARTA’s expansion plans. Here was the question to respondents who favor expansion on how it should be extended:

Should an extension of MARTA to the Forsyth county line be done by:
 Heavy rail that would include larger trains that run along dedicated track up the GA-400 corridor
 Light rail that would include smaller trains operating on dedicated tracks along county Roadways
 Bus rapid transit service that is similar to light-rail except that is uses buses instead of trains in HOT/HOV lanes, or…
 Bus rapid transit service that is similar to light-rail except that is uses buses instead of trains in dedicated bus lanes?
 Don’t know

The question in this March 2014 survey by MARTA was misleading in two ways:

  1. Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail was separated into multiple questions rather than being grouped together as it was in the final screening of the earlier Locally Preferred Analysis study.
  2. The question stated that only Heavy Rail would run along GA 400 while all BRT and LR options would be along county roads. Remember that according to the earlier MARTA study that all final alternatives would be along GA-400.

Heavy Rail still was not the preferred option for MARTA expansion.

When presented in terms of the two Locally Preferred Options, Heavy Rail is not the preferred choice of the public. The public would rather have a Bus Rapid Transit or a Light Rail option.

The chart above groups together those who favored either the BRT and LR options. It also includes those who did not approve expansion.

All the data used was provided by MARTA and can be found here: http://www.itsmarta.com/north-line-400-corr.aspx

MARTA’s Locally Preferred Alternatives Report: http://www.itsmarta.com/uploadedFiles/Definition%20of%20Alternatives.pdf

Northern Fulton County Transit Public Opinion Survey : http://www.itsmarta.com/uploadedFiles/About_MARTA/Planning/Northline_Ga_400_Corr/Marta-Final.pdf

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