Senate Seeks to Fund Statewide Plan for Transit

February 1, 2017

Senate Bill 6, filed last week, is a clear sign of Georgia lawmakers’ willingness to invest state funds into transit solutions for our state. The bill seeks to create the

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Senate Bill 6, filed last week, is a clear sign of Georgia lawmakers’ willingness to invest state funds into transit solutions for our state.  The bill seeks to create the Georgia Regional Transit Council, a 19-member body tasked with “developing a state-wide, strategic transit plan with the guidance of a recognized industry leader in delivering transit strategy for multijurisdictional entities which emphasizes first-mile and last-mile services.”  The bill also specifically calls for:

  • The development of a seamless transportation network with dependable trip times for commuters
  • The enhancement of limited access highways
  • Road congestion relief
  • Safety enhancements
  • Plans for a future of transportation innovations

The bill is a result of the Senate Study Committee on Regional Transit Solutions which met last year to examine whether regional transit systems would lessen congestion.  Specifically, the committee reviewed the possibility of comprehensive regional plans in lieu of a county-by-county or city-by-city approach. The committee, created by Senate Resolution 1085, was comprised of seven senators and chaired by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega). Senator Gooch is a sponsor of Senate Bill 6, along with Brandon Beach (R- Alpharetta), David Shafer (R- Duluth), Bill Cowsert (R- Athens), John Kennedy (R- Macon) and Ben Watson (R- Savannah). The report explains transit “covers a broad spectrum of services which enhance the state’s overall transportation network and provides citizens with greater mobility options.  Collectively, these transit services provide the taxpayers of Georgia with numerous economic and environmental benefits, and are funded through a variety of local, state and federal sources.  More than 120 public transportation systems currently operate in the state of Georgia – the larger systems in the Atlanta region such as MARTA’s comprehensive bus and rail system, GRTA’s Xpress commuter coaches, and the Cobb and Gwinnett local and regional bus systems; other major bus systems in cities such as Savannah, Macon, Columbus, Rome, Athens, and Augusta; and more than 100 small bus and van services.” The committee’s report recommends lawmakers set aside funding this session to pay for the creation of plan that covers transit governance and funding, that can then be enacted into law by 2018. Other recommendations include:

  • The term “governance” must be fully defined when it comes to a regional transit plan
  • Governance and funding must be considered at the same time. The report states, “If the State believes that transit, in all its forms, is a useful and necessary service to be provided to the public, the way that such transit is governed cannot be separated from the way that it is funded.”
  • A state-wide solution is required – not merely MARTA service area or even Atlanta-metro region.
  • Any transit solution must be sustainable to address projected growth.
  • The ability of workers to access jobs is a critical component of the transit conversation, in addition to economic development benefits.
  • Any solution must be approved by a local referendum to bind counties and municipalities.
  • The process of finding a solution to the question of transit must be collaborative and include public input.
  • A third-party consultant with transportation expertise will be useful in evaluating and proposing a regional transit solution.
  • It is important that Senate and House Transportation chairmen, along with a representative of the five largest counties, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Fulton, are involved in the decision-making process.
  • Consider improvements and changes that may need to be made to T-SPLOST including remove dates in the law that may make it difficult for counties to conduct a Single County T-SPLOST referendum on the Nov. 7, 2017 election date and authorizing counties to collect any fractional portion dedicated to transit for 20 years in order to qualify for federal funding.

Click here to view the report: