A Suburban Community Rejects Transit Expansion

MARTA train station in Atlanta.

MARTA train station in Atlanta. Shutterstock


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Changes to eviction laws in Mississippi ... Raising the age to buy tobacco in Delaware ... Examining state employee raises in North Carolina.

Voters in a suburban county outside Atlanta on Tuesday rejected a plan to raise sales taxes to expand public transit in the area. The proposal to expand bus service and eventually add rail transportation in Gwinnett County, which had garnered bipartisan backing, along with business community support, was the first referendum on the issue since 1990. Of the 91,921 voters who turned out, 54 percent voted against the proposal. While voters in the county have resisted efforts to increase public transit before, proponents hoped the rapid growth in the Atlanta metropolitan area—and Gwinnett in particular—would translate into a population that would embrace transit. Voters opposing the measure told the Atlanta Journal Constitution they didn’t trust MARTA, the Atlanta transit agency that would have taken over the county system and then added service, with their tax dollars. Those in support, however, argued it was necessary to ease traffic, as well as provide another way for workers to get to their jobs. Charlotte Nash, chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, noted to Next City that the county of almost one million people is projected to grow significantly in the next 20 years. “That alone will make you have second thoughts about how are we going to deal with the traffic that will be generated by that number of additional people,” Nash said before the vote. Transit boosters in Atlanta expressed disappointment in the suburban vote, but said now is the time for MARTA to concentrate on building out to underserved areas in the heart of the city, where voters have already approved taxes to support transit. [Atlanta Journal Constitution; Next City; Curbed Atlanta]

POLICE MENTAL HEALTH | After the suicides of six Chicago police officers in eight months, Superintendent Eddie Johnson told department leaders to focus on the mental health of officers. A forum on suicide in law enforcement is being held in the city this week. [Chicago Tribune]

TOBACCO TAX | Delaware senators advanced a bill to raise the age for buying tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes and vaping devices, from 18 to 21. [Associated Press]

EVICTIONS | The Mississippi legislature sent a bill to Gov. Phil Bryant that would eliminate a 10-day grace period for tenants after a judge orders them evicted from a rental home. Mississippi Today reported that the state has a high eviction rate, with capital city Jackson coming in fifth in a database maintained at Princeton University. [Mississippi Today]

PAY HIKES | North Carolina lawmakers are criticizing hefty pay raises for thousands of state Department of Transportation employees, saying they might dial back the increases. In some cases, the raises were as high as 65 percent. [News & Observer]

Laura Maggi is Managing Editor of Route Fifty  and is based in Washington, D.C.

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