The Cobb Chamber Makes the Business Case for Mass Transit
On Wednesday, June 8 the Cobb, Gwinnett and North Fulton Chambers of Commerce hosted a four-hour summit on transportation issues in metro Atlanta, drawing a crowd of over 300 business leaders, elected officials and transportation administrators and advocates. The summit, held at the Cobb Galleria Centre, featured heavy hitting speakers in the transportation arena. Phoenix METRO Light Rail CEO Steve Banta and Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory were among the distinguished list of speakers advising on a light rail system in the Northern Crescent area of metro Atlanta.
Brandon Beach, the North Fulton Chamber President and Georgia DOT Board Member, announced the collaboration between the Cobb, Gwinnett and North Fulton Chambers to advocate for a more efficient mass transportation system. “It’s time for us to have transit in the suburbs,” said Beach. “It’s not just inside the loop anymore. If we’re going to be a great region, we have to have transit.” The three Chambers, informally known as the Northern Crescent Coalition, plan to continue to work together in hopes of implementing a light rail system connecting their communities.
The Coalition brought in elected officials and technical experts from Charlotte, N.C., and Phoenix, Ariz., as resources for metro Atlanta’s initial transit plans. Commenting on the Phoenix transit system, Banta said the ridership was at an average of 43,000 per day, or 1 million riders a month. “People are shedding cars,” said Banta. “There is a transition from two car families to one car families.”
McCrory spoke on the light rail system that opened in Charlotte two years ago. His biggest piece of advice for Northern Crescent leaders was to remember that the implementation of a mass transit system would be a process, not a project. “This is going to be a joint effort,” said McCrory. “Chamber people and government people must work together.”
A transit system connecting the Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties would provide alternate modes of transportation for commuters, easing congestion on interstates between the north metro areas. Improved transit would also enhance economic development, as evidenced in the Charlotte and Phoenix areas. In Phoenix alone, 11 large developments have arisen since the METRO Light Rail’s construction started in 2005. Light rail systems also create jobs; for every billion dollars invested in transit, 36,000 jobs are created.
Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rob Garcia attended the summit and advocated for Cobb’s involvement in the project. “The primary role of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce is advocacy for business,” said Garcia. “We need to be a part of ushering in a solution that can impact our businesses.” Demming Bass, Chief Operating Officer of the Cobb Chamber, spoke on the coalition between the Northern Crescent counties. “Other communities are moving forward and offering these alternatives, like Charlotte and Phoenix,” said Bass. “We need to be in that game as well.”
For more information on the Metro Atlanta Northern Crescent Transit Summit, visit www.cobbchamber.org/transit .