Moderated by Tom Sabulis
Flexibility and collaboration on small strategic projects will be key as the region seeks to upgrade transit and transportation with minimal funding. Today, we hear from a Cobb County official who welcomes a new flex bus route and urges residents to give input. A GDOT leader looks at the bigger picture, saying it’s time to deliver real solutions working with what we’ve got.
Commenting is open below.
By Lisa Cupid
Movement is a hallmark of life. So when two of Cobb County’s transit routes were cut in 2011, it was little surprise that families were upended.
One gentleman now walks for an hour to get to the nearest bus stop, so the bus can take him another 90 minutes to work. One way.
Another woman with acute asthma walks at least four miles to get medical treatment.
A young mother must now walk at least one mile, with children in tow, to buy groceries at the nearest mini-mart.
What’s disturbing is that some persons who moved to Cobb are stranded because they believed that transit in Cobb was stable. The dim reality is that persons dependent on transit represent a class of persons that some in Cobb deem unworthy of sympathy, or at least a government handout, for a service largely recognized for not paying for itself.
I have yet to see a highway, library or park that pays for itself, yet there is a large perception that transit should.
Our transit riders are not a homogeneous cohort. We have college students who must get to class; seniors who want to run errands with some independence, and commuters — even some professionals — who want to save money on gas or parking, or at least eliminate the stress of driving.
But when transit is cut, it hurts our most vulnerable the most.
The two routes cut in South Cobb traveled through some of the county’s most challenged areas. While the routes were cut for having low ridership, these particular routes served people with some of the greatest need.
The impact of losing transit in some communities warrants a different analysis for considering the strength of transit for the community and for Cobb. You could hypothesize that loss of transit will result in even higher unemployment, more blight and poorer access to food, education and medical services. Such outcomes could put greater burdens on code enforcement, public safety and schools.
Cobb leadership is now considering adding flexible transit routes to help reduce some of the unmet needs of the two lost routes. A flexible bus transit route travels a fixed route with the flexibility to pick up riders at non-fixed locations on demand.
The ability to provide residents with even a loose semblance of the routes once in place is encouraging. My observation is that Cobb’s transportation division wants to get this right and ensure the new route is sustainable.
Flexible bus service in Cobb can set a standard in how to justify and deliver transit, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and not just in its implementation, but in its formation. We need residents to get involved. Mobilizing residents may be the boost needed to jump-start communities that draw life from transit.
Lisa Cupid is a Cobb County Commissioner representing District 4 in Southwest Cobb.
By Dana Lemon
We all know and accept that providing a full range of transportation options and alternatives is one of the hallmarks of a successful state. Great transportation is the base for positive economic and social opportunities for all who live there. Helping provide those services is a traditional role of government that becomes even more vital every day.
In the Atlanta metropolitan area, we have several bus and transit services, but what we lack is the coordination between the entities delivering those services. The people, the riders, truly suffer from the lack of integrated services and options that do not fully meet the existing needs of the community.
We need to embrace innovation as a key to developing a “big picture” plan for our region’s transportation. Coordination and communication needs to start at the top with our influencers so diverse organizations can move toward providing coordinated services and routes that make sense and move seamlessly for riders.
Through its Leadership Involvement Networking and Knowledge program, the Atlanta Regional Commission takes leaders to key regions to experience firsthand what that area is accomplishing and what the Atlanta area can borrow. I was part of the most recent trip to the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area. The area is a great example of various entities coming to together and providing transportation options integrated between counties and other units of government. We saw that this type of amalgamated service is not only possible, but fundamental to successfully addressing the community’s needs for mobility.
Making changes and moving in a different path takes strong leaders, and Atlanta has a number of them up to the task. However, bringing them together to focus on multi-modal transportation options is not enough; we must move toward implementation. Local leaders have already proven they can come together, represent disparate constituents and still work together to present a unified voice. We must take that next step to deliver a working solution.
Visiting other major urban areas and seeing the success they have had providing seamless services is extremely motivating for me. Atlanta benefits from all the lessons learned by those who have already accomplished the task, and we know there is room for all stakeholders in this process. Establishing a seamless system does not have to mean abolishing operators, but it does mean we must coordinate operations for success.
We took a few steps in the right direction this year, including increasing the financial commitment to Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) and Cobb County’s reinstatement of some bus service lines that had been cut. But these are small steps, and all organizations involved in transportation planning and implementation must build off these with a greater sense of urgency. We must work together for comprehensive regional coordination, and provide residents with a system that offers convenience and connectivity.
Dana Lemon is a board member of the Georgia Department of Transportation representing the 13th Congressional District.