Clayton’s transportation woes

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Clayton County killed its C-Tran bus system in 2010 to save $8 million a year. It had nearly 9,000 daily riders. Since then, residents and business have suffered in a transit-less world. Many voters want to add a one-percent sales tax to bring in MARTA. New county leaders say transit is key, but doing it the right way is also important.

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Less mobility hurts everyone in Clayton

By Roberta Abdul-Salaam

Clayton County is the home of the world’s busiest airport, yet many Clayton residents can’t even get there. Some of our service workers employed at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport also sleep there, on cold concrete floors, because they can’t afford to go back and forth home.

The buses stopped running in Clayton County three years ago and our transportation struggle continues.

Recently, my granddaughter had a car accident and totaled my car that she and I shared. She used the car to go to her classes at Clayton State University. Like so many other families, we had no other transportation. It is very difficult to get a ride when most of your friends and neighbors are at work or don’t have cars. Cabs are few and expensive. Eventually, my granddaughter had to drop out of college. That was a heartbreaking decision, prompted by the stress of trying to get a ride to class or missing school.

Since the Clayton County Commission discontinued the C-Tran public transit service in 2010, life has been extremely difficult for thousands of citizens who depended on public transportation to go to work, to school or to get medical treatment. Local businesses continue to suffer as well. Apartment complexes reported reduced occupancy rates because many families moved to other areas near public transportation to keep their jobs.

For those who think transportation is a personal problem, consider the businesses that have abandoned the county and taken hundreds of jobs with them; consider the vacant buildings, empty shopping plazas and hundreds of teens who don’t have summer jobs. Foreclosures continue to rise, property values continue to fall, economic development declines, new businesses don’t come and county revenue is reduced.

Quality of life is the measure of a good community. In 2010 the citizens spoke loud and clear with 67 percent voting yes on a nonbinding referendum to pay a 1 percent sales tax to bring MARTA to Clayton County. I believe this is the best viable option to restore quality affordable public transportation to Clayton County. Having buses running through our county again will give us an emotional and financial uplift.

According to the Association of County Commissioners in 2010, the one-cent sales tax option to join MARTA would generate $49 million dollars per year, just for Clayton County, and could provide bus and rail service throughout the county. We propose that our elected officials step up to the plate and do the right thing by Clayton County.

The county commission has the ability and authority to restore this vital service, sooner rather than later. Talk of more studies falls on deaf ears. Failing to act at this crucial time will be sending an insidious message to our residents: Clayton County is closed for business. We don’t care about your needs.

In the meantime, if you are blessed to own a car, please think about that senior citizen who needs to go to the doctor, those you see walking carrying groceries, or those who’re trapped at home who want to go to school or work. All they need is an opportunity — and a ride.

Roberta Abdul-Salaam is a former state senator and vice-president of Citizens for Progressive Transit.

Restoring public transit a necessity

By Jeffrey E. Turner

Clayton County is a county with tremendous potential. What makes Clayton so promising is our proximity to Atlanta; being home to the world’s busiest international airport; our excellent educators within the school system; and last, but not least, the people who reside here.

What immediate steps may be taken to move us toward greatness? We believe the restoration of a public transportation system would be a definite move in that direction.

In March of 2010, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners terminated the C-Tran transit system which had been operational in the county for nine years. For many of our citizens, especially our elderly, the shutdown of the transit system left them with hardships where their transportation needs were concerned. Many new residents came to Clayton County during that time as a result of the public transit system which provided a means to get back and forth from school, work, doctors’ appointments and recreational outings.

People lives were changed dramatically when public transportation was ended in Clayton County.

Many citizens have come forward to express opinions about either joining MARTA or privatizing a Clayton County transit system. All options available and the best interests of our citizens must be considered.

It is my belief that restoring public transportation in Clayton County is a necessity. Having a transit system allows businesses to see that we are progressive as a county and that there are alternative forms of transportation available to deliver consumers to merchants and employees to their workplace.

Clayton County has been underdeveloped; specifically, when you consider the fact that Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is a multi-billion dollar revenue producer capable of generating thousands of jobs and moving millions of people through the airport annually. Clayton County should be experiencing great economic growth throughout our county, especially around the airport area. We must have a way to connect our citizens to opportunities which can provide them with a better quality of life. Whether the better quality includes jobs, hospitals or simple traffic congestion relief that plagues our county roadways on a regular basis, our constituents deserve the very best we are able to provide.

Re-establishing a transportation system in Clayton County will not be an easy thing to do, nor will it happen overnight. We must be smarter about the creation of our new system. We do not want a transit system so that we may say we have one; we must create a system that truly addresses the needs of our county and the people who will be riding the buses.

We will request citizen input and consult with industry experts to seek their advice about what type of system would be successful for Clayton County. As the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Even though our citizens are anxiously awaiting it, we must be patient to ensure that we are doing it right.

Jeffrey E. Turner is chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners

12 comments Add your comment

Tony Geinzer

August 14th, 2013
5:32 am

What would it take to A) Have a Reliable Public Transit System and B) One that is User Servicable?

Jack ®

August 13th, 2013
6:25 pm

Marta’s not making any money in the counties it serves; so why not lose money in Clayton too.