The Cobb County Board of Commissioners will vote next week on the proposed project list to be included in the 2024 transit sales tax referendum that would generate an estimated $11 billion over 30 years.
The project list includes seven bus rapid transit routes with a dedicated lane and three arterial rapid transit routes, totaling 108 miles. It includes more local bus routes, reaching every Cobb city, and on-demand, county-wide microtransit. In total, transit expansion would cost more than $4 billion. The rest would be spent on operations, technology upgrades, sidewalk improvements, trail projects and more.
If the board approves, the project list will be sent to the Atlanta Transit Link Authority to ensure it aligns with the regional transit plan as required by state law, said Drew Raessler, the county’s transportation director.
Commissioners are still debating whether to place the 30-year Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the November 2024 ballot. The board’s Democratic majority appears poised to do so over expected opposition from the board’s Republicans.
While Cobb County may have been staunchly opposed to transit expansion in the past, a recent poll commissioned by a pro-business group indicates that attitudes could be shifting.
The poll of 1,320 registered Cobb voters found 63% are either somewhat likely or very likely to support expand transit and a new rapid bus system. Only 28% were somewhat unlikely or very unlikely to support it.
Although when asked if they would support the tax if the election were held today, just less than half said yes and 25% were unsure.
Greg Teague, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce chairman, formed the Cobb Business Association to fund the poll independent of the chamber or the county government.
Teague said he was surprised by the results since it shows a shift from the survey conducted in 2018 by McLaughlin and Associates, which had 59% of 900 likely Cobb voters supporting a new sales tax to fund transit projects that would include rail and bus.
“Even when you look through here at your conservatives’ answers on these, they’re still polling very, very well,” Teague said. Support among conservatives ranged from 28% to 46% depending on the question’s framing.
Many respondents cited traffic as the number one reason to expand transit, and most said they have hardly, if at all, used transit in the last three months.
Transit Advisory Board member Matt Stigall said the poll shows there’s support for transit, but that won’t always equate to support for the referendum, especially for those who want MARTA expansion instead, which wasn’t included in the poll.
“The majority of people want better transit, but their reasons why and their likelihood to vote on it is a little bit more nuanced,” Stigall said. “...When you dig into the details, you realize how difficult it is to turn that opinion into votes in an actual referendum.”
He said the county needs to focus on its message over the next year because that will be the key to garnering support at the ballot box, especially from those who are currently on the fence.
“We’ve got to show that it’s a transit solution that benefits everyone, whether they take it or not,” he said.
Commissioners will vote during the Tuesday morning board meeting at 9 a.m. at 100 Cherokee Street in Marietta. The board will still have to vote early next year on whether to put the question on the ballot.
For more details on the county’s plans, go to www.cobbcounty.org/msplost.
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