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Georgia Senate panel recommends 'path forward' for regional transit

Georgia   ·   Public Transportation   ·   Atlanta Business Chronicle

Georgia lawmakers stopped short Thursday of proposing legislation establishing a regional transit system for metro Atlanta.

But a state Senate study committee approved a report recommending the General Assembly begin a "path forward" during the upcoming 2017 legislative session that could lead to a transit governance bill in 2018.

"It's a very important issue but a complicated one as well," said Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, the study committee's chairman.

Political and business leaders, transit agency officials and Georgians who use public transit have long complained that metro Atlanta's hodge-podge of bus and rail systems are inefficient. While MARTA and local bus systems have taken steps to work together, including letting passengers use MARTA Breeze cards to pay for bus rides on other systems, efforts to form a regional transit system have fizzled.

The committee's report recommends the legislature set aside funding this winter the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) would use to develop transit governance legislation to introduce in 2018. SRTA would hire an independent consultant for the work.

"We need to get third-party expertise ... people who have done this in other places," said Sen Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody.

The committee amended its report Thursday to require any proposed transit governance solution to go before voters in each affected county.

"I'm all for studying this, but the counties have to agree it makes sense," said Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta.

Gooch said the deadline for preparing legislation on transit governance that would be taken up in 2018 will be the end of next year.

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