By TASNIM SHAMMA, WABE
State lawmakers are getting ready to unveil plans for a new statewide regional transportation governance board.
Republican state Rep. Kevin Tanner, of Dawsonsville, said he has been talking to MARTA, metro Atlanta elected officials and transit agencies about the proposal for the past few months.
“I think that we will have a regional governance structure, ‘The ATL’ that it could be called,” Tanner said. “And how those operators function underneath we’ll see how that works in the next few weeks.”
The new regional governance board would work on expanding transit – including light rail in the 13 county metro Atlanta area that the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) currently serves with its buses.
A long-time supporter of a regional system is State Sen. Brandon Beach.
“We need to have a unified system that is seamless, efficient, safe and clean,” Beach said. “I want to rebrand our system to ‘The ATL’. So you would fly into The ATL, get on an ATL train, ATL bus, ATL express bus, ATL streetcar, ATL light rail, whatever we have. We would have a unified brand and I think that would help us with economic development.”
He said to be successful, a funding source separate from the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 should be identified for it.
“We have 11 separate transit operators in a 13 county region around the metro area. We want to set a framework up so we can have a seamless system around metro Atlanta for transit,” Tanner said.
Tanner said lawmakers plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks. He expects to make plans public after February 1.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the state needs to put up more funding if it wants to play a bigger role in providing public transit.
“The big step obviously is going to require that the General Assembly come to a consensus on whether we fund light rail or other light transportation other than buses,” Deal said.
Tanner said the bill would involve state funding for public transit through long-term bonds for specific projects that are of “regional and state importance.”
A MARTA spokesperson said it’s too early to comment on the rebranding effort and proposal.
This story was provided by WABE.