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Live at the Cobb Commission Meeting

It's a light agenda tonight, but maybe there will be a surprise.

We're here live at the Cobb County Commission meeting. It's a light agenda, but commissioners are expected to approve a contract to build the new Austell Senior Center. Commissioners got a look earlier today at a master plan for Northeast Cobb's Mabry Park and are expected to approve it tonight.

7 p.m. There is a crowd here from the Friends of Mabry Park. They all have on blue shirts that say "Imagine" on the front and "...a place...." on the back with the group's website.

7:07 The pledge and prayer are out of the way.

Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Bob Ott recognize Walton High School’s men’s lacrosse team, men’s soccer team and women’s tennis team, all of whom won state championships this spring.

7:21 May 2011 is proclaimed Asthma Awareness Month.

A proclamation is presented to the Lockheed Martin Leadership Association designating June 5 through 11 as Management Week in Cobb County.

7:23 A public hearing opens on the consideration of the Johnson Ferry Road Urban Design Plan. Many meetings have been held with businesses and residents about how to improve this area in East Cobb.

7:27 Staff has created a design with four hub areas along the road. Some will be more urban in nature and others more residential.

7:36 A speaker from the East Cobb Civic Association is excited that this is before you now. Community has worked long and hard on this plan.

A new speaker is an original member of steering committee. She thanks Commissioner Bob Ott. "It is critical that we have an urban design for this area."

Larry Savage says he doesn’t think the government should go out and determine how a community should look. He says that the community involvement has been poor and that the meetings weren't advertised very well.

7:43 Ott says this is the first step in a process, as a guide for development. The design has been community-driven. Many changes have been made to address any concerns.

The board accepts the design plan unanimously.

7:51 It's public comment time.

A speaker thanks police for their help in a recent robbery at his house.

A new speaker is opposed to proposed cuts in CCT routes. She says her housekeeper has no other way to get to her house.

Another speaker rides the 65 bus and says she has no other way to get to work.

8:15 The consent agenda, which includes approval of the master plan for Mabry Park, passes.

8:17 Several transportation items are approved, including improvements to Bells Ferry Road, Jiles Road and Barrett Parkway.

8:19 Commissioners approve a design/build contract with Choate Construction for the Austell Senior Center. The old building was flooded in 2009.

8:25 And we are adjourned.

GaPatriot May 30, 2011 at 08:47 PM
By all means, we must lose money on the bus system so this particular housekeeper can get to this particular homeowner's house. Never occurred to anyone to (1) Ask a friend or relative to take you, or the lady who owns the house to go pick her up; (2) take a taxi. If you do not own a car, pay car insurance, maintenance, repairs, upkeep and gasoline, you should be able to afford to take a taxi to and from work.
Rio May 30, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Unfortunately GaPatriot, not everyone makes enough money to afford their own car or a taxi. Many people depend on the bus system to be able to get to and from work, the grocery store or the doctor. I'm glad that you are so financially set that you don't understand the issues facing lower income families. But I have had to take advantage of the CCT system a couple of times and I was very glad it was available. If we cut routes then we may be taking away the means for many to get around our county and that will only further economic troubles.
Inside-Out May 30, 2011 at 11:21 PM
I would like for someone to show me that CCT is a plus for the county and not a drain on our tax dollars. I just read about how much the county is going to pay to replace all of the old buses. Everytime I see one of these buses traveling down the road there are only 6 or 7 people on them. Maybe we could cut this operation down to half the size it is now.
C.J. May 31, 2011 at 01:55 AM
I believe that taxpayers should be willing to fund buses and trains for the same reason that taxpayers fund roads...they help grow the economy. They have the added benefit of reducing congestion and smog.
Inside-Out May 31, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Unfortunately In these tough economic times we no longer can continue to cover the expense of unfunded mandates. When public safety is being effected then it is time to make necessary cuts. I hate to think that Fire and Police are being furloughed so the buses can run. CCT was a bad idea from the start. Cobb didn't want MARTA in our county, so we come up with our own entirely different system that transports a few to the MARTA system. CCT is a complete waste. Maybe they should be looking at reducing these services, if not eliminating them. Look into the cost of operating this system against the ridership numbers. Show me some numbers where CCT has added to the economy more than it has taken. These smoking buses add to congestion and smog. Nothing like stopping a lane of traffic during rush hour so one or two can board these buses to go into Atlanta. Go by the transfer station at Cumberland and just watch what is taking place for a few hours.
Teresa Jones May 31, 2011 at 03:47 PM
It is very easy for those of us who do not use the CCT to sit and critize those that need it. As long as there is a need, then yes we need CCT. Stop penalizing those that aren't lucky like us to have cars. Those who ride the buses probably think those of us who drive cars should be riding the buses. The demand is causes gas hikes, pollution from some cars, fatalities from wrecks and injuries which means some may have insurance or not and leads to high insurance premiums, people driving with no licenses, people talking and texting on their phones, drunks driving and the list goes on. Gesh.....All these people want to do is ride a bus to work and they aren't causing half the problems that are going on with vehicles. Give me a break!
C.J. May 31, 2011 at 10:49 PM
I don't know if a study was specifically performed in Cobb County, but here are the results of a 2010 Michigan study: "Overall, public transit contributed nearly $804 million in social benefits to Michigan communities in 2008. These benefits exceeded transit operating and maintenance costs by as much as $252 million. In other words, transit agencies in Michigan delivered $1.46 of economic value for each dollar spent on providing transit services. This value was in addition to the actual transportation service provided to the individual consumer...Public transit agencies contributed $1 billion to economic activity as a direct result of their hiring and spending, as well as through the re-spending of out-of-pocket cost savings by riders. The combined output impact is estimated at $1.3 billion in 2008." Generally speaking, such economic benefits are reproduced wherever public transportation exists. Businesses set up shop where there's access to public transportation, giving them access to a greater supply of both labor and customers. More customers means more sales, and more sales means more jobs. http://www.truscottrossman.com/AboutUs/Newsroom/tabid/67/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/51/Study-says-Michigans-Public-Transit-Sector-Sustained-9200-jobs-Contributed-1-Billion-to-MI-Economy.aspx
Rio May 31, 2011 at 11:02 PM
I agree that in these tough economic times, our officials need to reassess and possibly change position on CCT. I was never opposed to MARTA in Cobb County. Possibly that situation could be reevaluated. If we keep CCT, and a particular route has a low number of users, then possibly older buses could be replaced with smaller more efficient buses. I think that with some time and creative thinking, the system could be redesigned to be more cost efficient for the city and still useful for those that need it in our community. If that can't be done, then maybe it should be turned over to MARTA.
Rio June 01, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Chris, I think you and I were typing our above comments at the same time, so I did not see yours until after I commented. Thank you for taking the time to post some numbers for us. If it can work in Michigan, then I'm sure it can work other places, like Smyrna. With some adjustments of course. Thanks again.
Inside-Out June 01, 2011 at 04:09 AM
First off you are talking about "social benefit", which is at best just a guess. Michigan's population is 9,969,727, compared to Cobb's 714,692, Over a 9 million person difference. People in Cobb are not riding CCT for the most part. It is another case of the have's paying for the have nots. Most drunk driving arrest and fatality accidents happen after midnight, long after the last buses have run for the day. Apparently all of these people concerned with smog have not been behind a CCT bus to witness what these buses pump out. They are buses, not trollies that run on magic air. CCT needs to look at adding more smaller buses that are eco friendly. Increase the fares so the system can become self supporting. Why do the taxpayers of Cobb need to supply a dishwasher in Atlanta a mode of transportation and pay for it. If CCT was doing such a good job of boosting econmoic activity in Cobb then maybe we wouldn't be in the econmic dilemna that we are in. You don't see any bus stops in front of the affluent homes that Cobb is full of.
Inside-Out June 01, 2011 at 04:15 AM
Research so far shows " CCT's budget for the 2010 fiscal year is $19.1. 30-35 percent of the budget is financed through bus fares. Local operating funds are projected to decrease due to the County's budget deficit and declining tax revenues. While the CCT system receives state and federal funding, the funds are not sufficient to offset the expected two-year budget shortfall." " The CCT budget and service cuts follow similar cutbacks from other transit providers in the region. Faced with financial crises, MARTA is cutting its service by more than 10 percent, and GRTA Xpress is raising fares starting this October, and may run out of funds by the next fiscal year. Clayton County ended its local transit operations back in March due to lack of funds."
Rio June 01, 2011 at 11:25 AM
Point taken, Inside-out. All I was saying is that I believe the system should be reevaluated. I feel Cobb having a transit system for those who need it is important. Fares may need to be raised. Smaller, more cost efficient, energy efficient buses may be an option. Turning the whole thing over to MARTA is another option. I'm sure there are even more options out there that have not yet been considered. I hate being behind one of those slow, smoggy buses as much as the next person. But I also realize that just because it's not a service that I routinely utilize doesn't mean it's not important. And yes, "Social Benefit" needs to be considered. I know in this economy some tough decisions need to be made. I just hope that all options are fully explored and the most responsible decision is found and followed.
Donna Short-Woodham June 01, 2011 at 12:13 PM
Their are a few things that could make riding the CCT desirable for the people of cobb county. The bus stops need to be redesigned most have no benches or covers to stand under if it's raining. Driving by those bus stops with mothers and their children sitting on the ground in the hot sun and so close to the road makes me sad. We are civilized human beings. It is the duty of the commissioners of Cobb County to protect its citizens. Bus stops without seats are covers should not be excepting to our political leaders. The CCT should create a bus route on Atlanta road. It should go straight to Marietta Square and to the hospital and it should go the opposite way going towards the 285 hwy bridge and meet up with the Marta buses on Atlanta rd. These buses take you right in to town and to a Marta train station faster . Atlanta rd is under utilized by Cobb Commissioners . I have heard that they are trying to sell the bus company.
Rio June 01, 2011 at 12:27 PM
If the bus system is already losing money, I doubt adding seats and covers is currently an option, but maybe something to keep in mind for a better economic time or if the system is purchased by an outside source. Surely either CCT or a new owner can come up with a redesign so that we can keep some sort of transit system available in Cobb without taking away services or routes.
Amy Barnes June 01, 2011 at 03:14 PM
There are alternatives to the bus system - I used to work at a retail store where SO many people did not have their own ride to work. Managers took up the slack and either picked up co-workers along the way, or other workers stepped up to the plate and drove some of these people to work. I "cheated" and rode my bike when I lived 3.5 miles away. Some people in my community operate "shared cars" where people with cars give out their cell numbers and schedules, and shopping trips are consolidated. I lived like this when I was at college in Florida, and my group was extensive - about 20-30 people. And some cab companies operated vans where the dispatch would coordinate shared "cabs" and we would use this as an opportunity to meet, greet, and network. Also, for the homeless, we had a community network where, at a moment's notice, someone would receive coordinated care - blankets in winter, places to stay, emergency relief from harassment, etc.
C.J. June 01, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Responding the June 1 comment at 12:09 am, I'm not clear on how one can easily dismiss a study released by the Michigan Public Transit Association and the Michigan Department of Transportation as "just a guess." Again, this study concluded that "...transit agencies in Michigan delivered $1.46 of economic value for each dollar spent on providing transit services." Note that this study didn't reference a single statewide entity. These Michigan results reflect the combined results of public transit in local communities throughout that state: "For the first time, a local transit agency can quantify the economic impact and value of bus operations on their local community." Again, I would encourage readers to click on the link and read the results. It reinforces the point that public transit is an investment that generates economic returns for the communities that invest in them in the same way that roads generate economic returns. Nobody would propose that our local public roads should pay for themselves by putting up toll booths. Why? Because we intuitively know that our economy benefits from public roads. So, we enjoy using them without having to pay a toll each time we run an errand. By the same token, we also enjoy similar economic benefits from other forms of public transportation, specifically buses and trains.
C.J. June 01, 2011 at 04:16 PM
To further bolster my point, here's a excerpt from an abstract of an article published in the "Journal of Planning Education and Research": "This article reviews the recent literature on the long-term economic benefits of public investments in transportation. It organizes the literature into six groups according to the type of benefit being measured, namely, output; productivity; production costs; income, property values, employment, and real wages; rate of return; and noncommercial travel time. The central question addressed by the papers reviewed is whether public investments in transportation yield long-term economic benefits. While the different studies arrive at different numerical answers, most of them do indicate a positive and statistically significant relationship between such investments and economic benefit measures. " http://jpe.sagepub.com/content/22/3/288.short
Inside-Out June 01, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Studies are only as good as the person(s) that do them. I have never been asked or polled as to how I actually got a business to make a purchase or to bolster the economy. How many rail / transportation studies have been done for the metro Atlanta area so far and each with different results. When you want to " study " a specific group or problem you need to comapre apples to apples. Not a group of over 9 million to a group of less that 1 million. Comparing a state to a county in excess of one thousand miles away is no way acceptable.
Inside-Out June 01, 2011 at 08:27 PM
My entire point is that our county is out of money. Can we afford to actually continue to place this burden on the taxpayers when essential services can not be met. I would ahte to think that emergency services can not be provided but we continue to carry the burden of a seldom used transit service. If the system were self supporting I would not be against it. Is the need for such a system necessary ?. Are the users willing to pay for the system ?.
Rio June 01, 2011 at 08:48 PM
I would never, ever want to sacrifice emergency services for a transit system. Our emergency services definitely take priority. But I just hope that either CCT would be sold so that we could continue to have a public transit system in Cobb, or that our current system could be reevaluated and possibly redesigned so that it could be more cost efficient and maybe even self supporting and we could therefore continue to have a public transit system in Cobb. I just don't think this is an issue that we need to toss in the towel on so quickly.
Inside-Out June 01, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Do you really think that anyone is going to buy a transit system that only make 30-35 % of its actual operating cost. Only the government would make that kind of investment.
Amy Barnes June 02, 2011 at 03:23 AM
I forgot to mention a co-worker's father operates a Church-based ride van that gives needy members rides to work and errands. This guy was *amazingly* nice. So folks, please do not give up - we CAN find creative ways to clip the budget while helping the needy.
George Lee June 02, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Very well said Amy.... I try to keep an open mind and not so much an inside-out way of thinking :) lets stay positive and work together :)
Donna Short-Woodham June 02, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Amy you should run for a local council seat in your town. If you live in Smyrna I would vote for you.
Donna Short-Woodham June 02, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Chris consider to run for your city council seat if not to late to apply. Smyrna citizens need thinkers like you and Amy. We need to embrace new ideas of alternative transportation. We need to rid the city of the dead ideas like widening roads. The money that is being used over again to widen roads or re-widen could be used for a trolley car that uses alternative gas. The SPLOST monies should stop being used to build jails and new courthouses( waste). The cities Marietta, Kennesaw , Roswell , Smyrna could buy zip cars use it to visit each town for a day of shopping eating out or climbing Kennesaw Mt.. The trolley used the same way. The cities could go in together and purchase two trolley,s The trolley could go to the different cities. If you want to bike around Roswell city hop on the trolley , Climb or jog around Kennesaw hop on a trolley. The SPLOST money is out there but it is mostly used for roads. Other cities are doing these things now and they don,t have SPLOST funds. What they do have are people who want to come in and play for a day in these cities and spend money. Cobb county has the Silver Comet, most might not know this but SCT host a marathon on it each Oct., People could stay at Marietta Hilton and trolley out to the SCT. Chattahoochee River, Kennesaw Mt. , White Water, not to mention an assortment of bike trails and parks. There should be a trolley going to these places. This is called good public relations between the cities.
Inside-Out June 02, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Wow, I haven't even thought about a trolley since Mr. Rogers neighborhood. That trolley I believe ran non stop to......Oh yea, the land of make believe.
Inside-Out June 02, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Come to think of it, nobody rode that trolley either.
Rio June 02, 2011 at 09:58 PM
Hey Inside-Out, I would love to ride a trolley. I've never ridden one in my entire life. That, will most definitely go on the bucket list. Back to the article, I noticed that in the above article, there were only two sentences regarding the CCT system, but yet this entire comment thread only focuses on that. Too bad. Road improvements were approved, as well as the design/build contract for the new Austell Senior Center. Both, in my opinion, are good things. In a world of high crime & high unemployment sometimes it's hard to stay positive. I do hope we can all see the good that is taking place at our council meetings as well as the small items that we may disagree with.

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