Is Gwinnett County traffic bad enough to push voters to join MARTA?

By Tyler Estep

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Traffic in Gwinnett County is really bad. Beyond really bad.

Just ask William Mayfield. He’ll tell you.

“I get really disgusted when I get on I-85 sometimes,” the Grayson man says.

Mayfield’s not alone.

The stretch of I-85 between Ga. 316 and Spaghetti Junction is among the most chronically congested in metro Atlanta. Thousands of commuters inch along that piece of interstate, and the county’s collection of other crowded corridors, every single day. A quarter-million folks from Gwinnett spend more than half an hour commuting to work each day, each way.

Many spend much longer than that.Traffic in Georgia’s second most populous county has reached a kind of critical mass. But is it bad enough to convince folks to join MARTA?

Gwinnett’s political and demographic evolution will play a huge role in the success or failure of its March referendum on the matter. In the nearly 30 years since Gwinnett voters rejected MARTA, surveys and polls have shown attitudes toward transportation becoming increasingly more favorable.

However, the referendum’s margin of victory or defeat is likely to be slim. So is the traffic-related disgust that folks like Mayfield feel prevalent enough to convince otherwise transit-averse people to pay to join MARTA — prevalent enough to help swing the results?

Maybe. Just maybe.

“People who would never even think about the idea of transit being a viable idea for Gwinnett County, the more times they have to travel up and down the I-85 corridor, the more likely they are to become open to the idea of transit,” Gwinnett Commission Chair Charlotte Nash said. “Now some of them are probably thinking ‘transit for everybody else so there’s more room for my car.’ But people are talking about transit I never thought I would hear talking about transit.”

Molly Bloom