After six years of inaction on transit, Gov. Sonny Perdue surprised the state when he pledged his full support for a pilot commuter rail line from Atlanta to Lovejoy and Griffin, as well as for a substantial increase in the state’s X-Press bus program.
So what happened? Why did the governor do a complete 180 and decide to take a leadership role on an issue that has been driving some people crazy?
That issue is traffic. That issue is a lack of state funding for transit. That issue is the limited options people have to get around in our region and state other than in a car.
Those are not new issues. Leaders in metro Atlanta have been pushing for transportation solutions, including commuter rail, for decades.
Until now, no amount of begging or pleading seemed to get Gov. Perdue’s attention, much less his leadership.
Yet, last Thursday, there was the governor holding a news conference with all the transportation players in his office, speaking words that regional and state leaders have wanted to hear throughout his administration.
“Let’s move out aggressively,” Perdue said. “Once I’ve made up my mind, I’m usually impatient.”
There are stories of key events that helped change the mindset of the governor and other state leaders.
In January, GDOT board members and other state transportation folks took a trip to Chicago, Boston and New York to see commuter rail in action.
On that trip, [DOT board member] Kulke told fellow board member Robert Brown: “We are 100 years behind.”
Shocking tales of delayed recognition!
I hope this turnaround is sincere and will translate into the rapid development of light rail in our state, with a line from Athens to Atlanta (the "Brain Train") high on the list of projects to finish first. We've already made significant progress to be ready for this. The Multi-Modal Center was sited with a commuter rail line in mind.
Keep your fingers crossed and the pressure on!
Here's information on our state representative and senator to help with that pressure bit.