Turkey, mashed potatoes, and the re-birth of an idea for commuter rail

The Dunwoody MARTA station. The station is across the street from the High Street property that is a possible location for Amazon’s second headquarters — should the company choose Atlanta for its new home away from home. CASEY SYKES / CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM

A happy Thanksgiving Day to you and yours this morning. We at the Political Insider blog are taking a long weekend, and will be back at our keyboards on Monday.

In the meantime, let us offer you an interesting but relatively safe talking point for the family gathering:

Last week, state Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, was summoned to Columbus, where the House Transit Governance and Funding Commission was meeting. The chairman, state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, wanted Brockway to discuss a dead package of legislation.

House Resolution 830 and House Bill 1032 were filed in the middle of the 2016 session of the Legislature. They would allow special districts to be established in the paths of commuter rail lines, and would be allowed to levy property taxes in those specific areas.

The reasoning: “[R]eal property owners within close proximity of rail transit stations receive significant positive economic development opportunities because of such proximity….The number of available rail transit stations has a positive impact on the value of certain parcels of real property….”

Many of Brockway’s constituents rely on I-85 to get to and from work. But not all of Gwinnett County’s voters are convinced that rail is needed.

Brockway’s bill offered a path around the countywide referendums that many local governments demanded – Cobb and Gwinnett counties in particular. “Not everybody in the county has to be involved,” Brockway explained.

State Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville. AJC file

The bill never moved. “It was in the middle of the session. It was a big idea and it was different,” Brockway told me this week. He was calling from his car. What’s more, H.B. 170, which had raised the gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge repair across the state, had passed just the year before. And likely, there was no appetite for another case of heartburn – not in an election year.

“It seemed clear to me that state funding of transit was coming. I wanted to get some thoughts out there about what that should look like, and what form it should take, led me to introduce the legislation,” Brockway said.

We explored this avenue earlier this year.

Brockway is not sure what will happen next. He is also running for secretary of state next year.

“If [Tanner] and the rest of the commission like it, then they might recommend it. I’m not quite sure whether I’ll reintroduce it. I’ll kind of take his lead on that,” Brockway said.

Just before he signed off, Brockway offered one more bit of tantalizing information: He was on his way to lunch with Robbie Ashe, chairman of the MARTA board. Clearly, some wheels are turning on the issue.

Have a peaceful and thank-filled weekend.

Reader Comments 2

The rabbit
The rabbit

No more TAX on the backs of Property Owners and by the way the Rail Line and NOISE will diminish the value of Property except at the Station Stop Areas. Rapid Rail is needed but not at the cost of another Property Tax...How about additional Gas Tax . The commuters are the ones that will benefit the most.


Small area means small revenue. Also, internet means work from home.


When people can drive themselves, they have freedom - it may be slowed by other cars or wrecks, but they can choose alternate routes, leave at later times, and pick how many passengers they please.

Alternatively, mass transit forces people to give up their freedom - they must fit the transit's schedule, go to its picked starting/stopping point, and most likely ride a crowded unit where all they can do is stand next to others.

The real improvement in Atlanta would be smarter roads and intersections - the bottlenecks result from out-of-sync traffic lights, lack of turning lanes/off ramps, and ineffective use of tolls to reduce traffic at certain times of day.


People in Smyrna, Marietta, Kennesaw and Acworth should visit the outer burbs of Chicago to see what commuter rail can do for you. Particularly as the area adds millions of new residents over the next two decades.

Millennials (the key to future property values in Cobb and Gwinnett) will begin to embrace those cities as viable alternatives to the skyrocketing cost of living in the city.

Property values in and around Marietta Sq would double. Interstates will remain crowded as continued growth will fill new lanes.

And the best part: the multi-billion dollar infrastructure already exists in the form of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, under long term lease to CSX.


Many years ago the progressive thought was to build an outerloop, and a metro transit system.  The outerloop to divert truck traffic and to develop distribution centers to spur economic development in rural areas.  Thus allowing the "city centers" to expand by taking advantage of the many attributes of an urban setting.

Every rail transit system built around the time of MARTA is now twice its size and scope.



The outer loop was a scam, first and foremost. All along the right of way, where the loop was to be built, as much of the land that could be, was purchased by members of the legislature already under the gold dome. It was a boondoggle of epic proportions.

Instead of adding 4 more lanes to I-85, I-285, I-75 and I-20, build a two-way rail line right down the center of each thoroughfare.

When people sitting in their cars, going nowhere, every morning, see a train racing by they'll get "on board" mass, public transportation in an instant - so to speak.

It isn't hard.

Dickie Long
Dickie Long

@JKToole @TheCentrist That doesn't work in Chicago.  Trains go down the middle of the Ike and Ryan and both roads have been choked for decades. 


  1. […] Bill to Fund Gwinnett County Commuter Rail May Find New Life (AJC) […]


  2. […] A couple of weeks ago, while we were in Muscogee County, I had the opportunity to testify in front of the House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding, where I discussed a bill I introduced two years ago that would allow for the creation of self-taxing zones around transit stops. The funds would be used to expand rail.  I recently spoke to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the idea.  […]