Why Vote NO

A MARTA expansion will be a burden from which Gwinnett will never escape.  And many of us will not see any benefit in our lifetimes, even though we will pay for it until we leave the county.  Gwinnett spokespeople are running around showing fancy posters and presenting what they claim are just the facts.  But none of the facts they present paint the project in a negative light, so citizens only get one side of the picture.

None of their posters show the dramatic decline in transit ridership in almost every city in the U.S. over the last decade, nor do they show that bus ridership in Gwinnett is only sixty percent of what it was just 8 years ago.  They don’t show that MARTA is $2.2 billion in debt or that user fees only cover 14% of the cost of a ride on a Gwinnett bus.  So here is some of the information they left out.

Some reasons to vote ‘NO’

  • The ‘penny’ sales tax increase is actually a 17% increase in the total amount of sales tax we pay each year (from current 6% to 7%) NOT a 1% increase.  But since only 2% of that tax is Gwinnett, the one penny tax represents a 50% increase in the amount of Gwinnett sales tax we pay.
  • The MARTA tax would be a 50% increase in the tax you pay on groceries in Gwinnett.
  • Your total Gwinnett County taxes will go up between six and ten percent.  The average home in Gwinnett pays $2,600 in property taxes.  Add to that average monthly spending of just $2,000 per month and your total tax bill goes up 6%.
  • Bus ridership nationwide is down almost 20% since 2008 and is now at its lowest level in the past 30 years.  This is despite huge increases in the total number of commuters.  See Declining bus ridership elsewhere on this site.
  • Technologies that will be widley available before any MARTA train comes to Gwinnett will largely make most of the current plan obsolete.  See Will technology reduce the need for Mass Transit? on this website.
  • DeKalb signed a MARTA contract in September 1971 that was for 50 years and included a 1 penny sales tax that would drop by 50% after 11 years.  The penny sales tax has been extended more than five times since 1971 by the General Assembly without a vote from residents even though the original 1971 contract required a voter referendum.
  • The transit funding request also includes $100,356 every year for a requested transit contracts manager position that would manage the MARTA contract, another cost born by the taxpayer.
  • Gwinnett County paid almost $1 million just to develop the transit plan that is being used to push the MARTA expansion.  That was our one million dollars.
  • We don’t even know how much money we are committed to!  Read this line from the contract: The Authority shall annually provide Gwinnett its calculation of and supporting documentation for the actual cost of such services and purposes. Within a reasonable time of issuance of the Authority’s audited financial statements for its 2025 Fiscal Year, the Authority shall reconcile the total of such actual costs incurred to the total monthly payments received therefor, and report such reconciliation to Gwinnett. In the event that such monthly payments were insufficient to meet such actual costs, Gwinnett shall timely pay the difference to the Authority as additional financial resources.
  • MARTA has never been profitable and nobody expects it to become so at any point in the future.  They are currently $2.2 billion in debt.
  • MARTA will begin taking money from Gwinnett.  In exchange for access to the overall MARTA system, Gwinnett will pay to MARTA an amount to cover a share of the O&M and State of Good Repair costs for the overall MARTA system.  And get this – For the first six years, 29.0 % of the sales tax proceeds received by Gwinnett will be paid to MARTA on a monthly basis for the cost of the bus system, as expanded, and for Gwinnett’s share of the O&M and State of Good Repair costs for the overall system. The amount of these payments will be trued up with actual costs at the end of the six-year period.
  • MARTA does not release any information they don’t want to, so we can’t find out, for instance, how much each ride costs the taxpayer.
  • The current deal will most certainly change as MARTA continues to lose money.  The monthly payment to MARTA may be renegotiated after the initial six-year period based upon changes in the factors that affect it.
  • Adding a train station in Gwinnett just four miles from the current station will cost over a billion dollars yet will benefit very few residents (mainly those that have property to sell to MARTA).  Residents in Buford, Dacula, Grayson, Centerville, Snellville and even Lawrenceville will not have an easier time driving to a MARTA station even though they will bear the same cost.
  • MARTA will be able to develop Gwinnett County as it sees fit.  As a governmental entity, MARTA is not subject to local zoning processes.  Gwinnett will have the right to review plans for such development and provide comments, and MARTA agrees to consider Gwinnett’s comments but that doesn’t mean they will accept them.
  • If everything goes according to their plan the project will cost $12 billion (over 30 years), of which almost $2 billion will be bonds (debt) which will not be paid off until 2044.  Some have estimated the actual cost at $20 billion.
  • Fares on the Gwinnett bus system currently only cover 14% of the cost of the system.  If we merge with MARTA that number drops to around 7%.
  • Why did Gwinnett County Chairman Nash say they wanted to do the deal with MARTA now?  Because they fear that Democrats may be running the county in a few years and the Republicans wouldn’t get to approve the contract.  That is like saying you are going to die in a few years anyway, why not just jump off a cliff today.
  • MARTA needs to team up with Gwinnett to force residents to sell their land.  Since MARTA does not have eminent domain power, Gwinnett agrees to use its authority to condemn property that is needed for projects in Gwinnett.
  • As soon as the referendum passes, MARTA will begin the takeover of Gwinnett’s transit system and our existing bus fleet and associated equipment will be transferred to MARTA without further compensation.
  • The contract gives Gwinnett the option to issue even more debt for projects in the Plan.
  • Look at cities where they have busses and trains – they still have traffic problems. New York, DC, etc. People wake up each day and make a choice of what they will do – if they don’t want to sit in traffic for an hour they can move closer to their job or get a job closer to where they live. Or find a job where they can work from home.  If traffic were to suddenly reduce by 5% (nobody expects bus service to do that) then more people would decide to drive and we would be right back where we started.
  • Marta is already planning to upgrade their bus fleet and will most likely take their worn out busses and put them on the lesser used routes like new Gwinnett lines, replacing Gwinnett’s new busses in the process.
  • Stacey Abrams is pushing the plan and she doesn’t even live in Gwinnett.  Elizabeth Warren is talking it up and she doesn’t even live in the state!
  • The referendum was moved away from the ballot last year costing taxpayers an estimated $769,000.  The County claims no ulterior motive, but some believe they are hoping that a low turnout will give it a chance to pass.

The question on the ballot is surprising (and intentionally, in the opinion of many) biased in that it doesn’t mention MARTA or the tax increase.  Here is the actual wording

“Gwinnett County has executed a contract for the provision of transit services, dated as of August 2, 2018. Shall this contract be approved? YES __ NO __”

We strongly suggest that you vote NO.

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