February 14, 2008
‘Brain Train’ supporters urge passage of bills
By ARIEL HART
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/14/08
Supporters of the Athens-to-Atlanta “Brain Train” passenger rail line rallied at the Capitol Thursday morning.
In a mark of their support for more comprehensive rail plans, they released poll results that they say also show support for a Macon-to-Atlanta commuter rail line among active voters in that southern corridor.
“Rail has been studied thoroughly,” said developer and Brain Train advocate Emory Morsberger. “Now is the time to build it.”
A bill sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), who was at the rally, would allow referendums in counties or regions like Metro Atlanta for transportation taxes. The bill just passed in his committee.
Another transportation funding bill is under consideration in the House.
Rail advocates hope some compromise will fund metro Atlanta passenger rail. They say MARTA is rare among major metro transit systems in lacking significant, sustained state funding.
University of Georgia senior and Brain Train backer Emily Susko, 22, came to the rally in freezing weather because having paltry mass transit is “really a tragedy,” she said. She said rail is better for air quality than cars, and people who can’t afford cars should have a way to get around.
Most of the officials at the rally focused on the line’s capacity to reduce road congestion, create jobs, and link people to existing jobs they can’t get to now.
The poll they released Thursday found 59.2 percent of respondents would be very or somewhat likely to use a Macon-Atlanta rail service if it was built. It didn’t ask them directly whether they’d pay to build it.
The announcement of the poll results also claims that “after hearing both” arguments for and against the Macon-Atlanta line, “an overwhelming majority, 72 percent,” support the Macon line.
That’s true. The announcement doesn’t mention that the question was asked a couple of times, and the first time, pollsters got respondents on the record with an answer while giving them only positive arguments for the line.
Gabriel Sterling, a vice president of Landmark Communications, said the company tried to mimic the wording of an earlier poll that found rail support in the Brain Train counties. “In our opinion this is a very straight poll,” he said.