The Weekly–New Landmark Poll Released: Major Support for Macon-Clayton Commuter Rail

February 15, 2008

New Public Opinion Survey Commissioned by Georgians for the Brain Train Indicates 72.5 Percent of Active Registered Voters Support Passenger Rail in Macon – Atlanta Corridor

New Results Closely Mirror Strong Support from 2007 Brain Train Athens-Clarke/Oconee/Barrow/Gwinnett Polling

ATLANTA, GA (February 14, 2008) – According to a new poll commissioned by Georgians for the Brain Train and conducted by Landmark Communications Inc, 72.5 percent of 414 active registered voters support implementation of commuter rail service in the Macon-Atlanta corridor. Respondents included active registered voters in Bibb, Clayton, Henry, Lamar, Monroe and Spalding Counties.

The new polling results complement results from mid-2006, stating that 79 percent of Athens-Clarke, Oconee, and Barrow County voters are also in favor of the “Brain Train” – so called due to the concentration of more than a dozen institutions of research and higher learning in the Athens-Atlanta corridor. Connections to the UGA-Griffin campus, Mercer University Henry County Regional Academic Center, Mercer’s main campus in Macon and others lend additional credence to the “Brain Train” moniker.

“It’s been 20 years since commuter rail was first proposed,” said Emory Morsberger, chairman of Georgians for the Brain Train. “The studies, the environmental assessments and the majority of the requirements have already been completed. The people of Georgia have waited long enough for a feasible, safe, effective transportation alternative. We believe ridership will exceed expectations as we have seen in other cities and states far ahead of metro Atlanta and Georgia in providing efficient transportation options to their businesses and residents.”

Support in Gwinnett County, which would enjoy four stations in the northeast corridor, registered at 75 percent. Proponents have long discussed the value of additional connections to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Atlanta Motor Speedway and other attractions.

Respondents heard arguments both for and against the commuter rail line as part of the poll. After hearing both, an overwhelming majority, 72 percent, support a commuter rail line that would connect Atlanta and Macon. When asked if they strongly support or somewhat support the project, support jumped to 74.9 percent.

“These results affirm the findings in the Henry County Comprehensive Transportation Plan in which Henry County leaders and citizens identified commuter rail as a leading transportation infrastructure investment,” said Andy Welch, chairman, Henry County Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee.

Other highlights from the poll include:

74.2 percent believe commuter rail service in the Macon-Atlanta corridor will help create jobs

70.7 percent stated they regularly drive to work

85.7 percent believe congestion will get worse in the next 10 years

70.6 percent described “traffic congestion getting into Atlanta” as a “big problem,” more than 20 percentage points higher than education, job creation, too much development and local congestion.

59.2 percent said they would be either very likely or somewhat likely to use commuter rail service if available in the corridor

56.4 percent said that the argument against commuter rail service is that people just won’t use it is NOT PERSUASIVE

The federal and state governments have set aside $120 million to begin construction on the Macon-Atlanta rail line.

“It is essential that we invest available funds for which they are assigned,” stated former Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Wayne Shackelford. “We fear failure to use the funds approved for this service will lead to rescission and loss of [those funds].”

In late 2007, Georgians for the Brain Train expanded the advocacy group’s mission from its original focus on Athens-Atlanta to include the advent and implementation of commuter rail in the Athens-Atlanta-Macon corridor and beyond. Supporters of the organization include: A. Brown-Olmstead Associates, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Central Atlanta Progress, City of Lawrenceville, City of Lilburn, Cousins Properties, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, DeKalb County Office of Economic Development, Emory University, Griffin/Spalding Chamber and Griffin Main Street Program, Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, Henry Chamber of Commerce, Henry Council for Quality Growth, Henry County Development Authority, Landmark Communications, Mercer University, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Moreland-Altobelli, PB and SYSTRA Consulting, Morsberger Group, New Town Macon, PBS&J and Richard Bowers & Co.

Advocates understand funding for capitalization and operation will not come easy. However, a mix of new transportation funding, state property lease revenue, city and county contributions, transit oriented development (TOD) ground lease revenue and several other potential sources could all contribute to the implementation of the mutually beneficial project.

“It is critical that we have rail to Macon and other suburban areas around Atlanta,” said Mike Ford, president and CEO of New Town Macon. “This will enable Atlanta, a city which is stretched to its capacity, to connect the labor, environmental, historic and industrial resources of the mid-state and other outlying areas.”

Georgians for the Brain Train is actively participating in the Get Georgia Moving Coalition, and is planning a summit of mayors and county commissioners to explore ways cities and counties in the corridor might equitably contribute to the implementation of the project, specifically operating expenses.

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