Cobb BOC and city councils meet to discuss 30-year MSPLOST public transit proposal

A map showing the proposed 30-year buildout for Cobb County public transit

by Caleb Groves April 9, 2024

Photo by Caleb Groves

On Monday, April 8, 2024, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners met with cities to discuss potential transit projects across the county for the proposed 30-year Mobility Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (MSPLOST).

The Cobb Department of Transportation, the Board of Commissioners and city council members discussed the various aspects of the potential 30-year MSPLOST referendum. If the passed the 1% sales tax would help fund a 30-year plan to expand public transit across Cobb.

City council members from across the county, including Powder Springs, Mableton, Smyrna, Kennesaw, Austell and Acworth attended the meeting to learn more about the proposed plans.

The MSPLOST is anticipated to raise over $10 billion if the referendum is passed in November of 2025.

Morgan Simmons, Deputy Director of Intermodal Services for the Cobb County Department of Transportation, presented the latest information on Cobb’s transit, where it stands today and where they would like to see it expand. She noted Cobb’s growing population, mixed with the lack of public transit options.

“We are serving about, I’d say, 200 square miles out of a vast county, Simmons said. “That’s a very small percentage in comparison to the size of our county.”

Some of the proposed plans include adding 73 miles of bus transit between seven lines of bus rapid transit, 34 miles of rapid transit, six new transit facilities and county-wide micro-transit services.

Photo by Caleb Groves

By 2030, the plan anticipates nine micro-transit facilities, covering all cities in Cobb, two new rapid transit routes, one new local route from Acworth to Town Center, completion of the new Marietta Transit Center and paratransit, voucher and vanpool expansion.

Photo by Caleb Groves

Within 10 years, Cobb DOT hopes to have four rapid transit routes, five high-capacity transit routes, countywide micro-transit and four new transit centers.

“Our network contributes to the general transportation network within the region,” Simmons said. “So, we want to be a part of reducing traffic congestion the best we can.”

Photo by Caleb Groves

Simmons acknowledged this is in the beginning stages and as time goes on and if it passes in the November referendum, the plans will become clearer.

After the Cobb DOT presentation, Simmons opened the floor to field questions from the county.

“My big problem with this whole thing is the 30-year range,” Kennesaw City Councilman Pat Ferris said. “I understand you’re thinking big, thinking large, and think you need to have $11 billion, but what I’m hearing is this is going to change, this is going to change, this may change again… There is no way to predict 30 years into the future.”

Drew Raesler Cobb Transportation Agency Director said there is no way to plan 30 years into the future. However, the county intends to be as specific and flexible as possible, utilizing the latest technology available at the time.

[Correction: In the original version of this article the quote below was attributed to Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton, who was not at the meeting. We regret the error]

Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling supported the idea behind the plan, but is unsure of a 30-year tax, and prefers the idea of a shorter time period.

“I have that fear that, that a 30-year request is going to impact our ability for the general SPLOST. The four to five years that we have and jeopardize some of the projects that we want to build in our cities.”

“Every time we’ve had a SPLOST on the ballot, we’ve always spent time and effort to educate people on the value of that SPLOST, but hitting them with 30 years that’s my biggest concern,” Easterling said.

Photo by Caleb Groves

Caleb Groves is a Journalism student at Kennesaw State University, where he is a junior.

Originally from Minnesota, Caleb moved to Georgia with his family, where he now lives in Woodstock with his Father, Stepmom and numerous pets.

When he is not in writing, in class or coaching rock climbing, he spends his time listening to music and rock climbing both indoors and out