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Clayton County MARTA Could Be Big Economic Generator

On March 21, MARTA will launch its first three bus routes in Clayton County.
On March 21, MARTA will launch its first three bus routes in Clayton County.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

Maria Saporta weighs in on MARTA's expansion in to Clayton County.

 In one short year, Clayton County has gone from being the Atlanta region’s ugly duckling to its beautiful new swan.

The reason is simple. MARTA.

On March 21, MARTA will launch its first three bus routes in Clayton, and more bus lines will be added in August and in December. The plan is also to provide commuter rail service in the next five to seven years.

Clayton County overwhelmingly passed a one-cent MARTA sales tax last November ─ doing what almost no other government in Georgia has done in more than four decades.

It chose to make transit an integral part of its future.

Clayton now joins the city of Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties in making MARTA the regional transit system first envisioned back in 1971. The other two counties that were supposed to be part of MARTA ─ Cobb and Gwinnett ─ voted it down.

It is a bold move by Clayton ─ one of the poorest counties in the region. It will be investing about $45 million a year in MARTA because its residents believe in the future of transit.

The timing for Clayton couldn’t be better. Development trends show that companies want to be close to transit because that’s where young people want to live and work.

Clayton is positioning itself for to be competitive for future economic development while giving its residents new ways to get to places where they work, live, play, shop and study.

A recent study looking at the top 25 metro areas in country shows that metro Atlanta is among the cheapest cities to live ─ when looking at just housing costs.

But when one includes transportation costs with housing, Atlanta becomes one of the most expensive metro areas in the country.

Why? Because we have under-invested in transit.

Clayton, seeking to be competitive in the 21st century by joining MARTA, is leading by example.

So Cobb and Gwinnett, do you want to lag behind in the 20th century?  Or are you paying attention to the sizzle that is coming to Clayton ─ on the MARTA bandwagon?

Maria Saporta is editor of SaportaReport.com.