Not the End of the Line for Transit in Gwinnett

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2019

Not the End of the Line for Transit in Gwinnett

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — Advance Atlanta — a grassroots, citizen-driven coalition working to champion existing transit and build support for comprehensive regional transit expansion throughout metro Atlanta — expresses tempered disappointment in the results of the Gwinnett County ballot referendum, but remain optimistic regarding the future of transit in the county and Metro Atlanta region.

With the support of several key leaders on this issue, including Gwinnett Board Chair Charlotte Nash and MARTA Treasurer Robbie Ashe, voters in Gwinnett were offered the choice to have their money stay in Gwinnett and an expansive transit plan to meet the needs of the citizens throughout the county. However, only 17% of Gwinnett voters cast a ballot and several who spoke publicly regarding their opposition echoed false talking points that, if passed, the referendum would divert taxpayer funds away from the county. Advance Atlanta credits extremely low voter turnout and misinformation for the critical defeat.

Advance Atlanta President James Touchton said:

“This setback only renews the focus on the need for transit expansion around the Metro Atlanta region. The members of Advance Atlanta remain dedicated to our mission of transit expansion throughout the region and will continue to work to educate and advocate on this critical issue.”

As the 8th-largest and 2nd-safest transit agency in the country, MARTA expansion remains a viable option through the newly created Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority as several counties continue to explore transit expansion. Though the failure of the referendum remains a setback for Gwinnett, Advance Atlanta believes this setback is temporary and views the referendum as a learning experience for future transit-related initiatives in Metro Atlanta. Advance Atlanta will continue to work with our pro-transit partners to support efforts to bring transit to Gwinnett and the surrounding region.

Vote Yes in Gwinnett Transit Referendum

This week kicks off the first of three weeks of early voting in the Gwinnett County ballot referendum to determine the future of transit in one of the fastest growing counties in the Metro Atlanta area. From February 25th until March 15th, anyone registered to vote in Gwinnett will be given the opportunity to vote early to approve MARTA’s expansion into the county, providing numerous benefits for residents and businesses alike. Election Day is March 19th.

Voters will be provided only the following question on their ballot:
“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 __”

Advance Atlanta urges our all Gwinnett residents to participate in this special election and vote yes.

To see if you’re registered to vote in Gwinnett, visit the Georgia My Voter Page.

For a list of early polling locations and hours, visit the list provided by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

On February 9th, Advance Atlanta held a free information session at Eagle Rock Distributing Company featuring Charlotte Nash (Gwinnett County Chair) and Robbie Ashe (MARTA Treasurer) to outline the economic, social, and business benefits of transit expansion within Gwinnett County. The event had nearly 300 registrants and was sponsored by Community Improvement District Gateway 85. In addition to a panel discussion with Ms. Nash and Mr. Ashe moderated by Gwinnett Young Professionals, Gateway 85 provided complimentary food for attendees from local Gwinnett restaurants D’Cuban Cafe, Bento Cafe, and Al Madina Bakery. In addition, Advance Atlanta hosted a table where attendees could register to vote. The event was covered in the press by numerous outlets, including Saporta Report and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


MARTA Board Approves Largest Transit Investment in 40+ Years

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) Board of Directors made history by unanimously approving the More MARTA Atlanta program which represents the region’s largest transit investment in more than four decades.

“In Atlanta in the 21st century, transit is the lifeblood of opportunity,” said Board chairman Robert L. Ashe. “It is how millions of Atlantans access jobs, school, health care and move throughout their communities. We’ve taken an important step in building the Atlanta we want for decades to come.”

The More MARTA Atlanta program will be partially funded by approximately $2.7 billion generated by a half-penny sales tax approved by city voters in 2016. Additional public and private funding will be sought to advance and expand key aspects of the program.

“Think of this as a major and transformational down payment on our future commitment to the city and to the region,” said MARTA General Manager & CEO Jeffrey Parker. “This is an important milestone, but it’s not the finish line.”

The 17-project More MARTA Atlanta program includes 22 miles of light-rail transit (LRT), 14 miles of bus rapid transit (BRT), 26 miles of arterial rapid transit (ART), two new transit centers, additional fixed-route bus service, and upgrades to existing rail stations. Atlanta residents and MARTA patrons were most supportive of transit investments along the BeltLine, in the Clifton Corridor, and on Campbellton Road.

“As Atlanta’s population grows, so must our investment in equitable and accessible transportation options,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “With development plans spanning from Greenbriar in Southwest Atlanta to Emory University, MARTA’s vote helps move us closer towards becoming One Atlanta.”

Next steps include developing costs and schedules associated with individual projects and beginning the process of securing additional funding. MARTA will also work to educate riders on various programs in the months ahead. More easily implemented projects, such as expanded bus service, have already begun.

For more details on the More MARTA program, including a map and breakdown of projects, visit https://www.itsmarta. com/moremarta.aspx.

Advance Atlanta Announces New President

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — Advance Atlanta has announced the appointment of James Touchton as the organization’s newest president and leader. Mr. Touchton’s appointment replaces the organization’s former president, Danielle Elkins, who recently resigned due to relocation out of state. Previously, Mr. Touchton served in the capacity of Programs Chair on the Board of Directors.

James Touchton was recently named the Economic Development Director for the City of Stockbridge. Previously, he was the Director of Policy and Government Affairs for the Council for Quality Growth for the previous six and a half years where e worked on a number of issues, including development ordinances, economic development initiatives, transportation and transit policy with 93 local governments and as a lobbyist at the State Capitol.  He joined the Council in 2012 after five years in the Georgia Senate Research Office as a senior policy analyst and advisor. James received his undergraduate and master’s degree from Kennesaw State University, where he served as Student Government President and a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fratenity. He remains active on several boards at Kennesaw State, including the Political Science and Master of Public Administration Boards.   In addition, he serves on the Town Center Alliance Advisory Board and is a 2015 Leadership Cobb Graduate, a 2016 Regional Leadership Institute Graduate and the 2018 KSU Political Science Alumni of the Year.  Mr. Touchton is also a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development.

“I want to thank my fellow Board Members of Advance Atlanta for entrusting me with this position and I have big shoes to fill to continue the incredible work of our previous President Danielle Elkins.” Mr. Touchton said. “As the region continues to move forward with respect to transit, from the recently approved $2.7 billion Atlanta Expansion Plan by the MARTA Board of Directors, the upcoming MARTA referendum in Gwinnett to expand to yet another new county, and the formation of the ATL-Transit Link Authority which will complement the great work of MARTA in expanding regional transit, we are at the dawn of a new era in regional connectivity. I look forward to working with our Board, the Metro Region’s counties, and our many regional partners — the Atlanta Regional Commission and our state and local elected and appointed policymakers — as we continue to the mission to ADVANCE regional transit in the Metro ATLANTA Region.”

Advance Atlanta is a grassroots, citizen-driven coalition working to champion existing transit and build support for comprehensive regional transit expansion throughout metro Atlanta.

Legislation That Could Expand Transit Passed, Heads to Governor for Approval

House Bill 930, which outlines a comprehensive regional transit plan, passed the Georgia General Assembly late on the last evening of session, paving the way for potential transit expansion in Metro Atlanta.

The bill will rebrand all Metro Atlanta transit under an umbrella governing authority, the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority, or the ATL. The governing authority will be comprised of representatives from state, county, and municipal governments as well as other transit stakeholders in the 13-county region. It would also allow the 13 metro counties to vote on a penny tax designated for transit or transit-related projects in their respective area. In addition, the bill designates Cobb County as a special district and could allow Gwinnett to vote on possibly joining MARTA.

House Bill 930 was introduced by Rep. Kevin Tanner and was supported by a sister bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Brandon Beach. Advance Atlanta applauds all of the lawmakers who supported this measure and prioritized transit during the 2018 General Session.

The bill now heads to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk for approval. He is expected to sign the bill into law, as he has previously voiced support for the legislation and earmarked $100 million towards transit expansion over the next decade.

Advance Atlanta Day @ Georgia Capitol

On Monday, March 19th, Senator Brandon Beach (R-21) delivered a Resolution to the floor designating Tuesday, March 20th as Advance Atlanta Day at the Georgia Capitol.

In his resolution, Senator Beach recognized the members and Board of Directors of Advance Atlanta in their efforts to expand transit options within Metro Atlanta and the strides the organization has made. Beyond the substantive actions Advance Atlanta has taken to advocate for transit, Senator Beach also recognized the significant reach and impact we have within the region.

Click to read the full Resolution

Advance Atlanta President & Vice President Featured in Engineering Georgia Magazine

Hot off the press! The cover of this month’s Engineering Georgia magazine “100 Influential Women to Know” issue features Advance Atlanta Vice President & Sugarloaf Community Improvement District Executive Director Alyssa Davis. Among the list of 100 women founders, CEOs, principals, rising leaders, and influencers featured with Alyssa is Advance Atlanta co-founder and current president Danielle Elkins (Civic Ideation, founder & Chief Executive Officer).

Check out the full issue of Engineering Georgia Magazine (January/February 2018) online or in print to see Danielle, Alyssa, and the full list of honorees.



Advance Atlanta Featured in Hub Magazine

Advance Atlanta was featured in the December 2017 issue of Hub Magazine discussing the state of transportation in Georgia. Check out the full article below or on the digital edition, page 12.


Improving engagement across the public transportation planning process

Over the past year, we partnered with MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning to examine how open-source, interactive tools might change how stakeholders can meaningfully engage in the public transportation planning process.

Alongside Ride New Orleans and Walk San Francisco, Advance Atlanta assessed the usefulness of the CoAXs tool. CoAXs (Collaborative Accessibility-Based Stakeholder Engagement for Public Transportation Planning) is an interactive planning tool developed by MIT with the goal of enhancing participation and creative problem solving for planning public transportation systems.

Within the tool, users can explore proposed and existing transit routes as well as examine the impact of associated variables such as changing bus speeds or frequencies.

Eight proposed Metro Atlanta transportation projects were selected and tested on the platform, giving participants the ability to toggle the projects across 32 distinct potential scenarios.

To learn more about CoAXs across these resources:

• Visit the CoAXs website
• Read MIT’s research report 
• Explore the Atlanta version of the interactive tool 


Explore the interactive tool

Welcome to the New Advance Atlanta

Wondering what we’ve been up to? You may have noticed that Advance Atlanta has a new look. But it’s more than just our look that has changed. Over the past year, we’ve been working to update our website, logo, and board structure.

So why the changes? The first one started with an opportunity to get some extra help. In 2016, we won grant funding from the American Public Transit Association for an update of our website. While our old website worked well as our organization was just beginning, we wanted a website with enhanced features that could broaden outreach capabilities.

You’ve probably also noticed that we have a new logo and color scheme. Along with the website update, we are rolling out a logo with visuals to evoke the image of transit. This new logo will enhance our stakeholders understanding of what Advance Atlanta stands for.

Finally, we have reorganized our board around five action-oriented task forces, each with a board chair position. These task forces will recruit more Advance Atlanta members to support the board in our major implementation areas. We felt it was important to include these new task forces as we create more opportunities for engagement with the creation of our new website. We are an all-volunteer board, and to increase our reach and effectiveness as an organization we need to recruit teams to assist us in each of these areas:

  • The Communications Task Force communicates the policies, work, programs, and objectives of Advance Atlanta to our stakeholders, members, sponsors, and partners through our social media, website, and newsletter and manages earned media relationships.
  • The Engagement Task Force connects Advance Atlanta to stakeholders and grassroots networks in order to create a community that can help us achieve our policy goals. This committee helps coordinate actions of geographic liaisons and gather local event information to share with members.
  • The Policy Task Force develops all annual policy statements, lobbying strategies, and leads all of Advance Atlanta’s lobbying efforts at the city, county, and state level.
  • The Events and Programs Task Force plans and executes programs and events that move forward the policies, work, and objectives of Advance Atlanta with our stakeholders, members, sponsors, and partners. This includes regional events, workshops, and other outreach initiatives.
  • The Fundraising Task Force secures funds necessary to operate Advance Atlanta at a level that enables us to achieve our goals. This includes setting up membership structures, developing and managing relationships, securing sponsorship for events, and managing grant applications.

Here’s how you can help to advance transit in Atlanta:

  • Sign up for our newsletter, and if you’ve already signed up, make sure we have your full address. We’ve changed our newsletter sign up to ask for you full home address so that we can send you information specifically targeted for you about things like local elections and public meetings. Click here to sign up or update your information.
  • If you have more time to offer, please join a task force that fits your skills or interests. Advance Atlanta is an all-volunteer organization, and we need more help to accomplish all that we’d like to do.  Email us to indicate your interest at [email protected].
  • Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved. Along with the new website, we’re working on an updated calendar of events that will be easier to use and search.

We hope you like our new look and that you’ll consider joining one of our task forces and coming to an upcoming event.


The Advance Atlanta Board