'Smart' Transit Option Unveiled in Cobb
An airport-style people mover system linking the Town Center area to Dunwoody was detailed for East Cobb residents Thursday night.
It's the suburban light rail opponent's dream alternative.
A fast rail-like transit system would link high-traffic areas in Cobb's Northwest Corridor with Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.
It would be built at a fraction of the cost and in far less time than the estimated completion of transit projects listed on next summer's Atlanta regional TSPLOST referendum.
It is being billed as far more energy efficient than standard heavy and light rail.
And it would be funded entirely with private sources.
Does it sound too good to be true?
The man proposing the "Maglev" option -- short for magnetic levitation, the technological backbone for transit lines elevated above thoroughfares -- doesn't think so.
Tony Morris, the president and CEO of Marietta-based American Maglev Technology, unveiled his proposal to a group of around 100 citizens attending Cobb commissioner Bob Ott's town hall meeting Thursday at the East Cobb Library.
The 21.5-mile Maglev system, which would include "Big Chicken" and Delk Road stops in the East Cobb area as well service to the Town Center, Kennesaw State University and Cumberland/Galleria areas, would cost $500 million and would be finished by 2015.
Compare that to the more than $800 million in federal funding that was initially earmarked on the TSPLOST draft list for a light rail station connecting Cumberland to the Arts Center MARTA station.
Opposition in Cobb resulted in that proposal being substituted for an "enhanced premium transit service" between Acworth/Kennesaw and the Arts Center station. But that project, if approved by voters, would still cost $695 million, with construction estimated between 2020 and 2022.
Like people movers at airports (also think Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland transit system), the Maglev line would be driverless. The route stretch entirely beside Interstates 75 and 285.
"It's a smart vehicle on a stupid track," Morris quipped.
He esimated that the system, when fully built out, could serve 60,000 riders a day, and would need 34,000 trips a day to break even. Each one-way trip would cost $4 per rider.
Free parking would be available at each of the nine stops, with lots to be built privately by AMT and its partners.
The catch? If revenues fall short of estimates, Morris said communities served by the system would be asked to help make up the difference.
Another catch? The Maglev proposal doesn't solve the problem of Atlanta-bound Cobb commuters; the only way to connect to MARTA on the Maglev line would be to ride all the way out to the Dunwoody stop.
Yet Ott, a vocal critic of the light rail plan who recently took a ride on the Maglev at the AMT's test track in Powder Springs, said the proposal is merely that: A chance to explore alternatives to more expensive publicly-funded transit.
"I just wanted to let everyone else see it," Ott said.
Morris said he plans to conduct more forums in 2012 and soon will meet with officials from the Cumberland Community Improvement District as he begins to gain more public feedback.
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