Back in 2000, former County Commission Chairman Wayne Hill decided to start bus service in Gwinnett, in large part because it was the largest county east of the Mississippi without transit. On Halloween 2001, Gwinnett’s HOV lanes opened on I-85, simultaneously with the start of express bus service to downtown Atlanta and back. Of course, a lot has changed in fifteen years. The county’s population exploded by more than 340,000 people, from 515,296 recorded in the 2000 census to the 2015 ARC estimate of 859,800 people. The former HOV lanes, which were accessible to those cars with two or more occupants became HOT lanes, where vehicles with three or more could ride for free, and others could pay a sliding fee based on congestion that has gone as high as $15 for the 16 mile trip between Old Peachtree Road to Shallowford Road, inside I-285.
Region wide, things haven’t improved very much either, according to newly released statistics from the Texas Transportation Institute. Between 2000 and 2014, Atlanta went from being the 11th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., with 1,645,000 commuters to 9th, with 2,069,000 commuters. Back then commuters drove 45.8 million miles each day on the region’s freeways, and 39.8 million miles daily on its streets. In 2014, that increased to 51 million miles on freeways, and 46 million miles on surface streets. Commuters waste 1.459 million hours each year, or 52 hours per person, the same number of wasted hours per person we had back in 2000.
This week, people living or working in Gwinnett County, along with those who pass through it, have been having conversations about transportation, called The Gr8 Exchange. From impromptu lunchtime discussions at a Chick-Fil-A to presentations at Rotary Club meetings, Gwinnettians have talked about what they think the county’s biggest transportation challenges are, and how to solve them. And all have been urged to participate in a survey by texting JOIN to 74029, or by completing it online.
Tonight, Peach Pundit will be joining in on that conversation, and you are invited to participate. Buzz Brockway will moderate a conversation between attendees and Charlie Harper, Stefan Turkheimer, George Chidi and me between 7 and 8 PM at the 1818 Club, on the third floor of the Gwinnett Chamber building, 6500 Sugarloaf Parkway. Stop by beginning at 6:30 for appetizers and to grab a seat.
Afterwards, we’ll adjourn to the nearby Arena Tavern at 2000 Satellite Boulevard for a traditional Peach Pundit Road Show. If you can’t make the conversation, stop by the road show, or vice versa. We look forward to seeing some of you. Others, not so much.