“Brain Train” to release results of survey.

As mentioned by Erick right here, a group of power brokers in Gwinnett is getting behind the idea of commuter rail from Atlanta to Athens. They call themselves the “Georgia Brain Train Group” and they’re having a press conference tomorrow to release results of a just completed survey on the subject. I’ve been told the survey will indicate surprisingly strong support for commuter rail among Gwinnett residents.

Here’s a snippet of an email I received this afternoon:

The Georgia Brain Train Group will share findings from a never-before-attempted survey executed by Landmark Communications that capture the true atmosphere of commuter needs and opinions in one of the Atlanta region’s most populous areas, Gwinnett County.

The Georgia Brain Train Group will distribute the survey results during a press conference beginning at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 19, at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse on The Lawrenceville Square.Emory Morsberger will then lead a presentation on the importance of the project and its regional implications.

The Georgia Brain Train is a commuter rail system proposed to connect Athens to Atlanta along existing lines now used to move freight. The low-impact transportation alternative would also link Georgia’s universities, suburban residential areas and the large employers and office campuses in Midtown and Downtown.

5 comments

  1. todd rehm says:

    The weak point is the cost.

    As I discussed in an Op-Ed in Sunday’s Gwinnett AJC (http:/tinyurl.com/j8c4n), the financial viability is the weak point.

    Unfortunately, the Brain Train folks don’t have good numbers to work with, and without good numbers, they can’t realistically predict the cost.

    In 2001, the state-hired consultants determined that a one way trip from Lawrenceville to Atlanta on this exact route would cost $6.40 each way and take 55 minutes. High cost and not much, if any, time savings, especially if you don’t happen to work right where the train lets off.

    Who wants to get on MARTA for an hour to get from the Brain Train depot to their office after a 55-minute ride?

    The $6.40 one-way ticket cost has to be higher now for two reasons.

    First is gas prices. Actually, trains run on diesel, but you see the point. That part of the cost equation, i.e., train fuel has at least doubled, possibly tripled since the last cost estimates.

    Second is the cost of construction. It was estimated at $316 million in 2000, and that also will be higher today.

    Yet another cost that is not yet accounted for is insurance. CSX, who owns the tracks, requires a minimum of $500 million in liability insurance before you start moving passengers on their rails. Any idea how much that will cost?

    Finally, there’s the CSX railway. They own the tracks and will only let the Brain Train Trust play on them if they want to. The state cannot force them to allow passengers, as federal law pre-empts all state regulation of railroads. They can’t even exercise eminent domain and buy the tracks if CSX doesn’t want to let them. CSX just released their first quarter 2006 earnings figure of $2.3 billion and as of today’s bell, they had $14.76 billion dollars market capitalization. Nobody plays in their yard without their permission, and nobody pushes them around.

    I’d be interested to know if Landmark asked any questions that include the $6.40 (certainly more now) one-way price in the equation.

    Gwinnettians who follow transportation policy will remember the furor that ensued over a private proposal to make 316 limited-access from Gwinnett to Atlanta. It was the $4.60 each way that caused the deal to crater under public pressure.

    I actually favor passenger rail, but this project is just not the right one. It doesn’t make sense financially, and when commuters won’t pay the fare, we’ll be stuck subsidizing yet another MARTA.

  2. Demonbeck says:

    Unless we are talking about a high speed commuter train connecting Savannah, Macon and Atlanta, we are wasting our breath.

  3. Tuckertown says:

    Too expensive huh? Any idea how much one-lane of a mile of interstate highway costs? Try a cool $10 mil., or about $720 million to build one lane of highway to Athens. Rail – $377 mil. Even if you throw in higher costs today versus 5 years ago, rail still is cheaper. Plus, the road advocates leave out the fact that the costs for building roads is going up just as fast.

    Second, when was the last time you drove from Lawrenceville to downtown Atlanta at rush hour? You’re not getting there in 55 mins. unless there are perfect conditions on the road. The reality is that it usually takes 1 1/2 hrs. or more to make the same trip. In a car you just sit there and get fat. On a train you can read, work, etc. Again, trains win easily.

    Third, what are the TOTAL costs to drive your car 70 mi. round trip from Lville to Atl? Parking at 5.00/day; gas at 3 gal.x $3.00/gal = $9.00/day; + Insurance; + Maintenance = $14.00 PLUS. Rail – $12.80. Again, Rail Wins Easily.

    To say that no one will ride it because it doesn’t go everywhere is misguided, but also misses the point. Misguided b/c it will go to the front door of plenty of folks who work at Emory, Atlantic Station or Downtown. And misses the point b/c the goal is not to find a solution that replaces roads. Instead, rail will skim 10%-$15 of the drivers off of the highways to reduce traffic for the folks still driving. Seems to me the biggest proponents of rail shold be the ones who want to stay in their cars.

    Rail is such an easy choice that they ought to call it the No-Brainer Train.

  4. StevePerkins says:

    I find it funny how whenever somebody with a calculator tries to spell out “the TOTAL costs of driving”, they always make-believe that taking transit means you can throw your car away. Really? How are you going to GET to and from the train station in the first place? Tell me all about how you’re going to do your weekend errands and socializing on a bicycle in the oh-so-pedestrian-friendly town on **Lawrenceville**!

    Put that $14/day of “Insurance and Maintenance” back on the table, pal… you’re not dodging that bullet. That reality check being made, the cost difference between transit and driving is now (by your own figures): $14.00 vs $12.80.

    What does your $1.20 buy you? It buys you the pleasure of trading one commute for two or three… a commute by car to the rail station, a commute by rail into town, and probably a commute by MARTA to your final destination. You get to most likely LOSE time, from the combination of all those transfers and layovers with the uncertainty of MARTA’s erratic train scheduling. But don’t worry, there’s a bonus… now you’re employer will expect you to whip out the laptop and cell phone and WORK during your morning commute, while sitting in the comfort of your molded hard-plastic bench for two-hours each way.

    I’ve already hashed out my thoughts on the political side of things at “http://steveperkins.net/blog/brain-train-looks-like-a-true-railroading”, but Tuckertown’s comment was just so silly I had to write a special addendum here.

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