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All aboard the 'Brain Train': Athens-Atlanta line will change how we travel

To say the reactions I have received to the "Brain Train" idea are overwhelming is somewhat of an understatement.

I knew a commuter rail connecting Athens to Atlanta and points in between has been contemplated before, but I could not imagine the real desire present with working professionals to have this transportation option available.

The "Brain Train" will link great universities throughout metro Atlanta with suburban areas and large employers in Midtown and downtown. Plans call for 12 proposed stops: Athens, Bogart, Winder, Cedars Road, Lawrenceville, Reagan Parkway, Lilburn, Northlake, Tucker, Emory University, Atlantic Station and Atlanta.

It really is not too hard to see why a Lilburn mother would leave her sedan close to home and take a train trip to work near Emory, or why researchers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention would ride over to the Athens Veterinary Research Center for a series of meetings instead of fighting traffic.

The "Brain Train" is capable of offering something virtually unavailable in Atlanta traffic - predictability. You will know that your trip to and from work will depart and arrive at a set time. As I tell those I talk to about the train: "Traveling to Atlanta will take as much time as it would if you were able to drive with no cars on the road."

By riding instead of driving, you are free to read, work on a laptop or meet with colleagues. We are investigating technology options to provide reliable wireless Internet access.

In addition to scheduling stability, the "Brain Train" will produce immediate benefits for our environment. Estimates predict we will remove more than 5,000 automobile trips from morning and evening rush hours. Fewer cars means improved air quality, less congestion and improved traffic flow for the entire region.

And the train makes sense economically. Because the service will essentially run along existing rights of way, there will be no need to build massive additional infrastructure. In appropriate areas near "Brain Train" hubs, millions will be invested by private companies experienced in redevelopment and infill projects.

For areas between Gwinnett Technical College, Georgia Gwinnett College and the University of Georgia, the "Brain Train" will provide an incentive for companies to locate in our emerging bioscience research corridor. These are the types of companies that will bring high-quality, higher-paying jobs to the region.

While we may be a few years away from our inaugural cross-metro ride, we are taking steps now to make sure everyone in Georgia knows what is in the works and how it will have a materially beneficial effect on their day-to-day lives.

The community-focused "Georgia Brain Train Group" and its steering committee are working to educate people about the benefits commuter rail will have for everyone, for those who choose to ride and even those that don't. Shortly, we will have a Web site - www.georgiabraintrain.com - available with regularly updated information.

In the meantime, I look forward to our continued success as we prepare to bring the "Brain Train" to a station near you soon. Please stay tuned - there is more to come.

Emory Morsberger is chairman of the Georgia Brain Train Group and CEO of the Morsberger Group, which focuses on rehabilitation and revitalization projects.