Gwinnett County is preparing to begin a new effort to come up with a plan for developing the county’s transit system.
County commissioners voted Tuesday to award a nearly $1.49 million contract to Washington D.C.-based Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning Inc. to conduct work on the plan. This plan will replace the Connect Gwinnett plan that was the basis for two failed referendums on transit expansion in 2019 and 2020.
“This contract is for professional services to advance a new transit development plan to improve the accessibility, connectivity and mobility of transit throughout the county and the region,” Gwinnett Transportation Director Lewis Cooksey said.
Foursquare is no stranger to transit planning efforts, even in metro Atlanta. Cooksey said the firm has national experience in transit planning.
“Foursquare has completed over 30 transit development plans and has local experience in working with regional partners like the Atlanta Regional Commission and MARTA,” Cooksey said. “They demonstrate a strong understanding of the Gwinnett standard and the team brings a new perspective with national experience.”
But, transit expansion has proved to be a complicated goal to achieve for Gwinnett County officials.
After the Connect Gwinnett plan was adopted by county commissioners in 2018, the first stab at putting it into effect was the March 2019 referendum on joining MARTA and instituting a sales tax to pay for the county’s participation in the system.
The regional transit agency would have used Connect Gwinnett as its blueprint for expanding into the county, but voters rejected it.
The plan was then retooled in 2019 and 2020 and put back on the ballot in November 2020, but this time it was presented as a sales tax to support an expansion of the county’s existing Gwinnett County Transit system. That referendum also failed, albeit by a small margin.
County commissioners then turned around and approved the creation of new transit routes, including service connecting to the Mall of Georgia and Suwanee areas as well as microtransit in Snellville, through the county’s annual budget approved earlier this month.
But, there are frustrations among commissioners about the limited amount of transit service outside of Lawrenceville and southwest Gwinnett which could offer a window in some areas a new transit development plan could look at.
“If you live in Snellville, you can’t take a bus to the Mall of Georgia,” Commissioner Jasper Watkins told his colleagues in an informal discussion Tuesday morning.
The transit development plan is separate from the Gwinnett comprehensive transportation plan that has been put out for a request for proposals. The comprehensive transportation plan looks at all forms of transportation while the transit development plan looks solely at transit systems, ranging from local bus service routes to paratransit, microtransit, express services into Atlanta and bus rapid transit.
“Similar to the comprehensive transportation plan, we will go out for public input and many of those efforts will be done together,” Cooksey said. “We’ll be coordinating efforts so we won’t be flooding people with requests for information.”