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Transit supporters announce forum, rally

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Over two days, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 732, and Friends of Clayton Transit, will host a forum and rally in support of public transportation in Clayton County.

On Saturday, the two groups will engage in what they have termed "Transit Education Extravaganza Day." One facet of the event is a forum in which political candidates will be asked their positions on funding public transit. On Tuesday, supporters of the groups will march to the Clayton County Administration Building and ask the Board of Commissioners (BOC) to make the county's upcoming straw poll on paying into the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) system a binding referendum.

The forum and rally will take place from 3 p.m., to 7 p.m., at the Tara Center, located at 7651 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro. The political forum will be moderated by Lee Biola, president of the Atlanta-based Citizens for Progressive Transit.

On Tuesday, there will be a "Transit Resurrection Rally," starting at 5:30 p.m., at the Xpress commuter park-and-ride lot, located near the corner of Smith Street and Tara Boulevard, in Jonesboro. According to ATU Local 732 President Benita West, the rally will start at the station and wind it's way to 112 Smith Street, where demonstrators will speak at the BOC's regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m.

West said the event will be family oriented, featuring moonwalks, food, entertainment, face-painting, and musical performances. She said supporters will work to clear up myths about recent transportation legislation, share information about the county's upcoming non-binding transit referendum, and highlight the impact on the local economy from the recent loss of the C-TRAN bus service.

"The economic impact is already being felt in a lot of the apartment communities here," West said. "We have people paying as much as $60 a week to get to work without transit. Some people are working for pennies. We are facing layoffs at MARTA as well, but it's in no comparison to the loss of an entire system. A lot of them [former C-TRAN bus drivers] have no work, or are working where they can."

Biola, who will moderate Saturday's political forum, said not having public transportation has caused numerous problems for the county.

"One of the main things is that there is not as much of an incentive for businesses to move to Clayton County, because fewer workers will be able to come to their businesses. We think there needs to be both rail and bus service to have an effective transportation system."

Biola also said the BOC should let citizens directly decide whether to join MARTA. "That would require them to meet with MARTA and negotiate an agreement about what the sales tax would pay for. That would lead to commuter rail and other public transportation to come to Clayton much quicker," Biola said.

For more information, call ATU Local 732, at (404) 223-5122.