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Posted on: August 25, 2015

Norcross Women (a few men), a Garden Party & Transportation Talk??


By Curt Yeomans
Monday, August 24, 2015
Gwinnett Daily Post

Norcross women talk transportation as Gwinnett’s Gr8 Exchange kicks off

The Norcross Discovery Gardens group held a garden party to talk transportation as the county's Gr8 Exchange got underway.

Jessica McPhail grew up riding Gwinnett County Transit in the Norcross area, and now that she’s an adult, she has some ideas about how it — and the county’s transportation situation in general — could be improved.

She not only uses the county’s transit system but also the MARTA system that it connects to in neighboring counties, and she sees an image problem for public transit in the area. She feels Gwinnett County — and metro Atlanta by extension — suffers from a problem where many residents don’t see alternative forms of transit as an attractive alternative to their cars.

Addressing that issue would help relieve congestion in the county and across the region, she said.

“I feel like if we were to put more effort into providing covered stops for the buses or even more security, just making public transit and mass transit a more positive choice for getting around would help,” she said.

McPhail and her mother, Althea McPhail, were among dozens of women who went to a garden party hosted by the Norcross Discovery Garden’s group Monday night at the city’s Fire Station Museum to talk about transportation issues. The event was held as part of this week’s Gr8 Exchange on Transportation initiative as well as a kick-off for the Discovery Garden at the museum.

The intent behind the Gr8 Exchange is to get ordinary Gwinnett County residents and business employees from all walks of life to come together to discuss the transportation situation in the county and how they would fix it if they were in charge.

The week-long effort, which includes in-person conversations, telephone town hall talks and text-in surveys, formally kicked off Monday.

“We wanted to do a get-together for Discovery Garden, and then we combined it with the transportation Gr8 Exchange and we thought, ‘This is awesome because we can get a group of women together and who is going to do better than a group of women at texting?,’” said Marilyn Meacham, one of the garden party organizers.

The concept is the brainchild of Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District Executive Director Chuck Warbington, who said organizers have received responses from about 13,000 people. He added that there were other signs Monday that support for a community conversation was taking hold in the county.

“We hit trending status earlier (Monday) on social media, which my consultants tell me is a good thing,” Warbington said.

Residents who want to participate in the Gr8 Exchange on Transportation can text message the word “JOIN” to 74029 to take the survey or log onto www.thegr8exchange.com to find a list of community discussion events.

As Warbington addressed the garden party, several women in the group pulled out their cellphones and began taking the survey.

“Events like this is what this initiative is all about,” he said. “This isn’t something we planned. This is what the community planned. They just used the platform to make it happen.”

Warbington then left the party to participate in a telephone town hall forum on transportation with U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., in another event held as part of the Gr8 Exchange.

Meanwhile, the women who attended the garden party had their two cents to add on the topic, and as is the case when large groups of people get together, there were differing ideas on how to solve Gwinnett’s transportation issues.

“The thing is in Gwinnett County, as well as in Atlanta, we’ve got to do something about transportation — we’re choking on our roads,” Meacham said. “You know everybody talks about millennials, but I’m 64 years old and I’m not going to be able to drive for the rest of my life. I want to know I can live somewhere and have transportation that can get me where I need to go.”

Norcross resident Donna Locke said she’d like to see more carpooling on the roads, possibly by attracting companies that specialize in sending vans to pick up several workers who are going to business in a certain general area. She said she would prefer that over more buses on the road because she’s worried buses might add to congestion problems on surface streets.

She said several of her coworkers who live in the Douglasville area use a similar van service and sing its praises.

“Buses are just going to slow it up because they have to keep stopping, and then people get behind the bus and it would just be a mess,” Locke said.

Althea McPhail said she would like to see commuter rail service that was clean and fast, but she also said more bus service that people can count on to get them where they want to go would also help make public transit a more attractive option.

“If there was reliability and frequency, I think there would be people who would take mass transit and use that time to read or prepare themselves for work and leave the driving to somebody else,” she said.

Her daughter said part of that reliability, though, would include making people feel safe when they use Gwinnett’s transit system.

“The more you go out, and the more you feel protected as you’re going out, the more you’ll use it,” the younger McPhail said.

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