Sunday, April 20, 2014

MARTA Increases Service, Expansion Ahead

ATLANTA, GA (FOOTNOTES#83) - The last decade has been a tough one for supporters of public transportation, largely characterized by funding and service cuts, missed opportunities to get commuter rail going and general treatment as a political punching bag. However, it now seems as though we have turned a corner, and the future of public transit in Georgia continues to grow brighter with the Atlanta Streetcar nearing completion, the Atlanta BeltLine continuing to make progress and support building for it around the region as people flock to the Eastside trail. MARTA’s new CEO, Keith Parker, has made great strides in his first year to put MARTA’s house in order. Last week, MARTA announced the system will be restoring some of the rail and bus services cut in recent years, which will decrease waiting and help draw more customers as using the service becomes a faster and more convenient alternative.

Even more exciting is the potential expansion of MARTA into Clayton County. Four long years have passed since the county ended its C-Tran bus service in 2010, and the county’s economy suffered as a direct result. With no transit available, many people had to move elsewhere to be closer to work or school. This resulted in high residential vacancy rates and reduced property values.

A bill passed in the 2014 legislature allows the Clayton County Commission to call for a vote on joining MARTA, but time is running out. MARTA will only appear on the ballot in November if Clayton Commissioners take action by July 1st. If approved by voters in November, the referendum would provide the county with a MARTA sales tax that could raise $49 million a year to fund service if implemented at a full one percent. This would provide not only enough funding to restore and enhance bus service that was provided by C-Tran, but also get the commuter rail line which has been studied for over a decade up and running. Not only would Clayton residents save gas and get out of traffic, the county could build walkable communities around rail stations that attract people and businesses to the area.

Public attitudes are shifting as the benefits of having sustainable alternative transportation options become clearer. The demand for improved service and expansion are evidence of this transition, and the RAIL Committee of the Georgia Sierra Club will continue leading the charge!


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