Friday, March 4, 2016

MARTA expansion on life support?

Last week, this AJC report appeared to dash all hopes of MARTA expansion progress due to resistance from "six GOP senators whose districts touch the north Fulton region" who did not support SB313:
"SB313, the bill that would authorize MARTA to pursue a massive $8 billion expansion up through north Fulton County and east to Emory University, failed to make the Senate Rules Committee calendar and won’t receive a Crossover Day vote on Monday." ... read the rest here.
Support for MARTA expansion has been growing, in sharp contrast to the summer of 2012, when a T-SPLOST was defeated in all ten counties that voted on it.

But... is there hope? The AJC  reports today that some legislators won't stop believing and are discussing  a separate, local legislation bill not subject to cross-over day that would include the "city of Atlanta and perhaps DeKalb County to vote  on whether to pay an additional half-percent sales tax increase."

The push is justified: recently, Curbed Atlanta reported that per surveys of likely voters conducted last October by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Fulton and DeKalb County residents are now firmly in favor of expanding MARTA.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber survey indicates that public opinion about the GA DOT and MARTA is much improved. Also from the survey:

The Clifton Corridor MARTA expansion appeared to be highly supported by survey respondents.

Click to enlarage. Note that the Clifton Corridor is a large employment center and also
the only one not served by MARTA. From

Why should MARTA expand its reach? In its "Economic Benefits of Investing in Traffic" report (October 2015), the Metro Chamber of Commerce suggests that every $1 invested in transit yields $4 in gains to the community, as measured in increased personal and disposable income, reduced travel times, growth in jobs and GRP (gross regional product).

The report benchmarks Atlanta metro investment in MARTA and concludes that we rank last among peer cities when railways are considered.

Millennials and seniors are identified as key populations that demand public transport in the Atlanta metro area:
  • millenials are a growing percentage of the workforce and as a group, favor having multiple options for transport. Companies consider workforce availability when choosing work sites.
  • seniors are often dependent on transit and Atlanta's senior population is on the rise. 
MARTA has proposed three expansion projects for high employment areas currently underserved by transport. By year 2040, these projects would allow access to transit to over half a million Atlanta Metro workers:
Clifton Corridor: 197,000 jobs
1-20 East: 190,000 jobs
GA 400: 203,000 jobs
SB313's failure to advance was a surprise, given strong endorsements:
  • the Atlanta Regional Commission's just-released long-range blueprint for success (with year 2040 as the target) also highlighted the importance of MARTA expansion projects (see that plan here).

Light rail would be a boon to our community. MARTA representatives attended our community meeting last February 15 and that report is available here