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Best political move: Building Marta

Staff Pick

Yeah, yeah, we can hear the complaints. It doesn't go anywhere. It's dirty. It doesn't work. But before you bemoan life with MARTA, first imagine life without it. In the late 1960s, metro Atlanta snagged federal funding left on the table by Seattle voters after they decided not to create a transit system. Racism and myopia caused the suburbs to say "No thanks" to the regional transit agency. And state lawmakers never showed much interest - but plenty of hostility. More than 40 years later, we have a system that connects the heart of the city to the world's busiest airport - a luxury that not all aviation hubs can claim - and a bus network that tries to link people in between its rail routes. Sadly, MARTA's a shell of what it could be and, should the state not step up and invest or give metro residents control of the system, will further atrophy. That's a shame. Were it not for MARTA, according to recent statistics, an estimated 185,000 additional cars would clog the region's roads. More than 60 percent of the city's hospitality employees, its largest industry, wouldn't make it to work. Nearly 50 percent of its straphangers have no other way to move around their world. Looking forward, which is something the state neglected to do when it thumbed its nose at what's considered one of the country's most efficient transit systems, we should be thankful for the foundation it's provided. Better yet, MARTA's helped Atlanta lay the groundwork to become more dense and the kind of walkable city that everyone - young and old - wants to call home. Not to mention provide us another way to move around when the next gas spike happens. It's a damn fine service, and the local leaders who fought hard to bring MARTA to life deserve a round of thanks. www.itsmarta.com.

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