Wednesday, February 25, 2009

State Senate votes to give MARTA freedom, snacks

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 2:43 PM

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The state Senate yesterday passed two bills that could give MARTA more choices about its funding — as well as an opportunity to earn some extra cash.

The first, Senate Bill 120, would allow the transit agency to decide how it uses the one-cent sales tax it collects in Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb Counties. (Currently, that sales tax — which accounts for more than half MARTA's funding — must be split evenly on capital projects and operating costs.)

Senate Bill 89 would allow the food and drinks to be consumed at transit stations. If passed, the measure would allow MARTA to contract with vendors who could sell items at stations. Riders would still be prohibited from eating or drinking on MARTA buses and trains. You can still bring a gun on the train, though.

MARTA, which recently announced an operating budget deficit, says it may be forced to reduce services — drastically in some cases — to offset the shortfall. That announcement comes at a time when more people are using the service.

“Our financial situation is so dire that we need every piece of legislation that directly or indirectly provides assistance to MARTA to pass during this state legislative session," MARTA General Manager and CEO Bev Scott said in a press release. "That would include House passage of SB 120 and SB 89 as well as House and Senate passage of legislation providing consistent regional or state funding for public transportation. The level of reduction that MARTA must make is contingent on passage of these measures."

The two bills now move to the House Transportation committee.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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