Jim Galloway reports that MARTA officials recently distributed a memo to state lawmakers outlining the transit agency's dire situation. Even with cost-cutting measures and fare and parking increases, the memo says, MARTA still runs the risk of drastically cutting service.
That could include shutting down entire rail lines. (The system's rail spine basically consists of an east-west and north-south line.) Galloway says a decision about those potential cuts could come at MARTA's next board meeting on March 30.
MARTA is lobbying for state to be ease restrictions over the one-cent sales tax levied in Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb Counties that provides much of the transit agency's funding. Under current law, MARTA considered by mobility mavens as the transit "spine" of the metro region can only use 50 percent of the generated revenue on operating costs. It bears mentioning, once again, that MARTA is the largest transit agency in the United States that does not receive operating assistance from the state.
In circumstances like these, extreme scenarios can be interpreted as threats, and threats can backfire. MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott called to say that she was deadly serious.
This is a precious trust that Im not prepared to play Russian roulette with, Scott said. More details about what routes might be cut, and what rail service could be curtailed, could come as early as a March 30 meeting of the board, she said.
Repeal of the sales tax restrictions would give MARTA an extra $65 million in flexibility, and help it close current shortfall. This is not a permanent funding solution but rather a one-time self-help assistance measure that still requires a permanent, state-based funding solution, the memo closes.
Galloway also links to a telling op-ed by Sam Massell in which the former Atlanta mayor walks down MARTA-memory lane. When the transit agency was first planned, he writes, its planners envisioned there would be no fares. Then-Gov. Lester Maddox no likey the idea because he feared the trains would be overrun by "winos" old-person jargon for "homeless.
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
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