The chances that MARTA will find any help from state lawmakers this year and avoid jaw-dropping cuts to bus routes are still looking slim.
On April 13, the House Transportation Committee voted out Senate Bill 520, a piece of legislation that would have resuscitated the Georgia Department of Transportation's division that focuses on transit.
Language added to the bill and approved by the committee would've reorganized MARTA's board of directors. Most importantly, the bill would have permanently freed the transit system from an antiquated funding restriction. (MARTA, which survives for the most part on a one-cent sales tax in Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb Counties, can spend half of that revenue on operations. The other half must be spent on new projects.)
But one day later, the House Rules Committee told lawmakers to take another look at the legislation. And the provisions that would help MARTA avoid drastic service cuts? They were snipped. Call it a simple concern over legislative language, call it state lawmakers' favorite pastime of dickering with the transit agency.
Whatever it is, it's another sign that MARTA, which state lawmakers for years have treated like a redheaded stepchild, has only a few days to find a solution. And tomorrow, transit supporters and, interestingly enough, the buses and trains themselves will try to raise awareness.
Tomorrow, MARTA advocates will gather at Downtown's Five Points station to urge lawmakers to get serious about transit funding and finally show some backbone when it comes to supporting an economic engine that pumps an estimated $2.1 billion into Georgia's economy. Atlanta is one of six cities across the country that will participate in the National Day of Action, a Transportation Equity Network-sponsored event aimed at raising awareness about the impacts of transit cutbacks.
Supporters will meet at the station plaza from 10 a.m. to noon and from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. All day tomorrow, buses and trains that are slated to get cut will be marked with a red "X" to show what the metro region stands to lose should the Gold Dome fail to act.
Here's a flyer (PDF) that includes information about the rally, service cuts and transit system statistics.
(Graphic pulled from "MARTA Matters" flyer)
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