Yes, we just ended a disappointing legislative session, during which both Republican-controlled, suburban-leaning chambers failed to give MARTA officials - and, in many ways, Fulton and DeKalb County taxpayers - the right to oversee how they can spend a one-cent sales tax that generates more than half of the transit agency's funding. Thanks to that failure, MARTA will need to start preparing for "deep budget cuts" in the coming year.
But the beloved Atlanta Braves shuttle will continue to run, giving baseball fans - some of whom drive from the suburbs and drop off their cars at one of MARTA's park-and-ride lots on the fringe - the chance to avoid sitting in traffic and paying for parking near and around Turner Field. Not to mention get a look at the myriad tourist shops and ear-candling experts in Underground Atlanta, where the service picks up passengers.
And it is a service, one that MARTA's not obligated to provide. You'll recall that a couple of years back, the Braves shuttle was eliminated due to budget woes, but reinstatedbefore the 2011 season after officials realized that more than 10 percent of its riders are taking it to work, which most likely means stadium employees. Nearly 40 percent were tourists from other states. (So we've heard, there were also some very "passionate" conversations between elected officials and transit honchos about the decision.)
I've asked MARTA to provide any updated statistics it has for the shuttle, but, according to 2011 news reports, transit staffers said the service cost the agency $969,000 each year when things like maintenance and depreciation were taken into account. And the temporary fix of using older buses for the shuttle service isn't a long-term solution.
I'm not saying that MARTA shouldn't operate the shuttle; it helps keep cars off the road, clean the air, and save fuel. But I wish deep down inside my black, wretched heart that the suburban Braves fans who use the shuttle tonight would call their state representative and senator and ask them to defend the transit agency when MARTA requests help under the Gold Dome. It's those elected officials who can help the transit agency that, during these Braves games, special events, and trips to the airport, gives their constituents a break.
Mayor Kasim Reed recently told longtime business columnist Maria Saporta that he thinks the Gold Dome leadership "is always willing to help to any extent they can" and that "we need to make sure we continue to talk and not walk away."
"We need to continue to nurture the relationship with the legislature," he told Saporta.
I'd say that providing the shuttle service to carry people who aren't transit dependent to a private business at a time when transit cuts are looming should get their attention. If not, the lawmakers are bewilderingly dense. Or simply not paying attention.
For more information about the shuttle, including times and fares, head over to MARTA's website. If you'd like to bypass the shuttle, my dear buddy Gwynedd Stuart reminds me that passengers can hop off at the Georgia State University stop and walk to the stadium.
yeah, because Grant Park is miles away and isn't a park
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