Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed hopes MARTA and the state can solve their financial differences in 2013

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is disappointed that MARTA did not get the legislative assistance it needs during the 2012 General Assembly.

But he is not giving up by any means that the situation can be resolved in 2013.

MARTA had sought to permanently remove a state restriction that requires that half of its sales tax revenues go to operations and half goes to capital investments. The state had waived the 50/50 rule for three years, but that time frame runs out on June 30, 2013.

During the closing minutes of the 2012 legislature, a bill that would have extended the flexibility by another three years failed largely because Democratic legislators were trying to hold out for a permanent removal.

It is widely felt that if and when a bill to permanently remove the restriction failed, there would have been widespread consensus to give MARTA an additional three-year waiver. But the MARTA bill was introduced so late in the game that there was not enough time for the politics to play themselves out.

That has left MARTA in a difficult spot where it will have to prepare its 2013/2014 budget without having flexibility in the 50/50 rule.

“I think that the decision not to pass the three-year extension for MARTA was a very poor decision, and I think a lot of people are going to suffer in a variety of ways,” Reed said in a brief interview. “We have got to work through it. MARTA has a short-term funding problem. It’s important that we continue to talk and not play the game of blame.”

Reed, who served in the Georgia Legislature as both a representative and a senator, has strong ties at the State Capitol.

“I believe that the leadership is always willing to help to any extent they can,” Reed said. “ We need to make sure we continue to talk and not walk away. We need to continue to nurture the relationship with the legislature.”

At the same time, Reed added: “We need to make sure we don’t have significant reductions in (MARTA) service.”

MARTA currently is exploring all its options to figure out what it needs to do before the 2013 legislative session and make sure there’s not a repeat of 2012.

“I think we need to be clear,” Reed said. “There was a workable solution.”

Reed is a fascinating politician to watch when it comes to maneuvering around state and local as well as party politics.

“I practice the politics of pragmatism,” Reed said. “I think folks at the legislature are being very thoughtful. You are going to have a good amount of cooperation. At the end of the day, the legislature is about getting a deal done.”

Lastly, Reed was asked if he also was disappointed that there was no bill for regional transit governance. But Reed had opposed a bill that had been proposed by a legislative task force that would have given the ultimate power to the state over regional transit decisions.

That bill did not sit well among many in the region because the state has not financially supported MARTA’s operations, and it has not been a major investor in any transit in the state.

All Reed would say was: “I’m not in favor of transit governance at any cost.”

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6 comments
AtlantaStevelandMorris
AtlantaStevelandMorris like.author.displayName 1 Like

We'll all have to wait until we have toll roads up and down I-75 / I-20 / I-285 / tolls on GA400 outside the perimeter collecting $2:50 each way will anyone think that rail (heavy or light) is a solution. I like the idea of just shutting down Marta for a day or two and let the crap fly. Make sure Marta takes out full page ads in the paper and TV and tell folks, Marta will not operate on Monday or Friday for the next 6 months due to the financial restrictions it has to live by.  I know Marta leadership won't do that. I wish they would just MAN UP and make the point they've been crying about for years. Either its true and their financing sucks; or its not true and they should just shut-up about it. It can't be half right, no one listens if you're lying.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @AtlantaStevelandMorris

 HOT/HOV-3 (Lexus Lanes) are actually part of a long-term strategy to make single-occupant (and many double-occupant) vehicle motorists use mass transit much, much, MUCH more frequently.

 

In fact, the a key part of the state's plans to expand the I-285 Top End Perimeter include HOT/HOV-3 (Lexus Lanes) elevated over the right-of-way of the highway with a rail transit line (light rail or heavy rail) located under the right-of-way of the road below ground as a subway.

 

The plans to expand the I-285 Top End Perimeter between the Cobb Cloverleaf (I-75 NW) and Spaghetti Junction (I-85 NE) through the construction of both elevated HOT Lanes and rail transit subway line can be viewed here:

http://www.revive285.com/index.html

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @AtlantaStevelandMorris

"We'll all have to wait until we have toll roads up and down I-75 / I-20 / I-285 / tolls on GA400 outside the perimeter collecting $2:50 each way will anyone think that rail (heavy or light) is a solution."

 

The price to ride in those HOT lanes will be way more than $2.50 each way, my friend.

 

The tolls on the I-85 HOT lanes are already back up to $5.00 each way during rush hour and in California HOT lane tolls can be as high as $10.00 each way.

 

Heck, in Northern California it costs as much as $11.00 one-way to ride the BART trains in the Bay Area.

 

The era of relatively cheap transportation (low transit fares, untolled lanes, untolled highways, cheap gas, etc) are over and are "Gone With The Wind" forever.

 

GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) has publicly stated that they intend to build only toll lanes on the freeway system from now on meaning that all new lanes on the freeway system in Metro Atlanta will have tolls on them.

 

Heck, GDOT even has plans over the longer term to convert the rest of the remaining HOV-2 system of carpool lanes into HOT/HOV-3 Lexus Lanes with adjustable tolls.  The state also is planning to add more HOT lanes to the network by converting 1-2 existing untolled general purpose lanes into HOT/HOV-3 lanes in each direction on the Downtown Connector and I-85 from the Brookwood Interchange in Midtown out to the I-985 split out in Buford.

 

Converting existing HOV-2 and general purpose lanes into HOT/HOV-3 lanes is the way that the powers-that-be will have of finally forcing motorists, especially automobile-worshipping suburban and exurban motorists, who have long been very averse to even the mere mention of transit onto the forthcoming rail and bus transit lines (commuter rail lines that will run parallel to the major Interstate spokes, heavy rail extensions and new light rail lines) that they have been hesitant and unwilling to embrace and even downright hostile to at times. 

 

There will be a time in the not-too-distant future where if you want to venture into Central Atlanta on a frequent basis during daylight hours that your only choices will be to either 1.) pay sky-high escalating tolls to ride in a HOT lane in which traffic is moving, 2.) ride a bus or train with a fare that is not nearly-as-high as the tolls on the Lexus Lanes but still substantially higher than now (instead of the $2.50 one-way fare on MARTA think one-way fares that are no less than $5.00 during off-peak hours) or 3.) pay nothing and sit in very heavy traffic in the untolled general purpose lanes.

 

In this way you are very correct that rail (and bus) transit is going to seem like a very attractive option after the state finishes HOT-laning the heck out of the freeway system from one end of the Atlanta Region to the other.

 

 

inatl
inatl

Funny your excellent earlier post correctly identified the main culprits on the failure of the legislature to lift the 50/50 split.  http://saportareport.com/blog/2012/04/state-legislators-fail-to-give-marta-flexibility-in-how-it-spends-its-funds/   

 

I guess Mayor Reed is doesn't want to criticize the Republicans.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @inatl

 You're right, he doesn't want to criticize the Republicans because he's busy trying to set the table for a future run for Governor of Georgia after his possible second term as Mayor of Atlanta is up.

inatl
inatl like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Can you explain how you blame the democrats for a bill not passing when the house and senate are majority republican?

 

Anyway you don't mention that the Dems rightfully objected to  mixing in a purely political attempt to alter who appoints MARTA board members.    If there wasn't votes for that the MARTOC chair Mike Jacobs shouldn't have tried to include that silly provision in the bill.  And/or he shouldn't have waited until the last minute. 

 

Maria I like your writing but not mentioning the board appointment language fiasco and blaming the dems?  I'm disappointed.

 

And btw how is someone supposed to vote for the TIA tax when they haven't agreed to regional transit governance?  What if our voices inside or near 285 get watered down to much?   For MARTA to build the Clifton line federal funds, a strong MARTA and state support for MARTA getting the federal funds (vs. Cobb or Gwinnett) will be needed.  Do we really expect that?  Will MARTA be gutted within 3 years?  Will the Lindbergh to Emory to avondale line really get built?  Keep in mind just running it to Emory doesn't give it the connectivity and ridership it needs.