Organized opposition emerges to MARTA’s proposed restructuring, privatization of some jobs

By David Pendered

Opponents of the expansive legislative proposal to remake MARTA’s governance structure and privatize jobs took to the streets Thursday and say they collected about a thousand signatures supporting their view.

A petition drive to oppose an effort in the Legislature to reorganize MARTA netted about 1,000 signatures, organizers said. Credit: Rory Gordon

A petition drive to oppose an effort in the Legislature to reorganize MARTA netted about 1,000 signatures, organizers said. Credit: Rory Gordon

The protest movement now consists of three entities: MARTA’s union; the national union office in Washington, D.C.; and Georgians for Better Transit.

The transit group is a state affiliate of Americans for Transit, of which former MARTA GM Beverly Scott serves as a director. The national group’s website says it is a grassroots group of transit riders and advocates who seek to secure transit funding.

House Bill 264 provides 18 revisions to MARTA’s management structure, and it calls for privatizing some jobs. The bill draws from a management study MARTA’s board hired KPMG to complete. The report was delivered last autumn.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven), chairman of the legislature’s oversight committee for MARTA – MARTOC.

The coalition suggests alternatives that do not involve privatization or the sweeping reorganization of MARTA’s management structure. Just two steps cited by Jim Callaghan, a strategic campaign representative from the Amalgamated Transit Union, are:

  • Renegotiate fuel contracts for the bus fleet;
  • Renegotiate electrical contracts for the trains.
MARTA union members and transit advocates gathered signatures at the Five Points Station. Credit: Rory Gordon

MARTA union members and transit advocates gathered signatures at the Five Points Station. Credit: Rory Gordon

“We don’t believe MARTA is broke, that’s what it comes down to,” Callaghan said. “If we’re going to be fair [about restructuring MARTA], there should be equal pain – not just for the workers.”

Curtis Howard, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 732, said senior management should do a better job of managing resources, including collecting fares from each rider for each trip, and figuring out a way to get a return from vacant property MARTA owns near stations.

“Appropriate the money correctly, and make sure the fares are being collected,” Howard said. “I would say they are top heavy, and have too many managers making high salaries. Too many layers of management causes you to increase benefit levels.”

Ashley Robbins, campaign coordinator for Georgians for Better Transit, brought up the state funding issue. Robbins said it’s not fair for MARTA to receive little state support, at a time the state is funding GRTA’s Xpress buses in order to serve people who ride by choice, not because they are dependent on public transit.

“We’ve got to find some source of funding, and beating up on the union is not going to fix everything,” Robbins said. “Privatization won’t fix everything. It won’t bring cost-saving in to make MARTA the kind of system a city like Atlanta deserves.”

On Thursday, coalition members worked in and around MARTA’s Five Points Station and collected about 1,000 signatures on a petition it intends to present to the Senate.

The petition asks the Senate to stop HB 264, and the plan is to deliver it to the Senate Transportation Committee. The House approved the bill Feb. 21 by a vote of 113 to 57.

The transit group started a web page this year that has a widget tailored to fight the legislation. The viewer can enter a ZIP code, and the widget generates an email to the appropriate senator. The letter concludes:

  • “I urge you to vote against [House Bill] 264 and keep the ‘public’ in Atlanta’s public transportation system!”

In October, Scott told lawmakers that unions, in her experiences across the country, have always been reasonable partners. MARTA’s union is no different, said Scott, who now oversees Boston’s major transit system.

In January, MARTA GM Keith Parker told the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce in January that he intends to privatize some jobs. He said MARTA will, “handle it as humanely as possible.”

 

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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31 comments
writes_of_weigh
writes_of_weigh

Calling Kafka!....Kafka!...Make yourself known. Oh that's right...you have. Let's see. An attorney(by trade)(potential ambulance chaser?)heading a state created transit(public transportation) oversight committee,(A state unable to either properly maintain or logically/safely privatize ((TEA payer owned assets(Heart of Georgia Rwy leased right-of way and wayside structures(i.e.rail-highway crossing signals which if properly functioning safely, can save lives via the prevention of car/train collisions, but due to state "oversight" has repeatedly "dropped the ball" (surprise, surprise) in the transportation arena))which is intent on privatization of Marta with associated "cost controls", but continuing safety oversight from a funds bankrupt(and one might assume, shortly, far less such vigilant) federal government.  Listen carefully. This Kafka-esque train-wreck-in-the-making will be hurtling by an Atlanta subway platform, soon enough. Perhaps, a recently reemployed(-deployed?) state Senator  now working at GPB can report "live" from the scene, God forbid. One wonders, too, if this is such a good idea, why a Warren Buffet type investor hasn't already "scooped up" Marta, and other such systems across the nation? Could it be that we'll all soon be walking to our destiny(s) anyway?

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Skipping the union question for a second...privatization is not the end all that its made out to be.  Memories sure are short around here.  Many of these services were privatized in the past to horrible ends in service and financially.  Look at the citys attempt to privatize the waterworks if you need a good example.

Second, its called PUBLIC transit for a reason...not "public only for who uses it"  not "public minority" "public poor" transit...but public transit...which means everyone contributes.  Trying to make MARTA pay for itself with fares is disproportionally unfair to the poor who depend on the system.  FYI...no "PUBLIC" transit system pays for itself.  It depends on (wait for it) PUBLIC funds through taxation of some sort as do roads, bridges, and all sorts of other government services we want, and thus pay for.  Do I use all the services my tax dollars pay for, no...should we be able to pick and chose...no.  We pick representation...and we've done a bang up job on that now, haven't we

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{“We’ve got to find some source of funding, and beating up on the union is not going to fix everything,” Robbins said. “Privatization won’t fix everything. It won’t bring cost-saving in to make MARTA the kind of system a city like Atlanta deserves.”}}

 

That "source of funding" that Ms. Robbins is now looking to find has been there for MARTA for FOUR DECADES in the form of the FAREBOX.

 

It has NOT been the "lack of state support" that has been the cause of MARTA's inadequate finances over the years.

 

What has been biggest cause of MARTA's financial problems throughout its existence is that it has never taken in enough revenues at the farebox by utilizing a distance-based fare-collection system in which fares automatically-increased with inflation so that at-least more than half of its operating cost was always covered by its fares (like BART in Northern California which covers 78% of its operating costs with its distance-based/zone-based fare-structure as opposed to MARTA which only covers roughly around 30% of its operating costs with its depressed flat fare-structure).

 

MARTA has always made a very-conscious decision to keep its fares as low as possible so as to attempt to accommodate riders with very-little or no incomes and in doing so has alienated the 'choice riders' who are capable of financially keeping the transit service afloat, solvent and viable with their patronage.

 

And privatization is not meant to "fix everything" at this point, it is merely meant as what unfortunately looks to be a nearly last-ditch attempt to keep MARTA solvent after four decades of paying out way-too-much in compensation while not taking in anywhere-near-enough in revenues to pay out that high-level of compensation.

 

MARTA's puzzling practice of refusing to adequately fund its own existence with the money its takes in on a daily basis from fare collections while needlessly begging the state for handouts likely has finally caught up with it.

 

MARTA should have pegged its fares to inflation and utilized a distance-based fare-structure from the very-beginning. 

 

Failure to utilize a much more realistic fare-collection scheme has pushed the agency to right where it is today: almost to the end-of-the-line.

 

And no one is "beating up on the union" as Curtis Howard's criticism of MARTA's piss-poor management over the years as the prime reason for why the agency finds itself in very-dire fiscal straits today is right on target.

 

A business can't have entirely too-little revenue and entirely too-much overhead and then wonder why it is almost insolvent.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{Ashley Robbins, campaign coordinator for Georgians for Better Transit, brought up the state funding issue. Robbins said it’s not fair for MARTA to receive little state support, at a time the state is funding GRTA’s Xpress buses in order to serve people who ride by choice, not because they are dependent on public transit.}}

 

Ms. Robbins makes a good point that it is not fair that MARTA, an urban transit system that serves many transit-dependent riders who have no choice but to use public transportation, receives little to no financial support from the state, while GRTA Xpress, an outer-suburban transit system in which virtually all riders use transit by choice, gets state funding.

 

But Ms. Robbins' statement also reflects highly that MARTA has not made anywhere near enough of an effort on a consistent basis to sell its service or appeal to those "choice riders" who have the option of using their personal vehicles to get to and from work and elsewhere throughout the transit agency's four-decade-long existence.

 

It as if MARTA has seemingly made a conscious effort throughout its existence to appeal primarily to those who have no means of getting around other than public transportation. 

 

It's like the transit agency's long-term "vision" has been only to be a vehicle of last resort for those with no other transportation options with no real intent to appeal to those who have other commuting options (their own personal vehicles) and make up all of the traffic on the roads.

 

While helping people with no other means of transportation get around is a noble thing on its face, setting up a transit operation to be almost solely-dependent on those with very-little or no income is not a good long-term business model and has not proved to be a good long-term business as those low-income riders that MARTA is dependent for business often flee the system as soon as they get even the slightest bit of money to 'escape' through the purchase of a personal vehicle.

 

By aiming to serve mostly only those without personal vehicles who use public transit as means of last resort, MARTA has basically utilized a 'business model' of being dependent for business upon people who don't really want to give them their business but have no other choice.

 

As we are witnessing, being dependent upon 'customers' who would much rather be using a competitors' service (any competitor's service in the form of a personal vehicle) has not proved to be a sustainable business model.

 

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Jim Callaghan's suggestion that renegotiating fuel contracts for the bus fleet and electrical contracts for the trains is a really good suggestion of a way for MARTA to attempt to save some money.

 

But those suggestions are only a mere start of what MARTA absolutely must do to survive at this point.

 

If Jim Callaghan and members of the Amalgamated Transit Union do not believe that MARTA is broke NOW, after years of repeated increasingly steep cuts to service, when will they finally ever believe that MARTA is broke?

 

When a totally-insolvent MARTA goes completely belly-up, all of the buses and trains cease operations and their jobs completely cease to exist?

 

If MARTA stays on the path that it is on, that will more than likely be the result.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{Curtis Howard, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 732, said senior management should do a better job of managing resources, including collecting fares from each rider for each trip, and figuring out a way to get a return from vacant property MARTA owns near stations....

....“Appropriate the money correctly, and make sure the fares are being collected,” Howard said. “I would say they are top heavy, and have too many managers making high salaries. Too many layers of management causes you to increase benefit levels.”}}

 

This is a VERY key point that Mr. Howard, president of the Transit Union, makes in his suggestion that MARTA's senior management should be doing a better job of existing its very valuable resources of fares collected and vacant property around MARTA stations.

 

Mr. Howard's suggestion that MARTA's senior management should be better managing its fare collections and the vacant land it owns around stations ties directly into the often-repeated observations that many onlookers have made over the years that MARTA has not been collecting enough revenues at the farebox throughout its existence.

 

Mr. Howard's suggestion that senior management should be better managing its resources with regards to the vacant land it owns around its stations also ties directly into the oft-repeated observations of many onlookers that MARTA has not been collecting enough revenues (through farebox collections and real estate) and building a revenue stream from those properties it owns to both fund its transit operations and build ridership over the long-term.

 

MARTA has not been making full use of its land assets by leasing and/or selling its land out for the construction of the type of transit-oriented development that helps build ridership and take in revenues (through the Tax Increment Financing method of funding transit operations with portions of property tax revenues from new development near transit lines) over the long-term.

 

It is the piss-poor management of its very valuable resources and assets through its existence that is one of the major reasons that MARTA finds itself in such dire financial straits at the moment.

 

Mr. Howard's observation that about MARTA being too top-heavy with the amount of management by having too many managers with high salaries increasing the amount of benefits also ties directly into what many onlookers and critics of the agency have been saying for years about MARTA being an agency with too much management with too much compensation for the increasingly very-limited amount of revenue that the agency has on hand.

 

Those are observations and criticisms that are coming straight from the "horses mouth" when an insider such as the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union says that a transit agency such as MARTA is poorly-managing its most-valuable resources and is too top-heavy on managers with salaries that are too-high and benefit packages that are too-generous.

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

{{“We don’t believe MARTA is broke, that’s what it comes down to,” Callaghan said. “If we’re going to be fair [about restructuring MARTA], there should be equal pain – not just for the workers.”}}

 

Mr. Callaghan stating that members of the Amalgamated Transit Union do not believe that a clearly extremely financially-strapped MARTA is broke is quite an astonishing statement considering the repeated increasingly steeper cuts in the amount and quality of service within the past decade that have resulted from MARTA's increasingly dire financial straits.

 

Mr. Callaghan statement that workers should not be the only ones experiencing the "pain" of restructuring and privatization seems to completely overlook the "pain" that MARTA's riders, especially MARTA's transit-dependent riders, have felt during the repeated rounds of deep cuts to bus and train service within the past decade.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The usual cast of suspects - MARTA's local entrenched union, their national masters, and a lobbying group supported in part by the same union. Groups with a lot to lose and nothing to gain if MARTA privatizes jobs.

And all they can get is 1,000 signatures? The union has almost 4,000 local employees.

If MARTA privatizes some jobs, why would it not remain "public"? Public and union are not synonymous.

teeuwest
teeuwest

RT @ATUComm: Organized opposition emerges to MARTA’s proposed restructuring, privatization of some jobs http://t.co/T3On4FOZjj #p2 #MART ...

ATUComm
ATUComm

Organized opposition emerges to MARTA’s proposed restructuring, privatization of some jobs http://t.co/T3On4FOZjj #p2 #MARTA #publictransit

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @ScottNAtlanta

 Also, under a scheme in which the overall fare structure is increased, arrangements can easily be made where those who are very-poor could pay fares that are either the very same or even lower than they are today.

 

Within a distance-based fare-structure in which passengers pay roughly 40 cents per-mile (give-or-take about 10 cents-per-mile depending on the situation or scenario), passengers would pay less than they pay currently for one-way trips that are under 6.25 miles, meaning that passengers would not pay the current flat one-way fare of $2.50 until they traveled 6.25 miles (or six-and-a-half miles) within the MARTA network.

 

As I mentioned before, any increased fare structure could easily be setup where economically-disadvantaged passengers pay reduced fares along with other special groups of passengers (small children, students, senior citizens and the handicapped). 

 

It makes no sense that MARTA has intentionally severely-depressed its farebox revenues to keep the economically-disadvantaged from having to pay higher fares when the economically disadvantaged would not necessarily have to pay higher fares under an increased fare-structure.

 

I don't get all of the hand-wringing and supposed widespread outrage over $2.50 one-way fares when there are peer transit agencies like the D.C. Metro that charge up to $6.00 one-way in a zone-based fare-structure, or Northern California's BART which charges up to $11.05 one-way in a combination zone-based/distance-based fare-structure, or New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which charges up to (get this) $33.00 one-way in a distance-based zone fare-structure.

 

It should also be noted that those transit agencies are able to provide a much-higher level of transit service with the higher fares that they charge and collect than MARTA currently is able to provide.

 

For passengers riding from one-end of the MARTA heavy-rail network from like say, the North Springs Station to the Airport, the fare should be somewhere around $10.00 one-way and no-less than $5.00 one-way with discounts lowering the fares substantially for special groups like small children, students, the handicapped, senior citizens, the economically-disadvantaged and frequent riders.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @ScottNAtlanta Public transport means transport of the public in general. It does not mean transport focused only on the poorest of us. It is not an entitlement.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @ScottNAtlanta

 {{"We pick representation...and we've done a bang up job on that now, haven't we"}}

 

...No disagreement there as most of our public officials have pretty much been totally incompetent (or "God-awful incompetent" as a popular local newspaper once put it) when it comes to governance.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @ScottNAtlanta

 {{"Trying to make MARTA pay for itself with fares is disproportionally unfair to the poor who depend on the system."}}

 

That statement, as well-intentioned as it may be, reflects some of the misguided thinking that is a major reason why MARTA finds itself in the situation that it is in today.

 

To say that to attempt to make MARTA pay for itself with its own fares that it collects from its passengers is disproportionately unfair to the poor who depend upon the system is to either assume that it is only the poor who use MARTA or imply that MARTA was only intended to be used by very-poor and extremely low-income riders.

 

That statement completely overlooks the fact that the poor are not the only people who use MARTA as there are many middle-income and even higher-income riders who use and even depend, to an extent, on MARTA to get them around, whether by choice (don't like to drive their own personal vehicles) or a seeming necessity (to avoid having to drive in some of the mammoth traffic jams that plague both ITP and OTP Metro Atlanta). 

 

Attempting to hold down fares (and thereby depressing critically-needed revenues) to seemingly accommodate the poorest of the poor of passengers who may not be able to pay fair-market transit fares completely ignores the existence of the tens-of-thousands of passengers who can and are willing and able to pay fair-market value transit fares to keep the service functioning at an acceptable level that passengers of all income levels (both the destitute/indigent and non-destitute/non-indigent) depend on to get them from point A to point B.

 

(And by "fair-market transit fares" I mean the amount of farebox revenue that is needed to keep a transit service viable and functioning at a high or acceptable level.)

 

Also, in a fare-collection structure where passengers are paying fair-market value for the transit service they depend on, passengers who are too poor to pay the full amount of transit fare can be qualified to pay lower-priced fares as is commonly done on virtually all transit systems for special groups like small children, students, the handicapped and the elderly.

 

We don't have to (and it makes absolutely no sense to) intentionally completely depress the collection of critically-needed farebox revenues as a means of accommodating one special group of passengers (the very-poor) who could qualify for reduced fares in a more realistic fare-collection structure that helps a transit agency stay solvent and viable.

 

Attempting to keep fares as low as possible as a means of accommodating the poorest-of-the-poor has in-effect served to do nothing but chase away all but the poorest-of-the-poor who have no other choice but to ride a severely-declining MARTA whether they want or not, and the most hardcore passengers who are willing to rearrange their lives if necessary to ride transit.

 

Intentionally depressing one's own revenues (over an extended period of time) while demanding that someone else pay the bills out of fairness is no way to run a business, public or private.

 

What MARTA has basically done throughout its four-decade existence is basically to have been the equivalent of someone who has the knowledge and means to be a billionaire but elects to take a job making less than six figures while attempting to live the lifestyle of a multimillionaire and demanding someone else pay for it all out of "fairness".

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @ScottNAtlanta

 You make a very good point that privatization is not the solution to every problem, which is why privatization of services should always be considered and applied with care and proper oversight and not necessarily across-the-board.

 

But even with those considerations, privatization (where applicable) is absolutely a critical part of the equation when it comes to providing services to the public because of how private industry can just simply do some (though definitely NOT all) things better and at less cost to the public than some public agencies (some of which, like MARTA, being increasingly severely cash-strapped) can.

 

I also get your point about MARTA being public transit and that meaning that everyone should financially contribute to funding its continued existence.

 

The public already funds MARTA's existence through the 1% sales tax that is paid on most retail purchases in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

 

But taxes (especially highly politically-contentious and politically-improbable tax increases) are not the only way that the public can contribute to the continued existence of public transit agencies like MARTA as the public also funds MARTA's existence with the $2.50 one-way fare that is paid by those who ride MARTA's buses and trains.

 

Also taxes on sales purchases are not the only way that taxes can be used to fund public transit.

 

Tax Increment Financing (T.I.F.-property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines) is another form of taxation that can be used to fund public transit.

 

Tax Increment Financing (T.I.F.) is a method of transit funding that is preferred by many governments because it does not involve having to utilize potentially highly politically-contentious and unpopular proposals to raise existing taxes (see last summer's highly-contentious and highly-unpopular T-SPLOST political disaster).

 

 

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia It's time for MARTA to start acting like a transportation system instead of part of the entitlement system. Since City of Atlanta voters overwhelmingly voted for a sales tax increase to support TSPLOST, they should be happy to pay more for MARTA fares.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia When you renegotiate a contract for lower prices, you must negotiate from a position of strength. MARTA has zero leverage with Georgia Power and is a captive. Georgia Power is a monopoly in its service area, and is regulated by the State. No alternate utility supplier is available. The only possible leverage is through the State.

markggerling
markggerling

 @Burroughston Broch Why do feel privatization is better for MARTA, or any 'public' transit system? You probably, also believe in the trickle down theory, that has failed the 'best interests' of Americans so many times. Privatization, benefit no one, but private companies, that make money 'off the backs' of the workers, & the public.

markggerling
markggerling

 @Burroughston Broch  @ScottNAtlanta However, the poorest have no other options! Think of the extra strain on government, & the economy, if those w/jobs can no longer get to them. Taxes won't go down, they'll just be shifted to those entitlements you speak of.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Burroughston Broch

 Good point.  Though it should be noted that it is not only residents of the City of Atlanta (and Fulton and DeKalb counties) who pay the fares on MARTA as there are many passengers from surrounding counties (often from Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties) who drive into Fulton and DeKalb counties, park their vehicles at a station and board MARTA trains into Atlanta in the mornings and out of Atlanta in the afternoons.

 

Instead of attempting to increase funding to MARTA through the highly politically-improbable (and politically-impossible) act of collecting sales tax revenues from Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties, the best way to likely increase funding to MARTA is through the collection of revenues from the fares that residents of those surrounding counties pay when they use MARTA (as was witnessed during the gas crises in the summer and fall of 2008 when the parking lots of some outlying MARTA stations was literally overflowing with vehicles surrounding counties).

 

It should also be noted that the 1% sales tax that is collected in Fulton and DeKalb counties to fund MARTA is also paid by residents of counties outside of Fulton and DeKalb.

 

There are many residents of outlying counties who drive into Fulton and DeKalb to shop (like those who drive in from surrounding counties and even other parts of the region and state to shop at places like Atlantic Station, Lenox Mall, Phipps Plaza, Perimeter Mall, etc).

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @markggerling  

{{"Why do [you] feel privatization is better for MARTA, or any 'public' transit system?"}}

 

Privatization (where applicable) can be good for a public transit agency like MARTA because private companies can absorb costs that public entities (like MARTA) may not always be able to absorb.

 

In this particular case, privatizing some of the functions that MARTA now does (sometimes not very well) will cut some of the overhead that MARTA just simply cannot pay at this time, due to severely-decreasing revenues.

 

Overall, privatization can be good in some instances for public transit agencies because their is not an endless abundance of public money or tax revenues to provide all of the services that must be provided (restrooms, payroll, maintenance, etc) with the overhead that a transit agency may already be carrying (salaries, benefits, etc).

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @markggerling  

{{You probably, also believe in the trickle down theory, that has failed the 'best interests' of Americans so many times. Privatization, benefit no one, but private companies, that make money 'off the backs' of the workers, & the public.}}

 

So are you saying that the people that work at those private companies don't benefit from having jobs that provide them with income to take care of themselves and their family while putting money back into the economy in the process?

 

I agree that private industry should not have free reign to do whatever it wants with no restriction or regulation, but with over 99% of the economy being made up of private industry, the private side of the economy can employ a heckuva lot more people and provide a heckuva lot more services than that public sector that occupies less than 1% of economy can alone.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @markggerling  MARTA is in dire financial condition and must reduce costs, as amply documented in the recent KPMG report. MARTA's average compensation per employee is over $75,000/year, much of that due to very high fringe benefits paid to line workers. The employee costs MARTA pays are excessive compared to the general labor costs in the area, and MARTA must reduce costs.

I believe that privatization will reduce MARTA's costs by introducing some competition. With the present entrenched union, there is no incentive toward economy.

 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Burroughston Broch  

Good point that transportation is not an entitlement.

 

But, the government does seemingly provide transportation everywhere in the state in the form of the streets and roads that every individual with personal vehicles drives on everyday.

 

The government does not provide the vehicles for everyone to drive the roads on (that's up to each individual to obtain), but the government still provides the streets and roads for everyone to drive their privately-owned personal vehicles on with the revenues that the government obtains from motor fuel taxes and property taxes that are paid by the public.

 

The government provides those roads everywhere, not as an entitlement, but because they feel that it is in everyone's best interest (private and public) to provide those roads for public and private interests to drive on so that the government can collect the tax revenue off of the increased commerce and economic activity that results from people being able to move about freely (for the most part) by way of the road network.

 

In this ongoing conversation about privatizing some aspects of MARTA and public transit operations, it should also be noted that government agencies alone do not necessarily construct the entire road network.

 

State and local governments very-often contract most of the construction and many (though not all) aspects of the maintenance of the road network out to private contractors (for example, like state and municipal government contract road construction and maintenance work out to roadbuilding firms like C.W. Matthews and E.R. Snell here in Georgia). 

 

Government agencies also very-commonly contract out to private construction entities most of the construction and some of the maintenance of rail transit networks.

 

If government already contracts out to private entities the construction and maintenance of road networks and rail transit networks to great benefit for the public, then just what is the problem with government agencies (like a severely cash-strapped MARTA) contracting out limited operational aspects to private entities?

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @Burroughston Broch  @markggerling

 But if MARTA raised its fares and EXPANDED and INCREASED the amount service it offers (because the increased fares helped provide them with enough money to actually do so for the first time in a long time), ridership might actually INCREASE along with the fares (more buses, more trains, more riders as opposed to the current death spiral of fewer buses, fewer trains, fewer riders).

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @markggerling  It is not government's job to provide transportation for everyone - transportation is not an entitlement. If it were provided as an entitlement in metro Atlanta, then it would have to be provided everywhere in the State.

When Georgia Power Company ran the transit system, the bus and trackless trolley operators went out of strike for 5 weeks and the city did not collapse from the strain. Taxis and jitneys picked up the strain.

If MARTA raised its fares 20% and ridership decreased by 10%, MARTA's income would increase by 8%.