A MARTA story: Why the state never contributed funding – from day one

By Guest Columnist W. STELL HUIE, a retired Atlanta attorney who served as MARTA’s first general counsel

Background information for readers: MARTA was formed by an act of the Georgia General Assembly in 1965 and was originally proposed as a rapid transit agency for the Atlanta metropolitan area – DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties.  That year, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and the City of Atlanta passed a referendum authorizing participation in the system. The referendum failed in Cobb.

It was November, 1970. Huie and Harland was serving as general counsel to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), and I was the responsible partner. We had just reached a very delicate local compromise on how to finance the MARTA transit system.

After a 1968 referendum based on property tax financing failed, planners had identified three other potential tax sources that would produce sufficient revenues to meet the system’s needs: an income tax, a payroll tax or a sales tax.

Stell Huie

Stell Huie

Accompanied by either one or two members of the MARTA staff, I had met with virtually all of our local elected officials with the hope that we could find a consensus on one of these sources of revenue.

We quickly found that we could never get a payroll tax through the Georgia General Assembly. Members of the legislature from outlying counties would block a payroll tax on their constituents who worked in Atlanta.

We also found strongly held differences on whether the sales tax or the income tax was the right choice. Sam Massell, then mayor of Atlanta, led those who supported the income tax. They felt the sales tax, even though proposed to be only ½ of 1 percent, was regressive and would harm the neediest of our citizens. Officials from the suburbs generally supported the sales tax.

We convened a meeting with a good turnout of elected officials to discuss the impasse. But after several hours of debate, we were no closer to a resolution. Then Mayor Massell took the floor and said he had to leave, but he added he would support the sales tax if the fare were free.

On that note the meeting adjourned. As counsel for MARTA, we realized that the constitutional amendment enabling MARTA provided that “the public transportation of passengers… for hire is a public purpose….” and we did not think  a transportation system with a free fare would fit within that definition.

A few days later the MARTA board met to determine the next step. During that meeting Mitchell Bishop, a Fulton County appointee to the board, calculated that we could drop the existing 45-cent fare on the Atlanta Transit System [which would be acquired by MARTA following a successful referendum] to 15 cents if we increased the ½ cent sales tax to a ¾ cent sales tax and used the additional ¼ cent to subsidize the fare.

Bishop’s insight proved prophetic. Mayor Massell agreed to this proposal and we quickly gained a consensus. MARTA supporters drafted legislation that provided for a ¾ cent sales tax, contingent on approval by referendum in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

We in the MARTA family were in good spirits as we readied our legislation for the General Assembly session in January. I took a weekend off when Mitchell Bishop invited Hank Stewart, then MARTA general manager, and me to go quail hunting with him.

When we arrived at the lodge in middle Georgia, I was informed that Gov.-elect Jimmy Carter was trying to reach me. I returned his call, and after apologizing for disturbing me on a weekend, he told me he was working on the state budget and had some problems with our MARTA plan.

Gov. Carter proceeded to tell me that it was his understanding that MARTA was expecting the state to participate in the funding at $25 million a year, and it was his position that the state could not afford it. While I was trying to process this development and ruing our apparent failure to keep the gubernatorial candidates apprised of our plan, Carter proceeded to say that collection of a ¾ cent sales tax would present problems to the Georgia Department of Revenue, which was to collect the tax.

He asked how we would be if the tax went to 1 percent, and we gave up state appropriations. I knew the numbers, and I told him we would be better off – the additional sales tax would produce more than $25 million a year, and we could sell more bonds based the added revenue.

I also told the governor that we had worked out a very delicate political compromise in the Atlanta region, and I did not know how we could change it. The governor then said one more thing to me, words I will never forget. “Well, Stell, I want you to know that I will support you if these changes are made, but this is not to be my idea. Do you understand what I am saying to you?”

Of course I knew what he meant – his participation was to be kept confidential. I also knew that his proposals would be better for MARTA and that his help in the legislature would be critical – particularly in dealing with then Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox who had preceded Carter as governor.  During his tenure as governor, Maddox had vetoed three MARTA bills; now he would be the presiding officer in the Senate.

I did not tell Mitchell Bishop or Hank Stewart the full extent of the governor’s position. I told them he just wanted to ask some questions about our plans. Over the next few days I wrestled with the conflict between my ethical obligation to my client and the governor’s admonition not to reveal his participation. Realizing that if I conveyed this information to the MARTA board, it would become public.

I decided to take only two people into my confidence; otherwise I would tell no one. That is, until now. [I have recently received permission from former President Carter to tell this part of the story.]

State Representatives Mike Egan and John Greer had agreed to co-sponsor the MARTA legislation in the General Assembly. In confidence, I told them what had happened. They agreed that Gov. Carter’s assistance in the Senate would be essential, and they shared my concern about how we could meet his conditions.

We finally agreed that the Bill should be introduced as drawn, reflecting the local compromise. Once introduced it was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. My recollection is that both of our sponsors served on that committee. When the Bill was reported out of the committee with a “do pass” recommendation, the tax rate had been increased to 1 percent with a stipulation added that no state appropriations would be made to MARTA.

The Bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate where Maddox referred it to a committee with instructions not to report it out. True to his word, Gov. Carter had his Senate Floor Leader, Al Holloway from Albany, take over the handling of the Bill. Somehow they got the Bill out of committee and it passed the Senate.

The governor signed it into law, which set the stage for a November 1971 referendum to approve the plan. The MARTA referendum was defeated in Clayton and Gwinnett, but it passed narrowly in Fulton County and handily in DeKalb.

MARTA acquired the Atlanta Transit System and reduced the fare to 15 cents, and that fare lasted for seven years. Now a single fare costs $2.50. More than 40 years after the original MARTA referendum passed, there are still only two counties that support the transit system financially – Fulton and DeKalb.

And to this day, the State of Georgia has yet to make any contribution to MARTA – the only major mass transit system in the country that does not receive state support.

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103 comments
The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Rees Cramer mariasaportaThe Last Democrat in Georgia1Downtown10 {{{"thanks for bringing some common sense to this discussion.  MARTA is public and it will remain that way as it is public transportation."}}}  ...In this political environment where Northside business and real estate powers are growing increasingly restless and impatient, one cannot be certain that MARTA will remain publicly-owned and/or operated.  MARTA (or whatever succeeds it) will continue to provide public transportation, but private investment (particularly private real estate investment) is going to play a much-larger role in the operation of public transit in the Atlanta region moving forward because that's where the money is. {{{"I can't think of a major transportation system in the US that is private and functional."}}} ...It's not a US system that you should be thinking of as the model as to where public transit is going in the Atlanta region. It's Hong Kong that you should be thinking of.....That's because Hong Kong's transit system is operated by a private real estate development corporation that has a value of over $250 billion. Atlanta's transit system will likely never grow to be worth over a quarter of a trillion dollars, but with MARTA owning land around its stations in some prime areas of the city/region, there is a good chance that MARTA or its successor could grow to be worth tens-of-billions of dollars in value if MARTA fully and aggressively develops its real estate assets. {{{"I don't believe that MARTA needs state funds to operate, it would be for expansion."}}} ...Like I stated earlier, if the state gives any significant amount of money (by way of the private sector) to MARTA for any reason, be it operation or expansion, the state is likely going to want to exercise A LOT more control over MARTA than MARTA's Intown supporters may be comfortable with. The State of Georgia is not going to just kindly give money to MARTA with no strings attached.  If the State of Georgia gives money to MARTA, the state is likely going to want full financial and political control over MARTA probably to the point of selling the agency and its potentially very-lucrative prime real estate assets off to private real estate investors. {{{"Just like my suggested congestion fares would be for transit"}}} ...Using revenues from congestion tolls on expressways to fund transit would very-likely be a politically-unviable idea in this highly transit-averse political environment in Georgia politics. Using revenues from expressway tolls would also likely be not all that good of an idea with the road network having so many overwhelming maintenance issues that are in critical need of attention. If and when tolls are collected from motorists on the road network, they had darned sure better be used to address very-serious long-neglected needs on the cash-starved road network and not to shuttle critically-needed road money to a transit network that is more than capable of taking care of itself financially with its prime real estate assets.

Rees Cramer
Rees Cramer

mariasaporta The Last Democrat in Georgia1Downtown10 thanks for bringing some common sense to this discussion.  MARTA is public and it will remain that way as it is public transportation.  I can't think of a major transportation system in the US that is private and functional.  I don't believe that MARTA needs state funds to operate, it would be for expansion.  Just like my suggested congestion fares would be for transit.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia Basically, Parker's early success in getting MARTA back into the black financially could be the equivalent of letting a pig fatten itself up before being slaughtered. The state is also planning to use mostly private investment to build-out the proposed MMPT in Downtown Atlanta.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia Before Keith Parker came in and starting having success as CEO of MARTA, Northside interests were already seriously plotting to have the state takeover MARTA and sell it off to private investors. Keith Parker's early relative success as CEO of the long-struggling MARTA kind of bought the agency and its ITP/Southside supporters some time, but not necessarily very-much time. If anything, Parker's success in getting the long-troubled transit agency back into the black could likely be used by Northside business interests to increase the attractiveness of the agency's assets to private investors. Besides the supposed risk of having the government as both a partner and a regulator has not been a deterrent on other big-time P3 arrangements such as the $800 million I-75 Northwest Corridor managed lanes project which is using about $200 million in financing from a limited P3 partnership, and the $1.83 billion Chicago Skyway and $3.8 billion Indiana Toll Road deals which are both FULL P3 partnerships.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The Last Democrat in Georgia Surely you jest. You couldn't be writing this from a pot fest in Colorado, could you? Let's check back in 5 years and see whether the big boys on the Northside have done as you predict. My guess is no because of the unrestrained risk to which they would be exposed, with government as a both partner and as a regulator.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia A similar financing concept will also be coming to roads in the not-too-distant future. Georgia's Interstate and freeway system could probably fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 billion or so on the open market for 75-year leases. $20 billion would be a massive financial shot-in-the-arm to a state whose yearly road maintenance budget is down to about $300 million annually. When put in an account and distributed evenly over the 75 years, that $20 billion would amount to an extra $267 million in road maintenance funding each year for the next 75 years. The State of Georgia's road maintenance budget would nearly double each year to $567 million, none of which would have to spent on Interstates and freeways anymore because the state would no longer be responsible for paying to operate and maintain the freeways anymore.  The responsibility for paying to operate and maintain the freeways would belong to the private companies who were leasing the freeways from the state. That means that $567 million yearly state road maintenance budget ($300 million annually from the current non inflation-indexed state fuel tax + $267 million annually from the S20 billion 75-year lease deal) could be spent entirely on non controlled-access roads and highways.  The controlled-access highways (Interstate superhighways, non-Interstate superhighways, super-arterial highways) would be self-funded and would no-longer need state funding.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"Let me predict you believe that, given enough urban planners and lawyers with unlimited powers, all things are possible."}}} ...It's not me that has the mindset that you speak of.  It's the business and real estate interests in Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties that have that mindset as those are the three parts of the metro area that want heavy rail transit service (MARTA, post-MARTA or otherwise) expanded out to and implemented through their areas the most. Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties are also the three areas with the most money, the power, financial resources, political resources and long-term financial and political will to get heavy rail transit service expanded out to and implemented through their areas. The business and real estate interests in Cobb, North Fulton and Gwinnett counties desperately want heavy rail transit service expanded out to their areas as a means of boosting the commercial real estate values in their areas.  Those business and real estate interests in those areas will stop at nothing to get the heavy rail links that they so intensely desire to Central Atlanta and the world-leading Atlanta Airport.  Those Northside business and real estate interests know that having direct heavy rail transit links to the lucrative convention and tourism business in Central Atlanta and the world's busiest airport at Hartsfield will boost the monetary values of their currently un-linked commercial districts in Cumberland, Alpharetta and the Gwinnett Village CID areas through the roof and into the stratosphere. The Olympics made this a new game.  This whole thing over MARTA and heavy rail and T-SPLOST, etc is about big-time real estate investment. ...Well, not just real estate, but big-time INTERNATIONAL real estate investment.  Anyone who has not recognized that this is all about money and power is fooling themselves.  Northside business and real estate interests don't want heavy rail service extended out from the Perimeter to ferry poor people around from inner-city Atlanta. Northside business and real estate interests want heavy rail service extended out from the Top End Perimeter (and along the Top End Perimeter) so that they can boost their investment portfolios and fatten their pockets. Do you really think that the big boys care one iota whether some struggling smaller private owner loses their commercial property in the quest for even bigger massive real estate profits? Do you really think that the big boys on the Northside are just going to continue to sit around and let something as immensely financially valuable as MARTA rot and decay from incompetence, neglect and just plain outright ignorance and stupidity? The big boys on the Northside are not going to continue to let BILLIONS of dollars in real estate profit sit on the table untouched. One day very-soon they are going to fully grasp the concept of for-profit transit and when they do, MARTA as we currently know it (as a perennially almost-bankrupt publicly-operated transit agency controlled by black and liberal interests in South Fulton and South DeKalb counties) will be a thing of the past.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"You propose taking private land by eminent domain and then selling the land off to private investors to build and operate the transit system and adjacent residential and commercial developments.  When Hell freezes over! We have enough cases of eminent domain abuse for a dozen lifetimes."}}} ...I don't personally propose taking private land by eminent domain.  But because the rail transit line extensions will be public lines (the right-of-way will still be publicly-owned, but the private investors will be paying to maintain the ROW through long-term leases in exchange for keeping all of the revenues from passenger rail operations and the adjacent real estate development), eminent domain will be in play if and where necessary like it is for land acquisition of public road projects (which a publicly-owned passenger railroad is in effect a public "road" like the Georgia state-owned but CSX-leased Western & Atlantic Railroad between Atlanta and Chattanooga), that's just the cold, hard political reality of public transportation infrastructure projects. And the ownership of the land will not be sold away to the private investors, just the right to control and collect revenue from the land will be sold away through long-term land leases like on the Georgia state-owned CSX-leased Western & Atlantic Railroad right-of-way between Atlanta and Chattanooga which is being leased by CSX Transportation from the State of Georgia on a 33-year deal that expires on December 31, 2019. Also, as unpleasant as it may be and as unpleasant as it is, the practice of taking land through eminent domain from one set of private owners and giving it to other private interests is legal and was ruled so by the United States Supreme Court in 2005 in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, CT.  In the case, the court ruled that it was legal for the City of New London, CT to use eminent domain to take land away from private owners and give it to other private owners for the construction of a new urban waterfront development/redevelopment project. {{{"And how would you propose to control the private, for-profit transit system?"}}} ...The public would still own and have the ultimate control over the privatized for-profit public transportation system through the terms of the term-lease deal out to the private entity, it's just that the public would no-longer be responsible for the costs of designing, constructing, operating, maintaining and expanding the system.  The private entity would be responsible for paying those costs in exchange for getting to keep all of the revenues it collects from the transit system and its prime real estate assets. {{{"Georgia Power never figured it out, which is part of the reason we now have MARTA."}}} ...The problem with Georgia Power (and MARTA, and GDOT, and CCT and GCT, and C-Tran, etc) is that it (they) never figured-out that it's not the transit itself that is profitable but is the real estate that the transit serves that makes transit profitable. As has been so vividly-illustrated with the continuing Herculean financial and operational struggles of MARTA and most other public transportation agencies across the U.S., there's absolutely NO money in operating trains and buses alone. In fact, the transit business itself can just simply be a money-sucking liability, particularly if it is operated incompetently and disasterously as both MARTA and GDOT have been operated over the past couple of decades or so.  Heck, public transportation (both roads and transit) is a multi-billion dollar LOSER when operated in the worst possible way that it can be operated as has been the case with both MARTA and GDOT. No private business could survive for such an extended period of time in the way that public agencies like MARTA and GDOT have been operated.  The only reason why entities like MARTA and GDOT have continued operating despite such intensely-incompetent management is because they are public agencies funded with a mix of wholly-inadequate tax revenue and severely-heavy borrowing. If MARTA and GDOT were private businesses they would have gone belly-up years ago and much more-competently run private businesses would have taken their place and probably provided a much better service.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The Last Democrat in Georgia "land which will likely be taken through Eminent Domain if necessary" You propose taking private land by eminent domain and then selling the land off to private investors to build and operate the transit system and adjacent residential and commercial developments. When Hell freezes over! We have enough cases of eminent domain abuse for a dozen lifetimes. And how would you propose to control the private, for-profit transit system? Georgia Power never figured it out, which is part of the reason we now have MARTA. Let me predict you believe that, given enough urban planners and lawyers with unlimited powers, all things are possible.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"You're avoiding the point a bit. A large capital investment is required to construct transit. This investment is required long before user fees, value capture taxes, CIDs, TADS, advertising, and fares generate any income. How do you propose to pay for the initial construction without bonds?"}}} ...You pay for the initial construction without bonds by selling the project off of private investors. You're going to need land to build the passenger rail stations (and accompanying park & ride lots) on...land which will likely be taken through Eminent Domain if necessary.  So you line up your private investors and you sell that land off to those private investors whose interest in the rail transit extension project will be primarily in the amount of revenue (and profits) that will be generated from the large-scale high-density mixed-use transit-oriented real estate development built at and around stations and along the line. You can also just sell the rail transit extension project (which will be a real estate development project first and foremost in the minds of private investors and financiers) off to private investors and make the public transit company a private corporation.  The transit company will still be providing a public service, but that public transit service will be largely directly privately funded and financed. Direct private investment or Public-Private Partnerships/P3s (by selling a public infrastructure project off to private investors) is just a different (and more direct) way of financing large infrastructure projects than bonds which are sold off to private investors. P3s can be a much more effective way of using private money than bonds because P3s can provide private investors with a much more direct and bigger monetary reward than bonds. Private investors can get their money back much more directly and much more quickly on P3s than they can through the traditional bond market, particularly on projects that have a direct revenue stream coming into them like real estate and utilities. When public transportation infrastructure projects are developed as revenue-generating real estate development projects (like when a transit line generates a high amount of revenue from the farebox and the real estate along it, or when a busy controlled-access super-arterial or superhighway corridor has inflation-indexed tolls placed on it), public transportation infrastructure projects become highly-attractive places for private investors to want to grow their money. It makes no sense for a Capitalist society (with lots of monetary capital EVERYWHERE) to operate its highly-valuable and critically-important transportation system on a severely cash-deficient and bankrupting Marxist model, which is basically what we are trying to do now...run our transportation system with little to no cash and an unsustainable amount of borrowing. You can't build something with nothing.  Transportation (roads, transit, seaports, airports, etc) needs money to operate like anything else in this world. {{{"Speaking of CIDs and TADs, have you seen any capable of paying for a MARTA extension?"}}} ...Keeping-in-mind that Value Capture taxes (CIDs, TADs, TIFs) alone would not and absolutely should not be the only source of revenue (a distance-based fare structure and funding from high-density mixed-use transit-oriented real estate development at and around stations and along bus routes should ALWAYS be two major revenue sources), two great examples of existing CIDs that could help fund MARTA extensions are: 1) The Cumberland/Galleria CID in Cobb County, which is already taxing itself to help pay for the new Braves stadium in the Cumberland area... ...With Cobb County business and real estate interests wanting to implement high-capacity passenger rail transit service up the U.S. Highway 41 Cobb Parkway corridor, the current self-taxing Cumberland CID could easily be extended up the Cobb Parkway corridor to Kennesaw and/or Acworth so that a portion of property, sales and (if desired) even income taxes could go to funding mass transit service along the US 41 corridor WITHOUT a politically-contentions and politically-unviable countywide sales tax referendum to join MARTA... Here are some links to some maps and studies that Cobb County has done to push the eventual development of high-capacity passenger rail transit service in the US 41 Cobb Pkwy corridor: https://transportationspotlight.wordpress.com/category/studies/connect-cobb-alternatives-analysis/ http://www.junctionatl.org/what-to-build-in-the-northwest-corridor/ 2) The Gwinnett Village CID in Gwinnett County, which wants to implement high-capacity passenger rail transit service along the I-85 Northeast Corridor between the Doraville MARTA Station and the Gwinnett Center convention/performing arts/entertainment complex (and maybe even out to the Mall of Georgia/Buford area)... ...The Gwinnett Village CID would be more than willing to tax itself to help extend high-capacity passenger rail transit service (MARTA, post-MARTA, or otherwise) out from the Doraville MARTA Station and into fast-growing Gwinnett County. Here is a link to a map of the proposed light rail line that Gwinnett County business and real estate interests want to implement along the I-85 NE Corridor in Gwinnett County, a light rail line that will likely be a heavy rail line whenever it is built and become operational: http://www.gwinnettvillage.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Presentation-Map-Revised-compressed.jpg

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The Last Democrat in Georgia You're avoiding the point a bit. A large capital investment is required to construct transit. This investment is required long before user fees, value capture taxes, CIDs, TADS, advertising, and fares generate any income. How do you propose to pay for the initial construction without bonds? Speaking of CIDs and TADs, have you seen any capable of paying for a MARTA extension?

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch Rees Cramer {{{"So show us the plans for the fully built system. A connection to the International Terminal was planned as a start for a branch but, in typical MARTA clarity of thought, never built."}}} ...Here's a link to a map of the original plans for MARTA which were drawn up sometime in the late 1950's-early 1960's...note that the earliest plans to build-out the MARTA heavy rail system included plans to run heavy rail lines out to Downtown Marietta in Cobb County, out to Norcross in Gwinnett County and out to Forest Park in Clayton County: http://homer.gsu.edu/blogs/library/2012/10/10/%e2%80%9cplanning-atlanta%e2%80%9d-shows-past-illustrations-of-future-redevelopment/atlpp0079_page_27-3/ Here is a link to another later map of a MARTA system that included a Northwest spur line out to Northside Drive off of the North/Northeast-South Line: http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/MARTA_Provisions

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"Bonds are not income, they are financing vehicles like mortgages. They are used to finance assets that cannot be paid in full out of current income."}}} ...Exactly...That's the whole point...Bonds are not income, but government apparently doesn't seem to understand that fact by how heavily they tend to lean on bonds without the proper amount of revenue to cover those bonds. {{{"Are you telling me you've never had a mortgage?"}}} ...Very recent history is chock full of examples of people who took out mortgages that they could not afford to pay back over time on their modest personal incomes. {{{"How do you propose to pay for transit improvements?"}}} ...Basically like I stated before, with private investment (primarily in the form of revenues from large-scale real estate transactions) backed with user fees (in the form of distance-based fares).  If necessary, Value Capture taxes (Tax Increment Financing property taxes on new development along transit lines; self-taxing Community Improvement Districts and Tax Allocation Districts...as opposed to politically-impossible voter referendum-approved countywide sales taxes) can fill-in any remaining gaps in revenue, as needed. Advertising sales can also become a much more significant source of revenue after system ridership increases.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The Last Democrat in Georgia Bonds are not income, they are financing vehicles like mortgages. They are used to finance assets that cannot be paid in full out of current income. Are you telling me you've never had a mortgage? How do you propose to pay for transit improvements?

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"Please explain why long term, low interest, tax exempt bonds are an unsustainable form of funding for state and local governments."}}} ...Bonds are an unsustainable form of funding for government because bonds are basically loans that are expected to be paid back in full and on time no matter how much revenue a government may actually have on hand to repay them. Just like it is not wise for individuals and private citizens to gain all or even most of their personal income from loans and credit, it is also unwise for government to do the same. Just like personal loans and credit (which should only be used for modest and important individual purchases that are within one's financial means), bond funding should only be utilized on a limited basis for important public expenses. Bonds and borrowing should not be the centerpiece of government budgets, which has become the case with a government agency like GDOT (where a noticeable majority of the budget goes to debt service on past projects because the state has long collected too little in road funding revenue) or for an entity like the federal government who is currently in debt to the tune of nearly $17 TRILLION and counting because much the same practice of intentionally collecting too little in revenue and funding many services and expenses that it does not necessarily need to fund. GDOT's debt situation is so bad that it threatens to eat up the state's entire road maintenance budget at some point in the not-too-distant future. We cannot borrow more than we take in forever.  At some point, we will actually have to deal in cash.  Why not start doing so now before the situation reaches full-blown crisis level? {{{"At the end of the day the taxpayers pay for the roads, regardless of the accounting path the money takes and whether it came from fuel taxes or income taxes"}}} ....That's a good point.  It's not necessarily the fault of the taxpayer that the government does not take in anywhere near enough revenue to pay for the roads from taxes and user fees. But these mostly borrowed transportation budgets will not continue on forever.  We are getting very-close to the point where we are going to have to both pay the cost of today's transportation costs and payback yesterday's transportation costs. The billions of dollars in money that a government agency like GDOT borrowed in years past means that we have less transportation funding today and tomorrow if we continue on the same worn-out path of not collecting the proper amount of transportation revenues and not properly leveraging our transportation assets. There's no reason why fuel taxes should not be indexed to inflation so as to much more adequately cover maintenance costs and there's no reason why we should be spending preciously-limited fuel tax revenue on so-called "freeways" that are more than capable of paying for their own costs with revenues from user fees. I can't believe that transit advocates actually want to use fuel taxes to fund transit when fuel taxes don't even come close to adequately funding the costs of maintaining the road network that fuel taxes are intended to pay for.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

The Last Democrat in Georgia Please explain why long term, low interest, tax exempt bonds are an unsustainable form of funding for state and local governments. At the end of the day the taxpayers pay for the roads, regardless of the accounting path the money takes and whether it came from fuel taxes or income taxes.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

@atlman If you review the original MARTA plans you will see a planned Hapeville branch (http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/MARTA_Provisions) that was to go to the east side of the airport and extend to an east side terminal. East side and south side terminals have been in the airport planning for years, and MARTA left the stub for a line to a future south side terminal at the present terminal. Since you brought up the subject of lies, you stated MARTA has not expanded since it was originally built in the 1970s. Have you forgotten about the red line construction north of Lindbergh in the late 1990s, or had you hoped others had forgotten? Have you forgotten that the red line was not complete to the airport until 1988? Here's a link to refresh your memory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Line_(MARTA). MARTA accomplished these expansions without state aid. That negates your point. Finis.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Burroughston Broch Rees Cramer Actually a major part of the problem is that the taxes we pay don't come close to funding the full cost of constructing and maintaining the road network. The road network may get more funding than transit, but roads only get just slightly more funding than transit overall. That's because our taxes (federal and state fuel taxes, local property taxes and vehicle registration fees) only fund between 25-50% of the costs of the road network.  The rest of the cost of the road network is funded with very-heavy borrowing from both domestic and foreign sources, a source of road funding that is unsustainable over the long-run and maybe over the intermediate term. It's not our fault as taxpayers that the taxes we pay does not come close to covering the full cost of constructing and maintaining the road network. The federal government did not peg the federal motor fuel tax to inflation and has not raised it since 1993 when it last raised it to its current rate of 18.4 cents-per-gallon. And I think that the last time that the State of Georgia raised its state motor fuel tax (which also is not pegged to inflation to keep up with road construction and maintenance costs) was maybe 1983 when the current state constitution was ratified, though it may have been longer than that since Georgia's motor fuel taxes were last raised. Heck, part of Georgia's state motor fuel tax does not even go towards road maintenance, but goes straight into the state's general fund.  Because of this, there has been a push to redirect that part of the state's fuel taxes that go into the general fund into the state's road network which is in danger of running out of money because the fuel tax is not pegged to inflation while vehicles continue to become more fuel efficient. Because vehicles are continuing to become more fuel efficient, the funding ability of federal and state fuel taxes would be diminishing anyways.  But the fact that federal and state fuel taxes are not pegged to inflation makes the diminishing funding power of those fuel taxes even more severe.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

mariasaporta The Last Democrat in Georgia1Downtown10 {{{"One can't expect a skeletal, underfunded MARTA system to accomplish that feat on its own - no matter how good its management may be."}}} ...Actually, Ms. Saporta, one could expect MARTA to accomplish the feat of remaking itself into a much more robust transit system on its own with good and competent management. MARTA could initiate the process of becoming a much more robust transit system on its own by aggressively selling-off (through for-profit out-leases) its prime real estate holdings at, above and around its stations for the construction of lucrative revenue-generating large-scale high-quality high-density mixed-use transit-oriented development. MARTA CEO Keith Parker has already initiated this process, but the transit agency needs to be much more aggressive in cultivating what will be an extremely-lucrative revenue stream in large-scale high-quality mixed-use transit-oriented development at and around stations. Large-scale real estate development along transit lines is a revenue stream that has the ability to subsidize fares; fund a very-high level of transit service, operations and maintenance; and fund system expansions as-needed and as desired. (...With large-scale real estate development, we're likely talking about billions of dollars in revenues for a transit agency that has teetered on the brink of financial collapse in recent years.)  After initiating the process of becoming a much more robust transit system on its own by aggressively selling-off its prime real estate holdings, MARTA could then continue the process of becoming a much more robust transit system by instituting an inflation-indexed distance-based fare structure of roughly $0.20 per-mile in 2014 dollars (with discounts of $0.10 per-mile for economically-disadvantaged groups and with fares of no more than $0.30 per-mile in) An inflation-indexed distance-based fare structure would generate more operating revenues at the farebox by encouraging much more use of the system for shorter trips (as one would have to ride 12.5 miles before paying the current trip fare of $2.50 under a distance-based fare structure of $0.20 per-mile) and collecting enough revenue to much more adequately fund longer trips and expansions.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

mariasaporta The Last Democrat in Georgia1Downtown10 {{{"We are long overdue for the state and the region to begin contributing their fair share so we can have a much more robust transit system that will only make our region more competitive."}}} ...I don't necessarily disagree with this point, Ms. Saporta, it's just that Intowners, ITPers and Fulton and DeKalb residents have to comprehend and understand that if the state and the region begin contributing financially to MARTA, they are going to want A LOT more political and financial control over MARTA than Intowners, ITPers and Fulton and DeKalb residents would likely be comfortable with. If the state and the region start contributing money to MARTA on the scale that Intowners and ITPers want, they are not going to just give money to MARTA without expecting anything in return.  In particular, Northside Republicans in Cobb, North Fulton, North DeKalb and Gwinnett counties are going to want to takeover full political control of MARTA from South Fulton and DeKalb counties... ...And part of that Northside suburban takeover of political control of MARTA is most likely going to include selling the MARTA system and its lucrative assets off to private investors...that's just the political reality of the situation.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

mariasaporta The Last Democrat in Georgia1Downtown10 {{{"It all comes back to MARTA never having had the kind of broad support from financial partners it needed to have strong regional transit system — that includes the state and the regional counties outside of Fulton and DeKalb. Believe me, the state and the rest of the region has benefitted tremendously economically  by having a MARTA system in place."}}} ...Ms. Saporta, that is an excellent point that the state of Georgia and the rest of the Atlanta region has benefitted tremendously economically from the existence of MARTA. But as I mentioned before, MARTA did not need to have broad financial support from the state and outlying regional counties (particularly Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett counties) to have a strong regional transit system.  Heck, MARTA did not even need the state and outlying regional counties as financial partners to have a strong regional transit system. If MARTA was only allowed to operate in Fulton and DeKalb counties, then all that MARTA needed to do was operate in Fulton and DeKalb counties to the best of its ability. Just by simply having prime real estate holdings in some of the most heavily-populated parts of Fulton and DeKalb counties and the ability to collect fares, MARTA has always had the ability to financially support itself without further assistance from an often-incompetent and inept state government and hostile suburban counties. It's just that MARTA has never leveraged its prime real estate and fare collection assets properly. The only real blame that lies with the state is that it did not force MARTA to properly leverage its prime real estate and fare collection assets to maximize revenue from the beginning.  But then again how could the state be expected to force MARTA to properly leverage its prime real estate and fare collection assets to maximize revenue when the state doesn't properly leverage its own prime real estate assets in regards to properly funding the operations and upkeep of the road network it is responsible for.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

mariasaporta The Last Democrat in Georgia1Downtown10 ...Those are all excellent points, Ms. Saporta, particularly your point that the entire community benefits greatly from the presence of mass transit. {{{"When transit fares reach a level where they are so expensive, people will not ride it - causing less revenue for a system and all the negative consequences that come with it.  That's why cities and countries across the world, and states across our country, have chosen to invest in public transit - to help keep fares low enough so more people will ride it."}}} ...This is an excellent point, Ms. Saporta.  Though under a distance-based fare structure where fares are indexed to inflation so that operating costs are always much more fully funded, the idea is not to make fares so expensive that people will not and cannot pay them. Under an inflation-indexed distance-based fare structure where was collected at $0.20 per-mile instead of a flat $2.50 one-way no matter the distance, the idea is to collect fares much more effectively so that more operating revenue is collected from shorter-distance trips (by encouraging an increased amount of shorter-distance trips with fares that are lower than the current $2.50 one-way fare for those who travel fewer than 12.5 miles) and enough revenue is collected to help more adequately fund longer-distance trips and expansions (by collecting more fare revenue from longer-distance trips). {{{"That's why cities and countries across the world, and states across our country, have chosen to invest in public transit - to help keep fares low enough so more people will ride it."}}} ...This is another excellent point as it is important to keep fares low so that people will ride mass transit. But it is also important to provide a high level of service so that people will want to ride public transit and it is impossible to provide the high level of service that attracts riders if a transit agency does not collect enough revenue from the farebox and real estate revenues (from revenue-generating large-scale mixed-use transit-oriented development at and around stations, targeted Value Capture taxes, advertising revenues, etc).  It is also important to note that county-by-county voter referendum-approved countywide sales taxes are not the only way for a transit agency to collect operating revenue.  Countywide voter referendum-approved sales taxes can be a good source of startup funding for a transit system, but a transit system should not be dependent upon it for continued operating revenue as a 1% county-by-county voter referendum-approved countywide sales tax is not the only way to fund continued transit operations.  Transit operations can be funded much more effectively with a robust mix of revenues from: ...Private investment (most notably real estate revenues from lucrative revenue-generating large-scale high-density mixed-use transit-oriented development at and around transit stations)... ...An inflation-indexed distance-based fare structure of roughly about $0.20 per-mile in 2014 dollars...   ...Targeted Value Capture taxes (Tax Increment Financing property taxes targeted to new development that pops up along transit lines; self-taxing Community Improvement Districts; Tax Allocation Districts). ...Value Capture taxes are much easier to implement than countywide sales taxes that need the approval of tax-averse and government expansion-averse voters because Value Capture taxes often don't need voter approval and they are targeted only at commercial development that lies along transit lines.  Nor is a 1% county-by-county voter referendum-approved countywide sales tax the only way to fund the startup and expansion of transit operations.  For a transit system in a very fast-growing large major metro region like Atlanta, private investment would likely be the best means of funding the expansion of transit operations at this point in time, particularly since revenues from voter-approved 1% sales taxes and state financial support are so exceptionally-difficult to come by.

mariasaporta
mariasaporta

The Last Democrat in Georgia 1Downtown10  Lively give and take here.  Can't help but weigh in. It seems we forget the word "public" when we talk about public transportation. There are inherent benefits to a community when people ride transit - less pollution, less congestion, less need for parking, less need to repair/maintain roads, better land use, etc.  When transit fares reach a level where they are so expensive, people will not ride it - causing less revenue for a system and all the negative consequences that come with it.  That's why cities and countries across the world, and states across our country, have chosen to invest in public transit - to help keep fares low enough so more people will ride it. It all comes back to MARTA never having had the kind of broad support of financial partners it needed to have strong regional transit system — that includes the state and the regional counties outside of Fulton and DeKalb. Believe me, the state and the rest of the region has benefitted tremendously economically  by having a MARTA system in place. We are long overdue for the state and the region to begin contributing their fair share so we can have a much more robust transit system that will only make our region more competitive. One can't expect a skeletal, underfunded MARTA system to accomplish that feat on its own - no matter how good its management may be.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@atlman Burroughston BrochRees Cramer {{{"MARTA has not had the resources for major expansion since it was originally built in the 1970s and without help from the state they are not going to get it. That is the whole point."}}} ...And the reason why MARTA has not had the resources for major expansion since it was originally built is because MARTA itself chose not to obtain the financial resources needed for proper upkeep and as-needed expansion. It was MARTA that chose not to collect enough in revenue from the farebox and from its extremely-valuable real estate assets. It was MARTA that intentionally depressed its fare structure and revenues from external sources like real estate development while basically demanding that the state fund its operations, maintenance and expansion. MARTA does not need financial help from the state and has never needed financial help from the State of Georgia (which itself collects entirely too little in revenue to properly operate and maintain the road network). With the farebox and the its prime real estate holdings at and around its stations, MARTA has always had the financial resources it needed to operate at a much-higher level and expand as-needed and as-desired. It's just that MARTA itself chose not to properly utilize its valuable assets and the State of Georgia chose not to make MARTA properly utilize its valuable assets so that the transit agency could become self-supporting and profitable as needed. Contrary to local popular belief, being self-supporting and profitable is not something that is optional.  Being financially self-supporting, self-sustaining and profitable is a NECESSITY. As we are now witnessing, if a transit agency like MARTA is not financially, self-supporting, self-sustainable and profitable, it eventually shrivels up and dies, particularly in this low-tax political environment where state government uses being low-tax as an excuse not to collect enough operating revenues from private investment and user fees.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@atlman The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"And as I stated earlier, getting routine operating expenses from the state is not the goal of any MARTA backer but the welfare rights activist crowd. But getting state support to expand MARTA into North Fulton, south DeKalb, Emory/CDC and into Clayton County (if the referendum passes in November as expected) and ultimately into south Cobb to accommodate the Braves traffic nightmare should be done."}}} ...Those are good points, but one thing that MARTA supporters have to understand is that any state money to expand MARTA would likely have to come from the private sector at this point.  That's because the money to expand MARTA to the places you named just simply does not exist within the state's coffers at this point in time. Because, like MARTA, the state has collected entirely too little in operating revenue, the state is quickly running out of the money needed just to perform routine maintenance on the road network.  With the amount of money needed to maintain the road network dwindling, the state most certainly does not have the money to pay for expansion of MARTA. The only way that the state could get the money to pay to expand MARTA would be to take control of MARTA and sell it off to private investors who would be interested in developing the system's extremely-valuable real estate assets at and around its stations. If MARTA wants to upgrade and expand its transit service without a state takeover of the agency, MARTA is going to have to come up with the money to upgrade and expand on its own by instituting a distance-based fare structure and selling off its real estate assets (through profitable term-leases) to private investors for the construction of large-scale high-density mixed-use transit-oriented development at and around its stations. {{{" ITP people are going to have to pay plenty of their tax dollars to support the expanding of the Savannah port. So why should not the state do the same for MARTA, which is just as important to the state's economic picture as the port?"}}} ....The state is not going to do the same for MARTA because: 1) The state does not have the money to pay for expanding MARTA without taking it over and selling it off to private investors... 2) Conservative transit-averse suburban, exurban and rural voters outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties will not allow the state to spend existing tax revenues on a mode of transportation and an urban transit agency that they either are highly-skeptical of (due to MARTA's historically-poor operational and financial performance) or just outright dislike with a passion. Though, those highly transit-averse suburban, exurban and rural voters would allow and even support the state getting the money to support MARTA by taking over MARTA and selling it off to private investors, especially if it means their outer-suburban, exurban and rural areas might get some kind of economic benefit out of the deal with the expansion of passenger rail service to economically-struggling outlying areas around the state.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

@atlman The Last Democrat in Georgia {{{"Oh please. GOPers and white flight suburbanites have been trying to take over and sell MARTA AND Hartsfield for decades. They only stopped trying to take over Hartsfield when the city obtained an expert legal opinion that the state would have to pay billions for the land and facilities. And it was only a last minute intervention from Keith Parker that caused Mike Jacobs to pull his bill that would have privatized much of MARTA in the 2013 legislative session."}}} @...Some notable elements in state government (most notably in North Fulton and North DeKalb counties) may have wanted to takeover MARTA and Hartsfield.  But those North suburban elements in state government have never really been serious about taking over Hartsfield.  If those North suburban elements had been serious about taking over Hartsfield, they could have and would have easily gained the billions of dollars to take possession of the airport from the private sector. And those North suburban elements in state government have only very-recently gotten serious about taking over MARTA when the transit agency went into what appeared to be a fatalistic state of steep decline toward financial collapse. If the state was really serious about taking over MARTA, they could very-easily have done it many years ago with private money.  It's just that Georgia state officials (like most American officials) have had no real understanding of the critically-important concept of using private investment to finance and fund major transportation infrastructure projects up until very-recently. Despite the low-tax rhetoric of conservative politicians, those conservative politicians still think that the only way to finance and fund major transportation infrastructure projects is through the conventional means of being solely dependent upon extremely-limited sales tax and property tax revenues. But the real way (particularly in a low-tax political environment, but also in higher-tax political environments) to finance and fund major transportation infrastructure projects is with private investment and user fees. With Hartsfield-Jackson being the busiest airfield on the entire planet, finding private investors who would provide the billions of dollars needed for the state to take the airport from the city would not be a problem.  Investors would literally be tripping all over themselves to finance such a deal that would likely be very-lucrative for them. The North suburban state government political elements in North Fulton and North DeKalb counties just simply been too ignorant, lazy and incompetent to put together such a simple financial deal to takeover either the airport or MARTA up to this point. - See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2014/04/a-marta-story-why-the-state-never-allocated-money-from-day-one/comment-page-1/#sthash.S52wIWlc.dpuf

Rees Cramer
Rees Cramer

@atlman Burroughston BrochRees Cramer Thank you atlman.  The expansion would never have been permitted, however the DOT will be glad to take federal money to research it.

atlman
atlman

The Last Democrat in Georgia   Oh please. GOPers and white flight suburbanites have been trying to take over and sell MARTA AND Hartsfield for decades. They only stopped trying to take over Hartsfield when the city obtained an expert legal opinion that the state would have to pay billions for the land and facilities. And it was only a last minute intervention from Keith Parker that caused Mike Jacobs to pull his bill that would have privatized much of MARTA in the 2013 legislative session. A similar bill was introduced this session, but Jacobs did not support it because he had to reluctantly admit that his conditions - Parker implementing the major points of the audit that he demanded - were met. Another thing is that Nathan Deal is secretly a MARTA backer but cannot let anybody know that or else he will lose re-election. If a Jan Jones, Ed Lindsey or other white flight Republican been elected governor, dismantling MARTA would still be on the agenda. And as I stated earlier, getting routine operating expenses from the state is not the goal of any MARTA backer but the welfare rights activist crowd. But getting state support to expand MARTA into North Fulton, south DeKalb, Emory/CDC and into Clayton County (if the referendum passes in November as expected) and ultimately into south Cobb to accommodate the Braves traffic nightmare should be done. ITP people are going to have to pay plenty of their tax dollars to support the expanding of the Savannah port. So why should not the state do the same for MARTA, which is just as important to the state's economic picture as the port? Lots of regional, national and international companies have said that they will strongly consider locating or relocating jobs to Atlanta if Atlanta's transit situation becomes competitive with the places that have better transit systems that we are currently losing those jobs to like Dallas, Charlotte and even smaller areas that are more livable like Chattanooga. The OTPers know this but sit on their hands because of pipe dreams that folks Seattle, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Boston etc. are ever going to locate in Gwinnett County in a billion years. People who like to live and work in urban areas are going to locate their companies and workers in urban areas for a similar culture and working environment, not run out into the suburbs to chase low taxes and get away from black people. Deal to his credit realizes this, and which is why he supported the T-SPLOST initially, he supports projects like the MMPT in the gulch, worked very hard to keep the Falcons downtown and build the new stadium there, and only criticizes MARTA, the Beltline and even the streetcar when asked directly about it.  I actually do expect Deal to announce real aid to help MARTA to expand immediately after winning re-election. That bill to allow MARTA to expand into Clayton County would have never gotten out of committee if it did not have his blessing. Look for the expansion into Clayton County - whose tax base has now deteriorated so much that the 1 penny sales tax will generate less than $50 million a year - to be the pretext for Deal to state that "yeah, maybe we should give MARTA a one time aid package to expand, but not or ever operating expenses."  And Deal is smart enough to know that expanding the Savannah port will mean spending more money on rail also.

atlman
atlman

Burroughston Broch Rees Cramer   More lies from the person in whom truth does not reside. The International terminal opened in 2012, 2 years ago. Even if you make the argument that MARTA should have planned the opening of the international terminal with Hartsfield (and these are 2 different agencies run by 2 different governments despite the tendency of people with your ilk to lump them together) MARTA would not have had the money to expand there no more than they have the money to expand into North Fulton or south DeKalb. MARTA has not had the resources for major expansion since it was originally built in the 1970s and without help from the state they are not going to get it. That is the whole point.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

Rees Cramer "Actually it (MARTA) does just fine, for a half built system that is taken advantage of and used by the suburban critic as the example of urban decay." So show us the plans for the fully built system. A connection to the International Terminal was planned as a start for a branch but, in typical MARTA clarity of thought, never built. "You are not going to like it much when you really start paying the true cost of the road you use." As a taxpayer I pay the full cost of public roads, unless you can prove otherwise.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Rees Cramer Burroughston Broch {{{"Actually it (MARTA) does just fine, for a half built system that is taken advantage of and used by the suburban critic as the example of urban decay."}}}  ...Under Keith Parker's leadership, MARTA has begun to get on the right track fiscally and operationally.  But with the agency bleeding cash, with ridership in steep decline, and with routes and service suffering steep cuts, the state of MARTA in recent years cannot exactly be described as "just fine". {{{"When the tax or toll is on the driving commuter causing the congestion it is penalty while when it is on the single mother of three who has no car it is a user fee.  We can just apply that $ 0.20 per mile distance based toll on the driver of each car that uses the freeway through Atlanta."}}}  ...This statement is symbolic of the type of thinking that has led MARTA to the brink of total financial collapse in recent years.....The thinking, even amongst MARTA's most ardent and loyal supporters, that MARTA public transit service should basically be aimed at serving the riders who are the poorest of the poor first-and-foremost. Ensuring that our poorest citizens (particularly those who cannot afford private vehicles) have a way to get around is an honorable thing.  But it does those low-income transit-dependent riders no good if the transit service they depend on financially collapses and ceases operation due to a severe lack of operating revenue. {{{"We can just apply that $ 0.20 per mile distance based toll on the driver of each car that uses the freeway through Atlanta."}}} ...Distance-based user fees and tolling on Atlanta area freeways is an excellent idea.  But the implementation of such tolling on freeways should not be to punish drivers, but to properly fund the operations and maintenance of the freeway network while encouraging higher levels of transit use by the commuting public where applicable in urban areas where road space is limited. Also, with the I-85 HOT Lanes operating in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, distance-based tolling is already in effect in metro Atlanta to the extent that HOT Lanes users pay as much as $0.50 per-mile during rush hours and peak-hours. There are also plans to eventually expand the variable distance-based tolling model to all stretches and all lanes of the freeway system in metro Atlanta as a way of much more adequately funding the operations and maintenance of superhighways and encouraging increased mass transit use over the long-term. Under such a universal distance-based tolling system on all controlled-access sections of highway, HOT Lanes and Managed Express lanes would continue to tolled at a much-higher rate during rush hours and peak hours while general purpose lanes would be tolled at anywhere in a range of between $0.03 per-mile during off-peak hours to $0.10 per-mile during peak traffic hours in 2014 dollars. Business vehicles (corporate vehicles, trucks, etc) would be exempt from variable tolling and would only have to pay a fixed distance-based toll (of no more than $0.06 per-mile in 2014 dollars). {{{"If Marta is to be such a self supporting and profitable entity than so should your precious "freeways"."}}} ...While I wholeheartedly agree with your remark that "freeways" (which are not really free) should also be self-supporting and profitable entities, you do know that MARTA being self-supporting and profitable would be a good thing, right?   MARTA being self-supporting and profitable would mean that the agency would not have to beg a highly-incompetent transit-averse Georgia Legislature and highly-skeptical voters in surrounding counties for crumbs in hopes of staying solvent enough to keep operating at a modest level, much less be solvent enough to upgrade and expand urban transit service on the large-scale that it is needed. {{{"You are not going to like it much when you really start paying the true cost of the road you use."}}} ...As I've alluded to before, the whole idea of implementing distance-based user fees on important pieces of transportation infrastructure (distance-based tolls on roads and fares on transit) is not to punish commuters or make transportation users dislike commuting. The purpose of implementing distance-based user fees on roads and transit is to help much more adequately and fully fund the design, construction, operations, maintenance and as-needed improvement and expansion of critically-important pieces of transportation infrastructure.

Rees Cramer
Rees Cramer

Burroughston Broch Rees Cramer Actually it (MARTA) does just fine, for a half built system that is taken advantage of and used by the suburban critic as the example of urban decay.  When the tax or toll is on the driving commuter causing the congestion it is penalty while when it is on the single mother of three who has no car it is a user fee.  We can just apply that $ 0.20 per mile distance based toll on the driver of each car that uses the freeway through Atlanta.  If Marta is to be such a self supporting and profitable entity than so should your precious "freeways".  You are not going to like it much when you really start paying the true cost of the road you use.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Rees Cramer {{{"How about Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb residents get a better fair since we are paying for the system that suburban riders use.  We pay two dollars that pay 3.50."}}}  ...A better idea would be to phase-out the 1% countywide sales tax that is paid on most sales transactions in Fulton and DeKalb (and likely soon-to-be Clayton) counties...(...keep-in-mind that residents of other counties and states also pay the 1% sales tax that funds MARTA when they shop or make a sales purchase in Fulton and DeKalb counties...Also keep-in-mind that residents of other counties help fund MARTA when they pay a fare to ride MARTA). The 1% sales tax would be phased-out by lessening MARTA's overdependence on the 1% sales tax by: ...Implementing a distance-based fare structure of about $0.20-per-mile in 2014 dollars (so that transit users would have to ride 12.5 miles before paying the current one-way fare of $2.50, helping the agency to collect more in farebox revenues from both shorter rides (by encouraging more shorter trips) and longer trips (by helping to fund longer trips and system expansions))... ...Vastly increasing the amount of revenue that the agency takes in directly from high-quality, high-density mixed-use transit-oriented development at and around its stations... ...Eventually eliminating the 1% sales tax and replacing it with revenues from Value Capture taxes (revenues from property taxes on new and existing development along transit lines). {{{"I also think a congestion charge should be levied on people who drive into the city."}}} ...Funding transportation should be about penalizing or punishing people who commute into one geographical area from other municipalities and geographical areas. Funding transportation should be about collecting enough in revenue from ALL transportation users to adequately (or even more than adequately) fund the costs of operating and maintaining as needed critical pieces of public transportation infrastructure. Instead of levying a congestion charge only on people who must drive into the city for work, shopping, socializing, etc (all important sources of revenue for the City of Atlanta), a much better idea is to encourage higher levels of transit use in a road-limited metro region and better fund transportation infrastructure operating and maintenance costs by implementing various levels of congestion pricing on ALL controlled-access roadways (in the form of cash-back variable electronic tolls on grade-separated highways that rise and fall with the amount of traffic on the roadway).

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

Rees Cramer  Then MARTA will go even further in the financial hole. It already has a very low farebox collection rate. Regarding a congestion charge, it's a game two can play and could as easily be levied on those who drive out of the city.

Rees Cramer
Rees Cramer

How about Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb residents get a better fair since we are paying for the system that suburban riders use.  We pay two dollars that pay 3.50.  I also think a congestion charge should be levied on people who drive into the city.

Rees Cramer
Rees Cramer

Burroughston Broch atlman    He is right, Austin does receive financial support and legislative support. It also is a poor comparison.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

freckleface You and I cannot ascertain the author's intent, but we can see what he wrote. And it is not correct. Finis.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

Intowners and ITPers may think that they want the state to fund MARTA's operating expenses, but do they REALLY truly want the state to fund MARTA's operating expenses? Because "state funding" of MARTA's operating expenses in this political environment would most likely involve a state takeover of MARTA and a subsequent sale of MARTA to international private investors. Intowners and ITPers should be careful what they ask for, because they just might get it...

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

1Downtown10 {{{"I hope this article will help the State understand the consequences of continuing to hold mass transit back.  Our future as a regional powerhouse depends on this mass transit."}}} ...I agree that mass transit will play a major role in our future as a regional powerhouse.  I also agree that state funding of MARTA would be nice.  But it is not the State of Georgia that has been holding MARTA back, it is MARTA that has been holding itself back by not collecting enough in operating revenue at the farebox (by way of a distance-based fare structure) and by not collecting enough operating revenues from sources other than the 1% sales tax that it collects in Fulton and DeKalb counties. If from its inception MARTA had been collecting revenues from its property holdings at and around its stations and along many of its bus routes (with the development of high-density mixed-use transit-oriented real estate development at and around its stations and along its bus routes), we most likely would not be having this conversation right now. Instead we would likely be talking about expanding high-capacity passenger rail transit service to such outlying areas as Rome, Gainesville, Athens, Dalton, Macon, Columbus and the like. It is MARTA which has made a conscious decision to completely starve itself of critical operating revenues by not properly and adequately harnessing revenue streams from the farebox and its extensive real estate holdings during an era of an explosive economic and population boom in metro Atlanta.

Guest
Guest

This story basically says that then State Representatives Mike Egan is one of the principal reasons that MARTA does not receive State funding.  Incidentally, that Mike Egan has a son named Mike Egan, who is a partner at the King & Spalding law firm, and who is the primary counsel for the Atlanta Falcons and their quest for buckets of State and City public dollars for the Falcons So the Mike Egans of this world favor public support of billionaire Arthur Blank, but not MARTA.  How nice of the Egan clan to leave us this tortured legacy.

freckleface
freckleface

Burroughston Broch You are splitting hairs.  I believe the intention of the statement is that among similar transit systems and metros served, we are the only transit system that doesn't receive state funding.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

atlman My, my, my. You certainly get your knickers in a twist when someone disagrees with you. I wrote nothing about despising anyone, in Atlanta or not. I observed that the author's closing is incorrect in at least one case, and that there may be other cases. Don't presume to put words in my mouth, but feel free to rant as much as you wish.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

freckleface Please read the author's last sentence - "the only major mass transit system in the country that does not receive state support." That's differnct from what you state. The standard MARTA supporter lament is what they author wrote, and it is not correct.

atlman
atlman

Burroughston Broch atlman   OK, let's play your game. "You don't like that I proved the author was wrong on at least one count, and disproved the mantra that MARTA is the only major sytem not subsidized by a state." Actually, you proved the OPPOSITE. "Austin, Texas Capital Metro received 0.2% of its 2013 $255 million budget from the State of Texas." The literal truth of that statement is that Capital Metro IS supported by the state. So not only are you fundamentally dishonest when taken in context, BUT YOU ARE FUNDAMENTALLY DISHONEST ACCORDING TO THE LITERAL FACTS. In other words, THERE IS NO CONTEXT WHERE YOUR STATEMENT IS ACTUALLY TRUE. YOUR STATEMENT IS FALSE BOTH LITERALLY AND IN THE CONTEXT OF COMPARING A TRANSIT SYSTEM THAT IS 90% BUS ROUTES AND ALREADY ADEQUATELY SERVES ITS SMALL SERVICE AREA AND A TRANSIT SYSTEM WITH SEVERAL HEAVY RAIL LINES AND SERVES ABOUT HALF THE LAND MASS THAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO. THAT IS WHY CAPITAL METRO'S BUDGET IS 40% OF AUSTIN'S. IT HAS A MUCH SMALLER SERVICE AREA AND DOES NOT OPERATE A SINGLE HEAVY RAIL LINE, LET ALONE FOUR. Further, yes, Keith Parker did work in Austin. But that is not the only place that he worked. He also worked in Charlotte, San Antonio, Richmond and Washington State. The San Antonio system is much more comparable to the Atlanta system because it has fixed-route bus, paratransit and light-rail. So is the Charlotte system, which is a six-county system that includes multiple rail lines, two types of rail service and three types of bus service. It was based on Parker's experience running transit systems in areas comparable to Atlanta like San Antonio and Charlotte - and not in densely developed college towns like Austin - that he made the statement that MARTA NEEDS TO BE TWICE ITS CURRENT SIZE. You ignore all that and instead choose possibly the least relevant or comparable system in his resume to make the idiotic case that MARTA should have anything approaching the same budget as a system whose 1 light rail line doesn't even run on weekends! Again, the only thing that you proved is that you so despise the people who choose to live in Atlanta that you do not have an honest bone in your body.

freckleface
freckleface

The fact that MARTA is the largest mass transit system in America with no state funding can be verified through many sources.  I could bore you with many sources, but everyone is capable of using Google to find it for themselves.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

atlman What a cop out and smokescreen on your part. You don't like that I proved the author was wrong on at least one count. Austin Capital Metro is certainly a large transit system and was the previous purview of MARTA's General Manager/CEO Keith Parker. Part of the reason for hiring him was his performance in a major transit system - Austin. Austin's operating budget is about 40% of MARTA's, but then MARTA's operating budget is only 5% of New York MTA's operating budget.

atlman
atlman

Burroughston Broch   1. Seriously, do you have an honest bone in your body? Capital Metro is a city bus system serving Austin, Texas (16 miles long, 16 miles wide with a population of 820,000) plus a single 32 mile long light rail line with 9 stops that does not even run on the weekend. That is all. MARTA serves two counties (and will soon be 3) with a population of 1.6 million and a geographic area of 570 square miles and includes 4 heavy rail lines with 38 stations. Another thing: Austin is basically a large college town (Texas-Austin is the largest college in the country and one of the largest in the world; it is basically the size of UGA, Georgia Tech and Emory combined) and is heavily urbanized and planned, with the greater metro area having fewer residents than live within the city limits. MARTA is the transit system of a sprawling, 10-28 county metro area with 4.2-5.6 million total people. Any comparisons between Capital Metro and MARTA are absurd. If you want to make a real comparison, make it between MARTA and DART, which serves greater Dallas, or METRO, which serves Houston. I will wager that there is a reason why you did not. But you didn't even have the ethics to mention how suburban Republican Cobb and Gwinnett get as much state support as Capital Metro (and more than MARTA!) through GRTA to run a few express buses a day. 2. Few people except for the welfare rights activist/social engineering crowd want the state to subsidize MARTA's routine operating costs. What MARTA wants is merely state help to enable the system to expand; i.e. to go further into north Fulton and also expand its DeKalb reach to include Emory/CDC, south DeKalb and add an I-20 East rail line. I do not mean expand into new counties ... yet. Do not be mistaken, MARTA will be approved in Clayton in November, and  the Braves stadium and demographic changes will make sure that MARTA is in Cobb in 10 years. Cobb County would have a pro-MARTA majority by this fall if it hadn't gerrymandered the new commission maps (not my accusation, but was plainly admitted by the Marietta Daily-Journal). As Fulton and DeKalb contains most of the region's top employers and institutions (the suburbs merely contain most residents and places for them to shop), the state does have an economic interest in expanding MARTA. Only ridiculous parochial politics of the sort exhibited by you is why it never gets supported.

1Downtown10
1Downtown10

I hope this article will help the State understand the consequences of continuing to hold mass transit back.  Our future as a regional powerhouse depends on this mass transit.   Should we decide to do nothing, the City of Atlanta, and, therefore, the State of Georgia, will be slow to grow and will ultimately be relegated to a second class area.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

"And to this day, the State of Georgia has yet to make any contribution to MARTA – the only major mass transit system in the country that does not receive state support." Austin, Texas Capital Metro received 0.2% of its 2013 $255 million budget from the State of Texas. For all intents and purposes this is zero state support. I suspect there are others as well.

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  1. […] MARTA’s first general counsel talks about the agency’s early days and why the state neve… […]

  2. […] added that MARTA is one of the largest mass transit systems in the country that does not receive any state funding, and that Georgia ranks near the bottom of all states in the amount of investment in transportation […]