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MARTA train

Better late then never: ‘A path forward’ for Ga. transit funding

No more flying pigs?

Georgia’s Legislature has suffered a failure to launch on the issue of public transportation for years, but that may finally be changing. A legislative study committee report released last month recommends that the state provide operating funds to local transit agencies all across Georgia – including MARTA.

Yes, it’s only a study committee and waaay to early to start celebrating. But this promising and long overdue development has implications that are too important for even the most cynical among us (me) to dismiss. While flying pigs exist only in fantasy, a serious discussion about dedicated transit funding in Georgia is already taking flight.

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Commentary: The transit divide widens with election

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

The Nov. 8 election produced a major win for MARTA.  Nearly 130,000 Atlanta voters, or 71.34 percent, approved a half-penny sales tax to expand MARTA within the city limits.

At the same time, the city voted to increase overall transportation funding by a .4 of a penny sales tax.

This is in addition to the one-cent sales tax that the city of Atlanta has been investing in the MARTA system since 1971 – when Fulton and DeKalb counties also voted in favor of the regional transit system.

Since then, only one new county has joined the system – Clayton County in 2014.

Atlanta’s vote will create a wider divide in our region between the transit rich and the transit poor – the communities with a robust rail and bus system and the communities without.

The city has been enjoying the benefits from its investment in MARTA in recent years. Most of the major economic development announcements have been located near MARTA stations, and most of those have been within the city limits. Think NCR Corporation, GE, Kaiser Permanente, among many others.

The counties without a rail transit system are seeing several of their top companies relocating to places served by MARTA, reversing the decades-long trend of businesses moving to the suburbs.

So why are companies moving near MARTA stations?

Simple. They want to employ the best and the brightest college graduates, and that demographic wants to be able to live, work, learn and play in places where they do not need to own a car.

There are few areas in our region that provide the transportation alternatives that Atlanta offers. And that divide will only become more apparent as MARTA and the City of Atlanta begin to invest their new half-penny in expanded bus service and light rail lines.

This parallels continued investments in sidewalks, bicycle lanes and multipurpose trails – all key ingredients in creating a more walkable and livable city.

Meanwhile, the rest of Fulton County, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett passed local sales taxes to invest in transportation – primarily roads – which will only deepen the transit divide.

The longer Atlanta’s neighbors hesitate in joining our regional transit system, the more we will become a tale of two cities.

Michael Thurmond

CEO-Elect Michael Thurmond offers “new vision” for DeKalb County

For local voters suffering from PESD – Post-Election Stress Disorder – DeKalb County CEO-elect Michael Thurmond provided just what the doctor ordered.

Flush from an election night victory, Thurmond delivered a thoughtful and inspiring speech last Thursday that hinted at his “new vision” for repairing the county long beset by racial divisiveness, bureaucratic mismanagement and political scandal.

simon berrebi

With MARTA, ownership has its privileges and responsibilities

Quick question: When’s the last time you washed a rental car? If the answer is “never,” you’re hardly alone. The timeworn adage that most people take better care of physical assets that they own outright has been confirmed by scientific research and just plain common sense.

However, the innate human impulse to be a good custodian of one’s possessions is attenuated (or disappears) when it comes to public goods such as our transit infrastructure, including MARTA.

Atlanta has called four meetings to discuss project lists for the proposed sales tax increases for transit and transportation. File

Atlanta calls four meetings on transportation sales taxes; last two fall after deadline for preliminary project list

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration on Thursday called four public meetings to gather input about the two proposed transportation sales tax referendums that Reed wants on the Nov. 8 ballot. By state law, MARTA must present a preliminary list to the city by May 31 for a proposed transit tax increase to appear on a ballot this year.