By Maria Saporta
Bad, bad news.
As a prisoner on death row, C-TRAN, the bus service in Clayton County, has lost another appeal to stay alive beyond March 31.
The Federal Transit Administration, in a letter to U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta) is denying to review of its earlier decision to permit C-TRAN to use a pot of federal funds to turn over some of the bus operation to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.
Scott had written a letter on March 15 urging the FTA to allow the use of Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Funds to allow GRTA to initiate its Xpress buses on at least some of C-Tran’s routes.
Yvette Taylor, the FTA’s regional administrator, wrote to Scott saying: “The FTA is fully aware of the hardship facing your affected constituents in Clayton County caused by the County Commission’s decision to terminate all C-TRAN bus services effective April 1, 2010. The FTA finds this situation untenable.”
But Taylor added that the GRTA solution is not acceptable because GRTA “has not provided a financial plan to demonstrate the long-term viability of the service. The financial plan is required to ensure that the temporary use of CMAQ funds lead to continued and viable transit service for the public.”
Again, the problem that Georgia and its transit agencies still haven’t figured out a way to provide sustainable operating support for public transportation. GRTA and other bus services have taken advantage of federal funds to start up transit operations, but they haven’t come up with a long-term financial plan to keep those systems running after the federal dollars run out.
It’s hard to believe that the local and state governments — from the Clayton County Commission, GRTA, the Georgia Department of Transportation and all the other alphabet soup of agencies — have not come up with a solution to keep C-TRAN in business after March 31.
Thousands of daily riders who depend on C-TRAN will be left without a means of public transportation to get to their jobs or schools or to take care of their family’s needs.
We are region that needs to be encouraging greater use of transit as a way to relieve congestion, improve air quality and promote more sustainable developments that aren’t dependent on the automobiles. But instead, we seem to keep slipping backwards.
Where are the leaders in our state and our region and in Clayton County who should be coming up with solutions rather than sitting on the sidelines?
For the record, Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell was the one commissioner to vote for continued funding of C-TRAN. And obviously Rep. Scott is doing what he can. But C-TRAN’s countdown clock continues to tick-tock to its death.
Even the FTA’s Taylor, in her letter, seemed frustrated at the lack of enlightened leadership in our region and in Clayton County.
“The FTA continues to stand ready to assist Clayton County,” Taylor wrote, “if the Commission can provide the local financial support that is required to move forward and not allow the transit-dependent riders to be victims to a political process they cannot control.”
Is anybody listening?
Here is FTA’s letter to U.S. Rep. David Scott; (you’ll need to keep clicking on the links):