Gov. Deal’s transit task force recommends GRTA lead all systems, except MARTA

By David Pendered

Gov. Nathan Deal’s transit task force has recommended making GRTA responsible for all transit operations in the state – except MARTA, according to a report made public Wednesday.

The proposed legislation is included in the report and is more than 50 pages long. The proposal significantly rewrites Title 50 of the Georgia Code, which creates the structure for GRTA – the Georgia Regional Transporation Authority.

The draft legislation specifically says the authority will not have control over MARTA. But it does say that MARTA may sign an agreement with GRTA and would gain more flexibility over its spending if such an agreement existed.

MARTA officials maintain the agency is hamstrung by restrictions over the proportion of its sales tax revenue it can spend on maintenance and operations, versus the amount on expanding the system.

Click here to read the full report. The proposed legislation begins on page 14.

Here are 12 highlights directly from the report:

The Governor’s Executive Order asked the [Transit Governance Task Force] to create a decision-making structure that would include representatives from state and local governments. To accomplish this goal, the TGTF developed 12 key points relative to the structure and decision-making authority of GRTA as the agency for transit governance.

These 12 key points were then used to prepare the draft legislation.

The 12 Key Points are:

1. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) will be responsible for transit governance. GRTA will seek to transfer its transit operations within 2 years of signed legislation.

2. The agency will have the following transit governance responsibilities:

  • Establish regional transit vision, mission, and goals within 1 year of signed legislation
  • Set regional benchmarks for operator performance by July 2014 and submit an annual report during the legislative session to the House and Senate Transportation committees, the Governor, the GRTA board, and MARTOC
  • Compile regional data for all the operators
  •   Provide regional data analysis and information reporting
    •   Provide regional performance metrics and measurement
    •  Design and implement a future strategic plan
    •  Manage federal fund applications
    •  Apply for and manage funds
    • Provide marketing and branding policy and strategy •            Provide long-term capital investment strategy
    • Coordinate and control the flow of federal and state dollars for annual budgets to operators;
    • Accountability for spending; oversight and monitoring of spending
    • Optimize cross-jurisdictional routes
    • Provide an integrated fare system strategy and implementation

3. Transit governance would be a function of GRTA in addition to its existing powers and authority. GRTA’s existing powers will not be altered.

4. GRTA would be the only transit governance entity for the state.

5.GRTA would have jurisdiction for setting transit governance policy when a transit operator meets all three of the following conditions:

  • The origin and/or destination of a transit route exist within one of the 13 non-attainmentcounties for air quality as of 1998. This is the current jurisdiction of GRTA. Other countiesmay opt in through a vote of the county commission.
  •  The transit route crosses a county line
  •  The transit operator receives, or is eligible to receive, federal transit funds

6. Direct policy-making and oversight of transit governance would come from a 35-member Transit Governance Council: the 13 county commission chairmen in the transit governance jurisdiction, two at-large county commissioners, 13 mayors, Mayor of Atlanta, one at-large mayor or elected city official, three of the Governor’s appointments to the GRTA Board, one of the Speaker’s appointments to the GRTA Board, and one of the Lieutenant Governor’s appointments to the GRTA Board. At-large selections are to be made by the Governor and approved by the standing group of like officials within the transit governance board. Mayors would be selected from the caucus of the mayors representing a member county.

7. The Transit Governance Council would approve of the policies put forward by the Transit Governance Director of GRTA.

8. The Transit Governance Council would have the ability to proceed with contracts, applications, and legal agreements within its purview.

9. A Transit Governance Director would be nominated by the Governor and approved by both the GRTA Board and the Transit Governance Council to be the top administrator for transit governance. The Executive Director of GRTA would continue to be nominated by the Governor and approved by the GRTA board. The Executive Director of GRTA would maintain existing responsibilities except for transit governance.

10. Decisions of the Transit Governance Council would not require approval by the GRTA Board, but the GRTA Board would have the authority to veto any policy decision of the Transit Governance Council with a 2/3 vote of the GRTA Board members. The GRTA Board will be alerted to Transit Governance Council business via meeting notice and will be time-bound with veto power.

11. GRTA Board structure would change to a 9-3-3 model with the Governor appointing 9 citizens, the Speaker of the House appointing 3 citizens, and Lieutenant Governor appointing 3 citizens. There would be no additional prohibitions or restrictions on Board selections.

12. MARTA would have the opportunity to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with GRTA with respect to transit governance. MARTA would have greater flexibility in its spending during a year in which it has chosen to do so.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 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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