MARTA leader calls for “moon shot” metro Atlanta transit effort

By Maggie Lee

With an audience of elected leaders from all over metro Atlanta and beyond, MARTA’s leader said the region needs to have a “big goal” as it looks toward the next 40 years of transit.

Jeffrey Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA, said on Friday at the annual "State of MARTA" breakfast that metro Atlanta should spend $100 billion on transit infrastructure and technology over the next 40 years. Credit: Maggie Lee

Jeffrey Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA, said on Friday at the annual “State of MARTA” breakfast that metro Atlanta should spend $100 billion on transit infrastructure and technology over the next 40 years. Credit: Maggie Lee

“Over the next 40 years, metro Atlanta should have the goal of investing $100 billion in transit and technology,” MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker said at the annual State of MARTA breakfast on Friday morning.

“We need $100 billion to transform for our future, to profoundly transform mobility and ensure that metro Atlanta can continue to grow into the world-class region we all want,” he said, calling that a moon shot effort.

He made the comments as he showed a graph depicting metro Atlanta’s rising population, and a photo of gridlock on the Connector.

Parker did not unveil any new map or talk specifics about what modes should go where — that’s not exactly MARTA’s decision anyway. MARTA is one transit agency among many, it only operates in three metro counties and it leans on local governments to figure out the broad outlines of what’s best for each community.

But MARTA is the biggest transit agency, it’s the only subway operator, and what its leaders say will carry a lot of weight in the region.

“Some will say that [$100 billion] is probably too big and too bold and that we can’t do it and that we should just focus on what’s in front of us today. But we must do both,” Parker said.

Setting aside inflation, $100 billion per year for 40 years would come to $2.5 billion in transit and technology spending per year across maybe a dozen counties, depending on how “metro Atlanta” is defined.  And if that future spending is anything like transit spending now, the money will come from a lot of places: fares, local sales taxes, federal grants, and maybe some money from the state of Georgia.

But for a little context, consider what those squiggly lines on transit maps cost: Gwinnett is considering joining MARTA and paying for an extension of heavy rail into the county, a line linking Doraville station to somewhere in the vicinity of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85. According to the estimates in Gwinnett’s transit plan, capital costs alone on that four- to five-mile line would come to about $1.16 billion.


Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

3 replies
  1. Avatar
    James William Hogue says:

    Yes….please expand.. ..kennesaw….buford….athens….cumming….peachtree city….carrollton
    ..jonesborro….covington….macon….no more traffic!
    It would be great for me to park and get a train at buford and ride into town and back.
    Study showed expanded public transit would reduce traffic volume 20%Report

  2. Avatar
    David Tracht says:

    This is exactly the kind of leadership we need in Atlanta regarding TRANSIT, and we need equally bold leadership regionally related to LAND USE/PLANNING/ZONING. We need to expand transit 20x in the region and promote land use/zoning policies that dramatically INCREASES DENSITY, and gets people out of cars (theirs or shared) and onto their feet or into transit. Our future depends on it.Report

  3. Avatar
    What do you think? says:

    I am a transit advocate and appreciate the value MARTA brings to our community. Recently however, I question how we responsibly invest our limited public dollars. Transportation is in the process of being upset by several transformational technologies that will change the landscape. Driver-less cars being chief among these technologies, a 100 Billion dollar transit plan will take decades to implement and will lead to projects coming on-line probably after driver-less cars have saturated the marketplace and our roads.

    This technology will likely change the how we use and whether we even own vehicles. Unused vehicles may automatically roam the streets to pick up rides in-order to help defer their owners cost to own a vehicle. It may become cheaper for the public to subsidize an Uber ride, than to build a transit system that actually serves everyone. Rail and Bus could very well loose importance in a decentralized city such as Atlanta. How does it survive? Will there be a place for rail in a decentralized city?

    Ultimately, we should probably better understand the potential answers to questions like these before we spend large sums of money.

    We currently need and will need in the future a way to efficiently and cheaply move people around the city, I am just not sure transit in its current incarnation is going to be that system.Report


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