MARTA to meet with public on Campbellton Road project as questions arise
By David Pendered
MARTA officials are to meet the public Thursday evening to discuss the Campbellton Road transit expansion proposal for the first time since the Atlanta City Council questioned MARTA’s handling of the project.
The council is slated to vote on Feb. 7 for a resolution asking MARTA to provide details on the money MARTA’s spent, and intends to spend, on the proposal to provide high-capacity transit along Campbellton Road. MARTA is evaluating the potential addition of a trolley line or enhanced bus service between MARTA’s Oakland City Station and the Greenbriar Mall area. The existing bus route, No. 83, has more riders than many MARTA routes, according to MARTA.
MARTA has scheduled two public hearings on the proposed high-capacity transit mode along Campbellton Road. Both events are virtual.
The first is scheduled for Thursday evening, starting at 6 p.m. The second is set for Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. Both events are to be interactive. Information to connect to the livestream is available here. MARTA’s description of the project is available here.
Councilmember Marci Collier Overstreet introduced the resolution on Jan. 26, and it received unanimous support from the council’s Transportation Committee.
The resolution raises the concern that MARTA may choose to install a less-expensive system of enhanced bus service, known as bus rapid transit, instead of the system the resolution contends is locally preferred, a more-costly light rail system comparable to the Atlanta Streetcar. The resolution contends MARTA may shift the savings to other projects.
The money is being raised through the 0.5 percent sales tax in Atlanta voters approved in 2016.
Overstreet and MARTA released statements addressing the legislation. The complete statements follow.
“Today [Jan. 26], the Council’s Transportation Committee unanimously voted in favor of my ‘More MARTA’ accountability legislation. I’m thankful that this new and committed City Council stands ready to implement accountability measures for the promised projects on the ‘More MARTA’ prioritized list as 11 of my colleagues joined me as co-sponsors. The legislation is now on track to be ratified unanimously at our next full Council meeting on Feb. 7. In 2016, Atlanta residents voted to be taxed to address a variety of transportation concerns and opportunities. ‘More MARTA’ expansion is a major component of the TSPLOST vote.”
“Once ‘More MARTA’ projects were prioritized with investment values added, they were ratified by the MARTA Board of Directors and presented to the Council and all Atlanta residents through quadrant engagement sessions and committee presentations. The MARTA website was updated to reflect the binding agreements. This legislation will serve as a reminder to MARTA and the Atlanta residents of our promised investments and plans.”
“It was important to me to add this accountability piece at this pivotal time of new leadership on the Council and at MARTA. The Campbellton Road Transit Corridor is rightly at the top of the list of priorities and deserves every dime of investment promised – $317 million – to the Atlanta City Council and the residents of Atlanta.”
“MARTA appreciates Atlanta Councilmember Overstreet’s concerns and will continue to be transparent with regard to the More MARTA Program of projects, including Campbellton Corridor. Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the City of Atlanta, approved by the Atlanta City Council on June 11, 2020, provides the framework for transparency and accountability for delivering the program. City of Atlanta and MARTA staff meet at least monthly to discuss specific projects and the overall program.”
“The More MARTA program does not allocate a specific amount of money to any given project or by specific Council Districts. It is intended to expand the transit system for the benefit of all Atlantans. Limiting project funding and expenditures to Council Districts would make it impractical to design a great transit system and would instead perpetuate longstanding inequities in Atlanta.”
“Early ideas for potential projects and cost estimates of those for the More MARTA program were prepared to understand what could be possible. Potential projects from that list of possibilities then get prioritized, which the MARTA Board of Directors did by adopting a sequencing plan in 2019 and the City of Atlanta incorporated into the aforementioned IGA in 2020. Based on that prioritization list, MARTA then begins the planning and public engagement process to determine the exact project to be designed and built for each corridor. That process defines the project, which includes features such as the type of transit, its route and station locations. The cost of the project gets further defined as the design of the project advances because more is known about it. The type of project, cost and its merits determine whether More MARTA funds can be leveraged to obtain competitive federal funds and other funds. This process is typical for a major transportation investment program and as such the sequencing plan is intended to be periodically evaluated to determine if updates are needed based on the design, cost and sources of funds for individual projects within the overall program.”
“Councilmember Overstreet’s Resolution states that it is ‘widely believed’ that the public chose the LRT alternative over the BRT alternative, which is not the case. In fact, BRT was slightly preferred over LRT in the feedback MARTA received from the extensive public outreach conducted. However, public opinion is only one criterion an agency evaluates as part of defining and evaluating alternatives (an Alternatives Analysis) for choosing a transit mode. MARTA relies on multiple criteria, such as time to deliver, competitiveness for federal funding, overall cost, and impact to adjacent communities, along with public input to recommend a transit mode as the preferred project, known as a ‘Locally Preferred Alternative.’ A comprehensive process that evaluates several alternatives leading to selecting a preferred project based on multiple criteria must be followed to be eligible for a variety of funding sources, especially federal funds. And the MARTA Board of Directors considers this important technical and engagement process, along with how an individual project relates to an entire program of projects, when it ultimately makes the decision about a project to approve and build.”
“MARTA staff is currently preparing a more detailed briefing for Atlanta City Councilmembers and Mayor to provide extensive background about the More MARTA program, as well as details on the comprehensive engagement with communities and elected officials about the Campbellton Corridor project specifically. We are looking forward to this opportunity to re-affirm the historic partnership with MARTA that Atlanta voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016.”
“This partnership is vital to ensure the More MARTA program can benefit from the greatly increased amount of competitive federal infrastructure funds and deliver needed projects quickly.”