MARTA’s board approves budgets that require no unplanned fare hikes

By David Pendered

The price of MARTA’s base fare and monthly pass fare will not increase through at least June 30, 2013, according the operating budget MARTA’s board of directors approved Monday for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

However, the price of other fares will increase on Oct. 7, according to the board’s previously approved rate hikes. Reduced fares will rise from 95 cents to $1; mobility base fares will rise from $3.80 to $4; and mobility monthly passes will rise from $122 to $128.

Also, the price of vehicles for Atlanta’s streetcars are rising. An extra $750,000 will be needed for an acquisition now budgeted at $17.2 million, according to a report to the board’s Operations Committee. The board took no action on the report.

The board approved an operating budget of $434.9 million. The board also approved a budget of $230.4 million to repair and maintain the transit system, and a $141.6 million to apply to the system’s debt.

This is the last budget cycle in which MARTA can use more than 50 percent of its sales tax revenues to pay for operating expenses. The board has engaged KPMG, an audit and advisory firm, to help find efficiencies, said MARTA board Chairman Frederick L. Daniels, Jr.

“We are looking at fares, the opportunity to become to become more efficient, and hopefully to lower expenses,” Daniels said after the board meeting.

Highlights of the operating budget provide a glimpse into the financial challenges facing the managers of the region’s largest transit system. Here are snippets from the budget:

  • “Sales Tax –programmed at $167.62 million. The revised sales tax projections from the Georgia State Economic Forecasting Center resulted in a loss/reduction of more than $130 million from FY2012 through FY2016;
  • Passenger Revenue – The projected FY2013 passenger revenue is $139.8 million. Projected daily ridership is approximately 440,000-plus riders;
  • Federal Operating Assistance of $44.4 million plus $30 million associated with additional Federal Highway Operating Assistance and the flex of 5309 Preventive Maintenance from capital to operating (budgets).”

The budget’s section on service levels provides insights into the scope of MARTA’s programs:

  • “Bus Fixed Route Service is projected at approximately 25.9M miles of service operating about 92 routes.  There are 531 buses (158 – Diesel and 373 – compressed natural gas) that will provide this service;
  • Demand-Response Mobility Service coverage for elderly and disabled patrons is projected to increase by 9 percent from 8.1 million miles to 8.8 million miles of service. There are 187 mobility vans available for this service.
  • Rail Service Level is planned at approximately 18.4 million rail car miles with peak service hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, with service until 1 a.m. each day.  There are 38 rail stations and 48 miles of double track in our rail service.”

On the maintenance side, MARTA’s budget said the system’s managers are focused on projects that enhance safety and security, and comply with regulatory requirements.

The budget listed its top 10 projects, based on cost, and they are:

  • Train control system upgrade;
  • Brady mobility facility
  • Buckhead Station North Entrance;
  • Integrated operations center;
  • Fire protection systems upgrade;
  • Paratransit vans;
  • Address rail and ties;
  • Hamilton bus facility;
  • Vehicle security cameras;
  • At-grad slab rehab.

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.

3 replies
  1. RussellCampbell says:

    Not increasing fares is definitely a plus.  Improvements are a great deal as well.  I look forward to the ideas presented above that will be implemented as well as those outlined in the Regional Transportation Referendum.Report

    Reply

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