By Maria Saporta
Transit is now taking center stage in the effort to pass the regional transportation sales tax.
Advocates for the July 31 referendum unveiled the beginning of “Mass Transit Week” from July 18 to July 27 (which is actually 10 days).
The campaign has organized teams that will be at the various transit stations throughout metro Atlanta to appeal to regular riders of MARTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s Xpress buses as well as Cobb County Transit.
The series of events are “aimed at raising awareness around the importance of mass transit to the region and how many riders will be impacted if transit funding goes away,” said the press release announcing Mass Transit Week.
Part of the effort ill be to explain how the regional transportation sales tax will sustain and boost funding for transit. In fact, 52 percent of the funding for the $6.14 billion project list is devoted to transit projects and state-of-good-repair for MARTA
If the tax does not pass, funding for GRTA’s Xpress buses is scheduled to go away by the summer of 2013 — ending the popular suburban and exurban higher-end commuter bus service.
Xpress includes 33 commuter bus routes in 12 metro-area counties, connecting workers with jobs in downtown and Midtown Atlanta. This referendum will provide funding for its operations and maintenance from 2013-2022, and funding for capital investments such as bus replacement through 2017.
The release also explained that transit is a critical part of metro Atlanta’s overall transportation system. A recent report from the Brookings Institution ranked Atlanta 87th out of 100 top metro areas for its ability to provide public transit access to workplaces. Only 14.7 percent of metro Atlanta workers can use public transit to get to work within 90 minutes.
One of the key messages that the referendum advocates want to make is that transit impacts both suburban and in-town riders. Also, the more people who ride transit, the fewer people will be driving their cars — a key way to reduce congestion.
The Regional Transportation Referendum will provide funding for the following projects over the next decade:
· $95 million for GRTA Xpress
· $700 million for Clifton Rail Transit from the Lindbergh MARTA station to the Emory campus
· $600 million for MARTA elevator, escalator, and other repairs
· $600 million for the Atlanta Beltline and streetcar
· $175 million for a Regional Mobility Call Center and Transportation Services for older adults and disabled
· $225 million for transit service serving South DeKalb
Here is the schedule for Mass Transit Week:
Wednesday July 18th-
· Civic Center Marta (GRTA and MARTA) 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Arts Center Marta (GRTA and MARTA) 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Washington St. and MLK Jr. Dr. — 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Jonesboro (8488 Tara Blvd. Jonesboro, GA 30236) 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Thursday July 19th
· Atlanta Motor Speedway 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.
· Douglas County (8800 Dorris Dr., Douglasville, GA 30134) 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Discover Mills(3220 Sardis Church Rd., Buford GA 30519) 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Acworth(6045 Lake Acworth Dr., Acworth, GA 30101) 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Friday July 20th
· Fayette County 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Monday July 23rd
· Cobb County Transit stops
Tuesday July 24th
· Five Points MARTA 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.
· Five Points MARTA 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday July 25th
· Civic Center MARTA (GRTA and MARTA) 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Arts Center MARTA (GRTA and MARTA) 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Washington St. and MLK Jr. Dr 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Lindbergh Marta 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Thursday July 26th
· Stockbridge (4000 Mount Zion Pkwy, Stockbridge, GA 30281) 5:30 to 7:30 am
· McDonough(1059 Industrial Pkwy, McDonough, GA 30253) 5:30 to 7:30 am
· West End MARTA 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Peachtree Center MARTA 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Friday July 27th
· Five Points MARTA 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· College Park MARTA 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· Lindbergh MARTA 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
· HE Holmes MARTA 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.