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Tensions eased between MARTA, ATL City Council over Campbellton Road transit

Campbellton Road is to receive enhanced bus service rather than a trolley system of transit. (Photo by David Pendered, 2019.)

By David Pendered

MARTA and members of the Atlanta City Council in comments Wednesday lowered tensions that have developed over the planned expansion of transit service along the Campbellton Road corridor.

MARTA’s interim GM/CEO, Collie Greenwood, presented a routine quarterly update to the council’s Transportation Committee. Greenwood sped through the update at a rate that provided additional time for questions from committee members. Chairperson Amir Farokhi commended Greenwood for his expediency.

Farokhi began the period of questions, focusing on ridership trends before bringing up an issue central to the tension over Campbellton Road — MARTA’s disclosure of the plans for, and use of, the 0.5 percent transportation sales tax levied in the city.

“We would like to see a more transparent accounting of money,” Farokhi said.

Finance Committee Chairperson Alex Wan asked Greenwood about the financial information MARTA is to provide in response to a resolution the council approved in February. Wan is a member of the Transportation Committee.

“I hope we’ll see not just what’s collected and expended, but initial projects and dollar amounts associated,” Wan said.

Greenwood responded several times over the course of various responses that MARTA views the city as its partner in providing transit service in the city and will provide information the council has requested. That extends to further discussion of MARTA’s decision to install enhanced bus service rather than a trolley car along Campbellton Road.

The conversation was not exclusively conciliatory.

Committee member Keisha Sean Waites, elected citywide, said she was unaware of a Thursday night hybrid meeting MARTA has convened, the Campbellton Community Investment Corridor Information Session. The meeting follows a bus tour of the corridor MARTA hosted Saturday, both of which had been discussed earlier in the meeting.

“What is it I need to do to know what’s happening,” Waites asked Greenwood.

Greenwood responded that the meeting is posted on MARTA’s website, where it is on a section devoted to the Campbellton Road project. Greenwood said MARTA disseminates information through a variety of outlets. Waites responded that she gets over 1,000 emails a day and is not a regular user of digital media.

Previously in the meeting, a representative of Georgia StandUp observed that not everyone has Internet access and that print materials should be distributed in a library in the Campbellton Road corridor.

Committee member Antonio Lewis contended that MARTA is not committed to constructing the transit projects it has promised taxpayers. Lewis said the proof of his position is MARTA’s plan to install enhanced bus service along Campbellton Road, rather than fulfilling its promise to install a trolley system, such as the Atlanta Streetcar.

Greenwood responded that MARTA’s commitment was to enhancing transit service along Campbellton Road, not to selecting the mode of transit before conducting any analysis.

“To be fair, this has always been an iterative process,” Greenwood said. “BRT was always an option.”

In February, the council passed a non-binding resolution requesting 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. Wan said at the time he hoped the response would include similar information for projects citywide.

The resolution raises the concern that to expand transit service along Campbellton Road, 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. MARTA has refuted the allegation.

Link:

MARTA’s Campbellton Road page

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David Pendered

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.

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