Transit politics: MARTA vows commitment to SW ATL; mayoral candidate retorts
By David Pendered
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a typo and to add photos by Kelly Jordan.
Either MARTA intends to expand transit service in Southwest Atlanta, or MARTA and Atlanta are collaborating to bury Southwest Atlanta in favor of building a rail line to Emory University and its gridlocked Clifton Road corridor. At Atlanta City Hall on Wednesday, MARTA talked about its commitment to Southwest, and mayoral candidate Vincent Fort raised the Clifton corridor issue.
Fort, a state senator who represents a portion of Atlanta, repeated a claim he made at Monday at the joint House/Senate committee that oversees MARTA; Fort is a member of the committee. Read the story on SaportaReport.com.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Atlanta City Council’s Finance/Executive meeting, Fort reiterated his position:
- “When voters went to the polls, they didn’t contemplate that Emory would be part of the [sales tax project list]. We have Emory trying to jump in line….
- “The bottom line is this: If the Clifton corridor and I-20 east line was in the November referendum, the bottom line is the people I serve in the city of Atlanta, and you serve in the city of Atlanta, did not contemplate that Southwest Atlanta would have to compete with Emory.”
To be clear, Atlanta voters in November 2016 authorized a portion of the 0.5 percent sales tax to help pay for a proposed light rail to the Clifton corridor.
It’s right there on page 6 of the city’s project list, under the headline: Potential High Capacity Improvements Multi-Jurisdictional Projects. The line item reads: Clifton Light Rail Transit [Contingent upon funding agreement with other jurisdictions for capital, operations and maintenance].
MARTA board Chairman Robbie Ashe, speaking at the council’s Transportation Committee meeting held before the one at which Fort spoke, said MARTA intentionally highlighted during the State of MARTA Breakfast on Jan. 6 that MARTA is committed to increasing service levels in Southwest neighborhoods
“It was not an accident that the first project we talked about at the State of MARTA Breakfast, following the November election, was the Campbellton Road project,” Ashe said.
“That was done quite deliberately and quite consciously, to send a message to that part of town,” Ashe said. “If you saw the bus improvements, the vast majority of bus improvements since the sales tax has gone into effect have been in Southwest Atlanta. Again, quite conscious on our part to make sure that folks who feel they have been left out for many years know they are at the forefront of our attention.”
Ashe’s comments followed a presentation about MARTA’s increasing bus service in Southwest neighborhoods and the Campbellton Road project. Ben Limmer, a MARTA assistant general manager, made the following part of his presentation before Ashe spoke.
Specific improvements since sales tax revenues have been collected include:
- Two new bus routes – Route 94, Northside Drive, between the Vine City Station and a shopping center near the corner of I-75 and Howell Mill Road named the District at Howell Mill; and a community circulator on the Westside, in the Dollar Mill/Plainview area.
- A new arterial rapid transit service along Campbellton Road in February. Buses arrive as often as every 10 minutes all day. Route 83 is now second in ridership as it links Oakland City Station and the Greenbriar Mall area. The busiest route is Route 196, from College Park into Clayton County.
- Active planning for a comprehensive plan to expand transit service along the Campbellton Road corridor. A BRT system could be installed, to be followed by light rail when ridership levels are appropriate. Or the study may show the need to start with light rail. The work is to be coordinated with the city’s efforts to retool the road into a “smart street.”