Opinion: MARTA chief’s exit needn’t derail state transit funding

AJC Photo / Bob Andres

The news last week that MARTA’s chief executive is leaving for another job came at what could be seen as the best of times and the worst of times.

The best, because Keith Parker spent the past 57 months turning what had been a $50 million structural budget deficit at the state’s largest transit agency into an annual surplus. He leaves MARTA in remarkably better shape than he found it. The worst, because his near-miracle was only just beginning to open the door to what transit advocates have long sought: state financial support.

A House study committee is probing ways the state might put some monetary muscle behind transit. The sense around the Capitol is it’s a serious effort. The loss of Parker, who will take over as CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia, has some fretting that effort could be in peril.

They needn’t fret too much. While Parker was personally responsible for much of Republican legislators’ newfound goodwill toward MARTA, his departure shouldn’t derail the right kind of transit funding. Let me explain.

Although Georgia has more than 100 transit agencies, this debate has always revolved around the biggest, MARTA, and its often rocky relationship with Republicans. And it’s gone something like this: If the state is going to support MARTA, shouldn’t it have more say in MARTA’s governance?

Lately, the debate has been about whether MARTA and other transit agencies — primarily the ones serving Cobb and Gwinnett — should merge, or perhaps move under a state agency such as the Georgia Regional Transit Authority. But there’s a better option that avoids that political and administrative messiness.

Flash back to 2015, when the General Assembly added nearly $1 billion in annual funding for roads and bridges. It also, for the first time, put state money into mass transit other than its Xpress commuter buses. The Go Transit bond program funded $75 million in competitive grants. Six local transit agencies, plus MARTA, the University of Georgia and the Atlanta Regional Commission, received funds.

If the state is to put more money toward transit, that’s the model to follow.

First, we’re talking about spending on infrastructure, as the state already does for roads and airports, rather than subsidizing transit operations. And if the state stays out of operations, the governance question becomes a lot less thorny. The state doesn’t need greater oversight of MARTA or any other transit agency if it’s not subsidizing operations. Its governance can be limited to deciding which infrastructure projects it’ll pay for.

That also means metro Atlanta doesn’t have to broach the subject of MARTA expanding into Cobb or Gwinnett just to secure state funding. If, for example, MARTA and Cobb want state money for a line connecting the Perimeter area to Cumberland (home of the new Braves stadium), they can strike an intergovernmental agreement about how to run it and make their case for state infrastructure funding — like anyone else.

Other cross-border projects such as high-speed rail between Atlanta and Athens, or Atlanta to Macon to Savannah, should also be legally simpler — even if the financial case for building them must still be made. And, yes, if Parker’s successor at MARTA squanders the Legislature’s trust, the state doesn’t have to give the agency any money. There are other needs elsewhere.

There’s been a real shift among GOP legislators toward transit. The question has always been how to do it in a prudent way. It turns out, they’ve already been down that line.

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86 comments
bonoyileh
bonoyileh

my gf's parents just got an almost new red Buick Regal GS only from w.orking off a laptop. 

see more.>>>>.www.2morepath.com

Doomy
Doomy

"Use some of your hard earned money and travel not only to the eastern seaboard, but more so to Europe.  You will find that they are using less cars and a much better quality of life."- Centrist


Interesting that you should say that. Mom just got back a month ago for yet another trip to Europe. This time it was Denmark, Sweden, Norway. In Denmark nearly everybody rode bicycles everywhere. Why, you might ask?  Because according to the guide the VAT tax makes a vehicle about 3 times as expensive as the MSRP. So a new 25k modest car is going to cost around 100k. I opined that on here and a couple of progs called me out on it. Then I looked it up and posted the proof and yep- the VAT tax made it extremely expensive to own a car. 


Now if you want to force your planning views on others because you don't mind imposing your tyrannical views of how people ought to live then so be it.  Me? I prefer to let the marketplace let people decide how to live their lives. And the marketplace says that we are a mobile society and that most people prefer the option of being able to drive where they want to. And while you're at it while you talk about mass trasnsportation you might want to be logical and consider the much wider expanse of the American landscape compared to tightly compacted European cities and states. 

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

Seems clever by half....what are the odds that any non-Marta county or N Fulton (sorry Milton) actually puts any binding mass transit item to a referendum? While some metro Republican attitudes have changed in the rest of state anything related to help Atlanta is often met with a cold shoulder.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

1. "If (Georgia) is going to is going to support MARTA, shouldn't it have MORE say in MARTA'S governance?"

2. FACT: MARTA is the largest mass transportation system in the United States not to receive direct state funding.  But, SOCONS have long obstructed and sabotaged the system because they have had a major say in MARTA'S governance.

3. SOCONS coined that MARTA stood for "Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta. To show a method of undermining MARTA, they made MARTA hold to a 50%-50% funding method between operating and fixed asset costs, when the system needed the flexibility to move more funds between accounts.

4. They had absolutely no reason or justification for the formation of Cobb Transit.

5. Moreover, SOCON legislators have committed malfeasance for more than 20-years in not supporting high-speed rail.  

6: Instead of supporting MARTA to Athens, SOCONS have wasted millions of federal dollars appropriated for a high-speed line to Greenville, SC on feasibility and environmental impact studies on an eight-stop train line through Athens just to get to the Georgia-South Carolina line.

7. The paradox is that State economic development officials promote MARTA, just like Hartsfield-Jackson, to businesses and individuals to relocate to Metropolitan Atlanta. But when they relocate, they find that they and their employees are miles from the system.  That is why businesses are asking why should it take up to four-hours to get from their locations to the airport or for their labor pool to get to work?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheCentrist Take that to the Gold Dome and see how far it gets you. You may be surprised to learn it's a far cry from how MARTA itself speaks to legislators these days.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist Let's reverse that thought.  It is becoming a far cry from how the legislators themselves are talking to MARTA these days.  The business community is beginning to stand up on its hind legs to inform

SOCON legislators that their "moral values" was not a major consideration for relocating to the area.


It was only a year ago a Lawrenceville legislator embarrassed himself when he said that MARTA should look at building a station for the Atlanta University Center, when there are actually three, before talking about one in his community.

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@TheCentrist @Kyle_Wingfield No frigging kidding. The amount of unjustified derision that MARTA has taken over the years is insane. 


It's a train system people. A tool for moving people from A to B. 


How we use it is up to us. 


The fact that it is succeeding despite the backwards folks in the state legislature, who think it's more important to get guns into churches than anything else, speaks for itself. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheCentrist My point was that attitudes have changed among most people, even if yours remains fixated on the past. And on social conservatives, for no apparent reason as far as this issue goes.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@TheCentrist No 3 MARTA definition showed up in an April Fools satirical edition of the Technique, the  Tech student paper, in 1972.

4. No it had a reason...they didn't want any part of the COA!

6. Never heard of the Greenville line and I worked in transportation planning for 40 years.


What cha smokin"?

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist Fixated? No. What happened in the 70's, 80's and 90's in Atlanta is worth noting here because it's why we're in the situation we're in. 


Social conservatives, over the years, in both private and public spheres, have built the perception that transit, in the form of buses and trains, are for lower class citizens in general, and minorities specifically. 


Good people drive cars - you know, cause they can afford them. And the DOT, full of the type of good ole boys that social conservatives love, do one thing, and one thing only: give paving contracts to their private contractor buddies that take them to UGA and Tech games, and to quail hunts and the wild game supper and whatnot. 


That's how it works. MARTA is most certainly not part of the good ole boy lifestyle that dominates the Georgia Legislature. 



We're paying the price for that redneck lovefest these days in the form of countless hours of wasted time, sitting in traffic. 


Them's the facts. 

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist Don't get things "twisted," as my attitude is not fixated on the past other than to illustrate that the European model is at least 50-years ahead.


Yes, it is better late than never, but it is clear that it has cost the State at least a trillion dollars in opportunity costs because SOCONS remained fixated on the past for an apparent reason as far as this issue goes.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist Y'all keep using *social* conservatives specifically. Without reason. I get that you don't care for social conservatives, but what do social issues have to do with transit? Or is this just an effort to label them all as racists?

Starik
Starik

@Kyle_Wingfield @DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist  Race is certainly a factor in opposition to MARTA expansion; it was so from the beginning. Social conservatives tend to be socially conservative when it comes to race, aren't they? 

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@RoadScholar @TheCentrist No need for patronizing, especially since it is apparent that you were not made privy to the State of Georgia's Master Transportation Plan in the past 20-years.  Not only does it include a proposed high-speed line North through Greenville, a Mid-West line through Chattanooga, a Southern line through Macon/Savannah, and a Western line through Birmingham.  The Plan was updated in 2015 as the SSTP.


Feasibility studies have been completed for routes to all four lines, and Columbus funded their own study in 2014-15.  Environmental impact studies have been done for Chattanooga and Greenville. 


You probably didn't even know that a Federal high-speed rail network plan was introduced in 1997.


As 45 would say, I could seriously question your knowledge of transportation planning generally, and Georgia specifically, but I won't! 

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Kyle_Wingfield @DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist Are you telling me that all the opposition to transit over the last three decades has been fiscal/economic? 


What could possibly be the reason that voters in Cobb and Gwinnett counties have such a bad taste in their mouth for transit? Why would that be? 


Transit is one of several tools that have been used for decades as a means of segregating racial and economic classes. More transit, less segregation. 


I'd recommend this: 


https://www.amazon.com/Color-Law-Forgotten-Government-Segregated/dp/1631492853 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Starik @DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist This is my point. Yes, race was a factor. But putting that on "social conservatives" so specifically has no actual basis as far as I know, and is just their grinding the same ax they always grind.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@TheCentrist @RoadScholar I know what I'm talking about, but I did retire before the last edition! Years earlier intercity rail design was assigned to the office I was in. The alleged Greenville line ended at Athens.


How many more editions will be made before the state follows through? Will neighborhoods let it happen?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist See my response to Starik above. You're simply and baselessly conflating racism -- which, yes, played a role -- with social conservatism. Just because you don't like social conservatives.

If you can find a picture of the Baptists out protesting MARTA in the '70s, let me know.

Starik
Starik

@DeepStateDawg @Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist  The social history of the area  since WW2 has been driven by white flight. Why do the whites flee? Is it racism or a desire to flee bad schools and crime? Why can't we discuss these issues honestly? 

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

@Kyle_Wingfield @DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist It's right there with the picture of the Islamist's in NJ cheering 9/11. 


Kyle, you know perfectly well what i'm talking about. 


You worked in Montgomery. Slap full of good, god fearing folk. 


They didn't have to hold the signs for this or against that... they were making the laws in the first place. 


They didn't have to have voter rallies, they did it in church. 


They didn't have to protest for more rights - they had all the rights already. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist I'm not denying that white Atlantans opposed MARTA or left the city because of race. What I'm objecting to, here, is your specific description of them as "social conservatives," when the two had and have nothing to do with one another.

Now, I'll anxiously await your next episode of hand-wringing about "tribalism."

Doomy
Doomy

@DeepStateDawg @Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist


Ahh. Didn't take long for you to say its all white "good ole boys" and "rednecks" to blame. 


Soooo predictable. 


Did it ever occur to you that perhaps folks don't want Marta because on a cost basis it's an extremely expensive proposition in terms of dollars spent relative to ridership. 


Trying to frame it as yet another case of the white racist boogeyman social conservative trying to bring down black folks is not only silly and juvenile but flat out dishonest. 

Doomy
Doomy

@Kyle_Wingfield @DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist


"Or is this just an effort to label them all as racists?"


Nail on the head. 


When they don't have much of an argument to make they simply resort to the race card. It's as predictable as the sun rising in the east. 

Doomy
Doomy

@Starik @Kyle_Wingfield @DeepStateDawg @TheCentrist


What does race have to do with it? Seems to me folks throughout Ga. simply don't want to pay for something that is costly and which benefits so few people. It would be different if Marta benefit a very sizable amount of the metro Atlanta population. But it doesn't. 

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@RoadScholar @TheCentrist There has been one Georgia Master Plan that is based on the Federal Plan and that never changed.  


What you looked at was one of the feasibility study options for Georgia's SOCONS feeble attempt to circumvent the High-Speed direct route to Greenville with a seven-stop mess through Athens, that would then loop up to the Georgia line in Hartwell.


If you really were involved, you would know the ineptness of the SOCON controlled legislature that tried to circumvent MARTA and try to get High-Speed Rail Federal Funds.


If you really in the slightest of the know about transportation, the plainly written Federal Plan calls for using the Interstate Right-of-Ways so not to have to fool with  bass-ackward SOCON - NIMBY obstructions.  But the SOCONS wanted to try and follow 316.


Apparently you didn't get the memo that rural SOCONS invoked a law that said the State of Georgia would not fund MARTA or rail.  The State's funding for rail is currently limited to road and bridge related infrastructure.


Left out of your line communication is that is why MARTA has functional issues. The State was allow to govern them because they are a pass-through, while not putting one dime in direct funding to the system.


Reading between the lines a few years ago, it was because of the dysfunction under the Gold Dome by SOCONS that Atlanta was able to convince the Feds that it would not be a good idea for the State to become involved with Hartsfield-Jackson.


As Kyle has said earlier, no need for you to harp or be fixated on the past 50-years of failed SOCON ideology, but focus on the Liberal forward thinking for the next 50-years.



Doomy
Doomy

@DeepStateDawg @Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist


"Why would that be?"


Cost. 


As far as segregating white folks from black folks if the socons really wanted to do that then all they would have to do is adopt the same zoning laws that progressive places like San Francisco do. You know- cut off the land supply in the name of green space so that real estate prices rise so much that the whites and elites already there or affluent enough to move there can live there but "those people" won't be able to live there and will have to leave.  That's how you drive out the black population like San Francisco has over the past 2-3 decades. 

Doomy
Doomy

@Starik @DeepStateDawg @Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist


I find that amusing because the whitest, most heavily Democrat areas that I can think of- Washington, DC, San Francisco, parts of NYC, Berkeley, CA., etc, are so lilly white. Reminds of the lawyer next door with far left views, especially on race, who lives in lilly white Alpharetta. 

Doomy
Doomy

@Starik @Doomy @DeepStateDawg @Kyle_Wingfield @TheCentrist


Nope. That is not what happened. San Francisco county simply cut off a lot of land from development. Lots of different progressive cities in Cali have done this. It inflates land prices by cutting off supply and inflating prices so that only the wealthy or upper class can live there. I guess they don't want many of "those people" having affordable housing. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Whouda thunk it that fixing our public transportation infrastructure can be considered pro-business. No need to bride these businesses to set-up shop here.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@McGarnagle Our public transportation infrastructure has long been a pro-major business incentive by State and Metro Atlanta economic development professionals.  International companies long accustomed to mass and high-speed rail and an international airport, have long been "bribed" by ED professionals to locate to the State.


Otherwise, Georgia would be in the same morbid SOCON -led condition as Alabama and Mississippi.

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

Huzza. 


I'm all for letting the past stay there, but man, it's really stuck in my craw that all this ground work could have been laid out in the late 70's early 80's, and we could be in the final stages of implementing it right now. 


If Atlanta had a mass transit system right now approaching something like what is in other major international cities... sheesh. 


Trying to to it now is is a really tough proposition. Gotta try I reckon. 

Doomy
Doomy

@DeepStateDawg


We don't need more mass transit which is often just a pipe dream for leftist planners that ultimately becomes a boondoggle. It would be a waste of money because we have nowhere near the urban density of places like NYC. 


What we need is more roads. Plain and simple. 

ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

@DeepStateDawg It was a tough proposition then and in the end to get the skeleton built Gov Jimmy Carter compromised on the funding mechanism....the truth no political party in charge in the Gold Dome has ever gone to great lengths to see Marta succeed until recently

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@Doomy @DeepStateDawg  Use some of your hard earned money and travel not only to the eastern seaboard, but more so to Europe.  You will find that they are using less cars and a much better quality of life.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@DeepStateDawg Uh the intercity rail system was born in the 1980's, then again in the 1990's, then again....

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@McGarnagle @Doomy @DeepStateDawg Where do you expect to find the right of way to build these roads? 10 yrs ago the R/W became more expensive than constructing a road! Also using old existing rail corridors is not being well received by the neighborhoods beside these corridors. They bought their homes next to the corridors and then did not expect/permit rail to be improved/implemented. It wasn't NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) but became BANANAS (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)!

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@DeepStateDawg Besides where does the main Terminal go. The gulch downtown? That failed at least 2 times. Atlantic Station/Brookwood interchange?

Doomy
Doomy

@McGarnagle @Doomy @DeepStateDawg


I doubt it. Especially now that Trump is potus. He has streamlined the red tape/regulatory process on road building which is one of the biggest costs of building roads. 

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

@RoadScholar @DeepStateDawg You know that the gulch was Union Station, right?  Even today, the platform is still there. The only reason it has failed is that of the backward and biased thinking of the SOCONS at the Gold Dome.


There are numerous issues with Brookwood with space being a problem for a multimodal.  Forward thinking Liberals want a facility like Berlin's Hauptbahnhof, but SOCONS want nothing at all. 


Finally, Atlanta lost a jewel when the Terminal Station was demolished. It would have been perfect and have kept the historical significance and stature of stations like those in Amsterdam and Paris.


Since most rural SOCON legislators were so busy hating Atlanta, they have stayed 50-years behind.