MARTA & GA Lawmakers Get Bailed Out

Today, the ARC voted in favor of their plan to redirect $25 million in federal stimulus dollars to help bridge MARTA’s crippling budget shortfall that threatened to close down services for entire days of the week.

In doing so, ARC came to the rescue of not only MARTA and it’s riders, but also inadvertently Georgia lawmakers , who’s inability to pass a number of important measures this session was just beginning to gain some serious traction in the press behind this massive MARTA fumble.

Not only were rail-noodling Dems up in arms, but so was all of Atlanta’s business community, who knew full well the importance of public transportation if Atlanta (and Georgia) wished to compete in something we like to call “the global economy.”

It was just getting good.  Pissed lawmakers were giving the inside scoop on committee meetings,  MARTA was calling for special sessions, we had the House Majority Leader on record saying he went to Disney World more often than he rode MARTA (and therefore couldn’t see the benefits to his Isle of Retirement (St. Simons.)

Those were the days.  We were all pissed and we could smell the blood.  It was going to be an embarrassment to end all embarrassments.  One that might actually shame the legislature into action – since rational argument had long ago stopped having any effect.

But then ARC made their announcement that they had figured out a way to help MARTA through the year with the help of stimulus funding and all the press simply…vanished.  The hounds were called back to the house, the horses led back to the barn.

Now, as the ARC votes in favor of formalizing the MARTA bailout by giving it $25 million for “preventive maintenance” (which MARTA will repay with $25 million in “capital improvements” around MARTA stations), transit advocates are cheering with a pit in their stomachs.

Happy the city isn’t being saddled with a public transportation system that keeps the hours of a Chik-Fil-A, everyone is now wondering if the legislature learned it’s lesson.  Or have they instead learned that when they do nothing, someone else will clean up their mess?

With its generally spoiled 4-year old mentality, I’m going with the latter.

48 thoughts on “MARTA & GA Lawmakers Get Bailed Out”

  1. Not too fast DM. We may be enough carpetbag-hating legislators to demand a Palin to those Fed-tainted funds. Or at least to demand that the funds are equally applied to new road construction on St. Simons.

  2. Mass-Transportation in Atlanta is a failed experiment… It cost me $20 round-trip for me and my kids to attend my daughter’s graduation ceremonies at Georgia State. I could have easily driven from Decatur and parked for less money. This was absolutely the last time that I will use the rail.

    I’m always the first to opt for a good public transportation system in lieu of a rental car. I have ridden on mass transportation systems around the world – London, Paris, Budapest, Norway, Denmark, Hong Kong, etc. and MARTA fails on almost all fronts – it is still too hard to get where you want to go from wherever you are, it’s way too expensive (it stills gets a % of your sales taxes in Atlanta), and nobody really wants to ride it.

  3. Part of me wishes ARC did not come through. Left-right, conservative-liberal, donkey-elephant, all of the residents of metro Atlanta need to better understand the destructive animosity directed at the metro area by the city-hatin’ politicians who run the state. The only way Metro Atlanta voters are going to get it in sufficient numbers is for more locals to suffer the consequences of the state’s ruinous policies. The sooner the suffering the comes, the sooner voters are going to do something about it.

    In conversations about state leaders trying to strangle Atlanta, one sometimes hears metro Atlantans retort with something like “If not for Atlanta, this state would be worse than Mississippi or Alabama.”

    I’ve thought and said that myself.

    Over the past year I’ve come to realize that Sonny, Casey, Glenn and their ilk don’t think being like Mississippi and Alabama is a bad thing.

    They know better than anyone that progress is going to kill them and their type off. The friendlier metro Atlanta is entrepreneurs and educated professionals, the less likely they are to get anywhere near the levers of power. Their hatred of Atlanta isn’t sadism. It’s cynical self-preservation.

    And note to WSD-

    London, Paris, Budapest, Norway, Denmark, Hong Kong, etc are better systems b/c successive govts in those places dug the holes, layed the rails, and levied the taxes necessary to make them quality systems. By contrast, state leaders (with federal help) subsidized car travel and car-dependent development.

    The main thing that sucks about MARTA – that it doesn’t go most places people need to go – isn’t MARTA’s fault.

  4. I don’t see how there is any option except more transit. The average car emits 5 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmospere every year! Those denying global warming might as well join the flat-earth club. When gasoline prices climbed to $4 bucks a gallon, we all had a taste of what higher oil prices felt like. Filling the tank was no longer an incidental purchase. Our economy and our daily lives are very much dependent upon cheap gasoline. Does anyone believe that oil prices are going to decline, or even stay the same? The increased demand for oil from India and China are likley to drive global demand highere and higher. In all liklihood oil production in Saudi Arabia has peaked and is likely to decline. I think we need to have a crash course in expanding high speed interstate rail, intra-state commuter rail and metropolitan transit systems. All those billions that we threw down that rat hole in Iraq could have built some 21st century transportation in the US. What a shame.

  5. Of course more fuel efficient vehicles is part of the answer, but the “we just don’t have the money” argument doesn’t cut it. Our foreign policy and military defense policy are centered around our need for oil. If we reduce our dependence on oil, we can reduce military spending. As far as the state of Georgia goes, we spend the money four-laning rural highways, but don’t spend the money where it originates in metro Atlanta. If the state and region had been designing transit and they were in fact “shovel ready” we could have used stimulus money for transit, but Georgia never puts itself in a position to attract transit dollars. The Lovejoy commuter rail is a prime example. We have an $80 million earmark that has been sitting around for 10 years, but the state hasn”t come up with the 20% match. We’re going to lose that money, and deservingly so. Every major metropolitan region in the world has transit. If we want to compete, we need to build more transit.

  6. Anyone interested in why MARTA is the way it is needs to read Clarence Stone’s Regime Politics.

  7. Going back to Scott’s comment about parking being cheaper than MARTA- while I don’t agree with most of his post, parking being cheaper than MARTA is true in many cases and is part of the problem. Pricing does impact decision making (witness last summer), and cheap parking helps people determine that MARTA isn’t a necessary inconvenience yet. I know DM, there are many external costs of driving that don’t get factored in, but parking cost vs ridership cost and loss of flexibility go into many MARTA or not decisions. Take San Francisco as an example- parking is crazy expensive in the city there ($40/day plus), which along with more transit options, makes transit a logical choice for even non-environmentalists. I’d make the arguement that parking is too cheap right now in Downtown and Midtown. Those prices have to go up along with gas to get the MARTA haters on board on a regular basis.

  8. Think about this: Our zoning laws and land use policies require some level of parking with every “high density” residential development. Some people applaud downtown residential development as “smart growth”. I see parking decks that are free for the people who buy there, no less than 3 blocks from a rapid rail station, which helps kill the possibility of a good public transit system! That is supposed to be smart? Or is it just a useful marketing term?

  9. Parking in mid-rises definitely cost a lot, but the zoning code, lenders and real estate marketing companies are the partially to blame for these costs. Lenders won’t lend unless they believe the unit will sell and they believe a 1 and half spaces are needed for every unit to sell. I hope developers will someday be given some flexibility to build fewer spaces. As the boomers age they will drive less, and won’t need two cars per household. As the cost of housing rises (it will at some point), the Gen Xers will try and get by with one car per HH. Spaces should be sold separately from units. It would force more efficiency into the process and lower costs.

  10. One more thing about MARTA. Did anyone think at the time when the system was being built 30 years ago that maybe running the east west line down a freight train corridor, which I’m sure was cheaper to build, was maybe not the best long term idea? On the North-South line (at least between Five Points and Arts Center) they actually tunnelled the line and that is probably the area that works the best and has resulted in the most densly built developement as a result over the past 30 years and where transit works best. Same in downtown Decatur.

    Transit works best when it is built into its surroundings. There is only so much you can do on a CSX corridor.

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