MARTA, critics focused on issues

By Frederick L. Daniels Jr.

It seems you couldn’t avoid the splashy MARTA headlines and “gotcha” sound bites last week. But those reports rarely capture the full story. As Chairman of the MARTA board, I want to straightforwardly discuss some major issues we are facing – and what we’re doing to address them.
MARTA is fully committed to transforming the way we do business in the months and years ahead while working diligently to improve the transit services we offer. Granted, our transit agency faces enormous challenges. That’s why the MARTA Board is being proactive in improving our financial standing, productivity and effectiveness.
The marked progress we’re making in serving our customers and being prudent fiscal stewards of tax dollars is often overlooked. For example:

MARTA’s on-time rail performance stands at 98 percent, which has consistently been one of the highest in the nation among our industry peers.
Although MARTA is facing significant financial hurdles, we were about $8.5 million below our budgeted expenses for the fiscal year 2012While proud of our incremental progress in these areas, nobody at MARTA thinks that’s good enough. That’s why we’re not running from our problems or hiding from the criticisms being leveled at us. As a public authority, we stand accountable for all of our actions and, where deficient, we will improve.
One of our most important and most valuable critics is state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) who chairs the MARTA legislative oversight committee. In a complaint to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Jacobs questioned the process by which our board selected a new general manager.
Prior to Rep. Jacobs filing his complaint, however, we had already raised questions about the same issues and shared our concerns with the attorney general’s office.
In addition, our board hired independent counsel to guide our ongoing discussions with the AG’s office to take whatever steps are deemed necessary to ensure we always operate as transparently and openly as the law demands.
At a MARTOC meeting late last week, Jacobs said it was time to “get refocused on the big picture.” He was referring, in part, to the recommendations contained in a recent evaluation of MARTA conducted by KPMG, an auditing firm retained by our sitting general manager, Dr. Beverly A. Scott, with the full support of our board
Rep. Jacobs is right. There’s far too much at stake to allow fleeting media distractions to deter us from providing the world-class transit services that metro Atlanta deserves.

Frederick L. Daniels Jr. is chairman of the MARTA board.

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