Power Breakfast: Transit on the ropes, economy hurts high school football, Delta, JetBlue attendant, GM

First MARTA. Now GRTA.

This is not what we needed to hear — another transit system without enough money to operate at full steam, even with all the traffic congestion.

Without new funding, the Xpress commuter bus program will go broke and shut down in the next fiscal year, AJC staffer Ariel Hart is reporting.

In the meantime, the regional commuter bus service is cutting its budget, raising all pass prices and hiking the fare for the longest routes, according to Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Jannine Miller.

GRTA Xpress’s current budget crisis was built into its DNA, Hart writes. It was established with short-term funds that were bound to run out.

State officials hoped that the Legislature might eventually fill the shortfall. But the poor economy has produced an unexpected gap of two to four years until a 1 percent sales tax for transportation goes before the region’s voters in 2012, Hart reports.

Even then, Miller said, there is no guarantee the region will include Xpress operations in the projects to be funded by the tax.

Although it has steadily grown since the first routes started in 2004 and is in the middle of a $120 million expansion largely funded by federal grants, Xpress has been operating on county and federal startup funds that are dwindling.

The state has contributed a small amount of operating funds. GRTA is going hat-in-hand to the state, counties and riders, knowing that all of their budgets are pinched, Hart writes.

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