Special series: Ending 50-50 split is no salvation for MARTA

(Note: This is the second in a special series examining MARTA. Read Part 1 here. Part 3 will be posted Tuesday evening.)

Why can’t MARTA have full control over its sales-tax revenue?

Generally speaking — very generally, as we’ll see — the state limits MARTA to using just half of its sales-tax revenue to pay for operations. The rest is reserved for maintenance and capital improvements.

That restriction might have made sense back when MARTA was a growing young transit agency, but today this policy is slowly suffocating it, according to MARTA supporters who’ve been pressuring the Legislature to do away with it.

If only it were that simple. Ending the 50-50 split might make for a good lobbying slogan, but it would do very little to ease MARTA’s problems.

For starters, MARTA’s supporters seem to believe the agency is still growing and in need of capital infusions.

I made the argument Sunday, in the first installment of this series, that MARTA should put expansion plans on the shelf and focus on the system it has now. But the agency’s plans call for adding light rail along I-20 east to Lithonia, extending a “Clifton Corridor” line from Lindbergh station to Emory, creating the Peachtree Streetcar and boosting bus frequencies across the city.

More important, the current projects and the maintenance required to keep the MARTA system in a state of good repair are also costly.

In the current fiscal year, MARTA is cutting its capital budget by $180 million to about $200 million, focusing spending on safety and regulatory issues. But get this: The agency is still moving $20 million out of its precious operating reserves to shore up capital spending, says Ted Basta, MARTA’s business-services chief.

As for moving money from capital to operations, “In good times, 50-50 [flexibility] is worth a lot,” says Rich Krisak, head of rail operations. “In bad times, it’s not.”

Yet, the 50-50 clamor is of course loudest in the bad times, when MARTA goes looking for ways to plug revenue shortfalls.

In any case, the restriction itself is somewhat overblown. State law allows MARTA to borrow from its capital funding to subsidize operations anytime, as long as it repays the money within three years.

And over the past decade the Legislature has voted at least three times to ease the restriction in part or altogether. The transportation bill passed last month includes a three-year suspension of the cap, subject to certain conditions.

When the new three-year grace period ends in mid-2013, MARTA will have been totally subject to the 50-50 cap in just 18 of the preceding 138 months.

Proponents of ending the 50-50 requirement lament that MARTA is the only major transit agency in the country that doesn’t get funding from its state government. Just as problematic for MARTA’s budget, however, is that the agency historically generates only about 25 to 30 percent of its operating income from fares and related services like parking, compared to 40 to 50 percent for the industry nationwide.

Making matters worse, income from fares and other services industrywide has been growing two to three times as fast as it has at MARTA.

It’s only fair to note that MARTA had the fifth-lowest operating cost per passenger mile (45 cents) among the nation’s 20 largest transit systems in 2008. A low cost of living in Atlanta, compared with places like New York or Chicago, no doubt helps. MARTA officials also say they have held union wages flatter than their counterparts nationally have done.

But all of that strikes me as a reason to keep the 50-50 restriction and the discipline it imposes on the agency.

And one can’t compare operating expenses nationally without noting that MARTA’s cost per passenger mile has been growing much faster than that of other systems over the past decade. Among the top 20 systems, MARTA’s cost growth rate is sixth-highest. That’s a very bad thing when you’re spending money you don’t have.

Next: What’s really wrong with MARTA’s model

Previously: It’s time to end MARTA’s boom-and-bust budgeting

87 comments Add your comment

NotRocketScience

May 17th, 2010
8:09 pm

Kyle says “For starters, MARTA’s supporters seem to believe the agency is still growing and in need of capital infusions.” Of course that’s what they believe because it’s true and you should believe it too. The system as planned must grow or die. Potential riders outside the end of the current line will ride it, if and when it’s ever built. It’s problem now is that it doesn’t reach those riders. Folks like you Kyle think we are still dealing with the old Atlanta Transit Authority that carried black maids to jobs at white folks homes. Get over it and realize that MARTA has it right and always has regarding expansion of the system. By whatever name (suggest we forever banish the name MARTA with its undeserved racial undertone) the current system as originally planned and situated is the backbone of a regional system. Move it out 75 miles in at least 6 directions from downtown Atlanta and let it find its potential.

Mike Bloomberg for Atlanta 2014

May 17th, 2010
8:20 pm

Kyle, clearly your receding hairline has exposed your brain to harmful UV rays. Atlanta without transportation alternatives will wither and die like Detroit. The system needs to expand and the state needs to support it. If the state refuses to support MARTA, then it should not hold MARTA to 50-50. The Peachtree Streetcar idea is foolish, but the the Clifton Corridor route would alleviate traffic near DeKalb’s largest employers (Emory/CDC). If anything, the state should persuade Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton to join ranks and help establish a better transportation alternatives.

Dave

May 17th, 2010
8:26 pm

Kyle, you’ve yet to explain why the State should have any say in what MARTA does or doesn’t do given that you’ve concluded that the State isn’t going to kick in with any money and counsel DeKalb and Fulton to work with its small part of the transportation scheme. Yet, you are in favor of the 50/50 restriction as is the Legislature. Why not let the people that have paid for MARTA and continue to pay for MARTA make the decision? Some paternalism working? We aren’t going to let you do what you want to, we aren’t going to give you any money; but, we don’t trust you foolish people to do the right thing as we see it in Valdosta and Hiram.

You as a conservative have railed, I think, about Federally unfunded mandates. They tell us Georgians to do something and make us pay for it and regulate how we go about it. States’ Rights!

I’m calling for Atlanta rights. Be part of the solution or get out of the way.

Keith

May 17th, 2010
8:32 pm

Grady, Atlanta PD, DeKalb PD, Clayton County Schools, MARTA, C-Tran, Atlanta Public Schools, crime in Atlanta, Atlantic Station, Buckhead falling apart, etc. All great examples of that fantastic black leadership in Atlanta. Can they run anything right??? Obviously not.

Transportation Now...

May 17th, 2010
8:36 pm

I think the citizens of Fulton and Dekalb should sue the state for imposing unfunded mandates on our citizens.

Dave

May 17th, 2010
8:39 pm

An addendum to my comment above. You may be absolutely right about expansion being a bad idea, though I think you aren’t. But, it’s infuriating to read you buying into the Legislature’s meddling and yammering about it “allowing” MARTA to dip into the capital fund “as long as….” It ain’t their money and it ain’t (thought it is) their call.

Oy

May 17th, 2010
8:49 pm

The restriction has clear racist and classist motivations (Sam Massel wrote a great piece for the AJC a couple years ago on this topic). How anyone can blame MARTA for its problems, considering all the state does to it, is beyond me.

Kyle Wingfield

May 17th, 2010
8:55 pm

NotRocket: I have never said, in this series or elsewhere, that “transit” in Atlanta doesn’t need to grow. The question I’m addressing is whether MARTA is the agency to do it. And 75 miles further out in at least 6 directions? So, just taking it N-S, MARTA itself should run from Calhoun to Macon?

Dave: What I’m trying to say is that it really doesn’t matter. In a lot of ways, the 50-50 thing is a club for MARTA and its supporters to swing at the Legislature, a way to blame legislators for MARTA’s predicament. On a practical level, it would not accomplish very much.

Dave

May 17th, 2010
9:00 pm

Kyle you may well be right; but, that has nothing to do with the quite practical matter that people who have an animosity with respect to Atlanta are calling the shots and it seems to me doing all they can to cause failure. Let us sink or swim on our own, or recognize (and here we disagree) that Atlanta public transportation is a vital state issue that needs to planned and funded by the State.

Dave

May 17th, 2010
9:07 pm

I’ve read again and thought about your response to me and NotRocket. I’m not wedded to MARTA. GRTA or GDOT can take it all over as long as public transportation funding includes much more than a passing nod to other than roads.

Kyle Wingfield

May 17th, 2010
9:11 pm

Frankly, Dave, if I were a legislator who hated Atlanta and just wanted to see MARTA fail, I’d vote to end the 50-50 and then tell MARTA that it was on its own — knowing that ending 50-50 isn’t going to provide salvation.

What I see happening instead is that legislators know it isn’t smart to let Atlanta “sink or swim on our own,” but they’re not willing or able to write a blank check.

What I don’t see happening (responding here to others more than you) is some kind of institutional racism taking precedence over all else. That’s an easy line to trot out, because it’s impossible to disprove. But I’d think that people who really care about transit — again, not just MARTA — would be willing to see the more substantive challenges here. And there are plenty of them.

Bob

May 17th, 2010
9:13 pm

Actually, MARTA’s problem was described to me long ago when I lived in Lake Claire. I called one day to see about removing our street and neighborhood from the MARTA bus route. You see, for six years I had worked at home and seen the bus pass by with nobody on it. Not in the morning, not in the evening, not in between. No, I did not become obsessed or keep a log, but it did seem to be a huge waste of money…especially if there were more routes like mine. I even asked the driver once if anyone ever took the route. “Not nearly this far” was his answer.

So I called MARTA and was told that I could add a route by simply submitting a form and allowing 4 – 6 weeks. However, removing a route would “take and act of congress.” I was even told that the long time employee on the other end of the line had never seen a route removed. That’s how MARTA fails in its fiscal responsibilities.

Kyle Wingfield

May 17th, 2010
9:15 pm

Appreciate it, Dave. I wish a few more people on here would be willing to listen to what I’m saying and respond to that, whether they agree or disagree.

Dave

May 17th, 2010
9:19 pm

Then we are closer than I thought. There aren’t any blank checks anymore. What I do want to see is those legislators you speak of do something to help solve the problem rather than snipe, together with the plenty of others you speak of – I haven’t heard much from them.

ATLBadger

May 17th, 2010
9:30 pm

Kyle -
I’d like to hear you further explain your idea that transit is necessary, but MARTA should only be a small piece of that. How do you think any kind of comprehensive transit solutions will become viable when we already have way too many counties in the metro area, each trying to do their own thing and escape any kind of notion of a greater collective good being necessary to maintain a growth and quality of life in the region. This is a big reason why I don’t see Atlanta maintaining it’s position as a high quality of life growing metropolitan region. Look at transportation in Texas cities like Houston and Dallas. They are busy building expansive rail systems (under one authority in each city, METRORail and DART) while those of us in Atlanta are left behind arguing among our 20+ metro counties and neighborhood factions who are threatening to break off from Atlanta or whatever county they are in.

Cutty

May 17th, 2010
9:46 pm

As I view the problem, when there is someone chairing MARTOC who believes that the only way for the state to fund Marta is to take the system over, there is a problem. Chambers sees MARTA has a business that should be pulling a profit. As far as I know there isn’t a transportation system in the world doing that. It’s perceived through the actions of the General Assembly that they’d rather fund Go Fish programs and museums across the state then fund the major transit system in the state. Like GDOT is doing oh so great.

If MARTA increased its fares to levels similar to Chicago and New York, there would be a loss in ridership because some just cannot afford it. If the region was sensible years ago, MARTA would be operating in Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton. The duplication of services in Cobb is an example of the past attitude towards the transit system. If the state provides no money, it should not have any oversight. I’d rather drown of my own foolishness, then have someone holding my head under water. But let the performance of MARTA and its management stand on its own.

NotRocketScience

May 17th, 2010
9:48 pm

Actually Kyle 75 miles from downtown Atlanta ain’t too far. Our legislators have talked (and only talked) about connecting Chattanooga (125 miles with magnetic levitation(!)) to the Atlanta airport for crying out loud and Macon (90 miles) with commuter rail to downtown Atlanta. So what’s the problem with only 75 miles? Seems sensible to me. What thinks you?

Kyle Wingfield

May 17th, 2010
9:53 pm

ATLBadger: First, I think your premise that local governments are “each trying to do their own thing” etc. is wrong. The 10 counties in the Atlanta Regional Commission work well together on this issue, increasingly so. A lot of strides have been made in the past 10 years on this front.

As for how my idea would work: I start from the premise that no one is talking about adding heavy rail anymore. It’s widely considered cost-prohibitive. What that means is that any additional infrastructure will be a different type of system (such as light rail or bus rapid transit), so there will have to be some kind of transfer involved for a passenger connecting between the two. If that’s the case, I don’t see why one agency needs to run both systems. And if differentiating between MARTA and transit would help a referendum succeed — and I believe it would — then it’s an easy choice imo.

ATLBadger

May 17th, 2010
9:55 pm

I will say though I agree that they need to raise additional revenue. Too many free parking lots at stations. Not sure they can really gain much more advertising revenue, but I’d be curious to see how they compare to other metro areas on that. $2.25 per ride would match NYC and Chicago, but make it more expensive than Boston.

Kyle Wingfield

May 17th, 2010
9:58 pm

For starters, NotRocket, when you’re talking about mag-lev or commuter rail, to Chattanooga or Macon, you’re talking about a different technology, for different purposes, and at an even greater cost, than what MARTA currently uses. It’s a completely different conversation, really.

Burroughston Broch

May 17th, 2010
10:02 pm

Kyle, I wish what you write about MARTA’s leadership were true, but it isn’t. If the 50/50 split were removed tomorrow, nothing much would change except the Amalgamated Transit Union workers and MARTA leadership would get a raise and more of them would be hired. Soon thereafter the MARTA leadership would be talking about fare and tax increases again. MARTA is primarily focused on being a jobs program, with efficient transportation a distant second; in this it mimics so much of the local governmental structure.

NotRocketScience

May 17th, 2010
10:04 pm

Kyle says in response to ATLBadger “First, I think your premise that local governments are “each trying to do their own thing” etc. is wrong. The 10 counties in the Atlanta Regional Commission work well together on this issue, increasingly so. A lot of strides have been made in the past 10 years on this front.” Only 10 years to make all this progress. Wow! Pardon us all, but where the heck is this progress? Some specifics please. Tell us about the light and/or heavy rail laid during those 10 years.

ATLBadger

May 17th, 2010
10:16 pm

NotRocketScience – Agreed. What great strides has the ARC made towards the goal of transit expansion in metro Atlanta? ARC does some good things (see LCI studies), but I’m failing to see the great strides regarding transit….

NotRocketScience

May 17th, 2010
10:20 pm

Kyle, commuter rail to Chattanooga or Macon or wherever is part of the equation. The rail is there and ready to use. Add some trackside sheds at needed stops, some lights and signage, and parking, and give it a try. Legislate Norfolk Southern and CSX to play ball and off we go. It is that simple.

WestsideATL

May 17th, 2010
10:24 pm

While there hasn’t been much progress as far as projects go, there has been substantial political progress under Sam Olens’ watch as ARC chairman. Practically nothing of regional concern was moved forward under the reign of the previous chairman from Gwinnett County, Wayne Hill. Most of the issues now: air quality, transportation, water, etc. are regional in nature and many of the counties are willing to work together to resolve them. Case in point, several suburban counties I would never have expected to pay to be members of the Regional Transit Committee, such as Cherokee, Newton and Spalding, have.

Tiger Woods + Jesse James = SuperBAD meets SuperEVIL in "SuperUGLY!"

May 17th, 2010
10:57 pm

“Ending 50-50 split is no salvation for MARTA”

Kyle, you’re right. MARTA may gain more funds for operation with the end of the 50-50 restriction for three years and the agency may still have expansion plans on the drawing board, but as any Atlantan who commutes daily through some of the world’s worst traffic by either personal vehicle, carpool or public transportation knows, those expansion plans are nothing more than abstract ideas on a drawing board. With fares as ridiculously low as $2.00-a-trip, MARTA’s so-called expansion plans could never be seriously funded with bargain-basement fares that low in 2010. By refusing to raise its fares to a level acceptable enough to raise funds badly-needed for self-investment in continued and expanded operations, it seems as if MARTA lacks the courage to execute it’s own vision to expand or even continue serving the public. For a transit agency to serve a metro area of six million like Atlanta, a transit agency like MARTA should be charging somewhere between $3.00 to $5.00-per-trip, AT-LEAST, depending on how premium the service is in addition to receiving STATE and LOCAL sales taxes.

In the end, the onus all kind of falls on the state for not really having much of a vision of its own for managing transportation of all forms, one need to look no further than the Georgia Department of Transportation as an example of blatant mismanagement of transportation as a whole at the state level. As of 2010, the Atlanta Region has grown so large to the point where it is almost impossible for the region to effectively manage its transportation affairs as a whole because the region now encompasses and directly physically affects so much more of the state now (approximately 30-plus counties). In nearly every other top-ten largest metro in the U.S., state government has taken a much more intensive and hands-on role in transportation planning because transportation issues directly affect such a large area that no one or even multiple local agencies can effectly manage a problem with such a huge economic, financial and quality-of-life impact.

The region why the state must take a much more active role in multimodal transportation planning is that workers don’t just commute from Gwinnett, Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton into Downtown Atlanta, but commute from all over North and even Middle Georgia into the Atlanta Region for employment and work opportunities that may not be easily found in locales outside of the Atlanta Region. Workers commute from places like Rome, Canton, Calhoun, Dalton, Jasper, Ellijay, Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, Dawsonville, Toccoa, Athens, Macon, Warner Robbins, Columbus, Anniston, AL and even as far away as Murphy, NC to jobs in the Atlanta Region. The date when the state should have taken an active or even lead role in transportation planning is LONG PAST DUE and its almost a complete disgrace that the state hasn’t more deeply involved itself in transportation planning in a constructive way in the Atlanta Region and statewide. In the big picture, funding equations to a very limited two-county transit agency are almost inconsequential because MARTA, in its current form of serving only Fulton and DeKalb Counties, is obviously NOT the answer to traffic and transportation issues throughout the 30-40-plus county North Georgia Region. Not only should the state be either helping to actively fully fund and operate an agency like MARTA, but it should also be executing a strategic plan to operate an integrated nuanced statewide multimodal transportation system that helps to keep people in every mode of transportation, not just cars and trains, moving.

who dat

May 17th, 2010
11:05 pm

If you go to cities like New York, Paris, London, Beijing, etc. all over the world, you’ll find that their efficient transit systems usually don’t extend beyond the city limits, but serve EVERY area within those city limits by rail. This is why everyone in those cities, regardless of social class, uses the subway; it’s a matter of convenience, not cost, social class, race, or anything else. MARTA is not wrong to want to expand; they are wrong to want to expand outward to suburbs like Gwinnett and Cobb. Even if they do construct a line to those places, they don’t realize that people will be reluctant to ride it because it will take longer than driving.

What they need to do is expand within the city limits, adding service to areas within Atlanta and its immediate surroundings like Atlantic Station, Turner Field, Virginia-Highlands, the Candler-McAfee area, Northside Drive west of Georgia Tech, etc. that are not currently served by MARTA rail.There are plenty of people who want to go to and from these places who would use MARTA if there was a train station within walking distance. Sure, there are some people who will object to MARTA because of racism or some other contrived excuse, but there are a lot of people who would gladly ride it if it saved rather than added to their travel time.

And the other thing they have to do is create express train service that makes it a shorter commute for people who board the train at North Springs or Doraville to get into the city and to the airport. Right now it doesn’t save any time to take MARTA into the city. If it did, more people would ride it.

Michael H. Smith

May 17th, 2010
11:51 pm

Just as problematic for MARTA’s budget, however, is that the agency historically generates only about 25 to 30 percent of its operating income from fares and related services like parking, compared to 40 to 50 percent for the industry nationwide.

Got to love it. Notice the liberals didn’t jump on this portion of the blog.

NotRocketScience

May 17th, 2010
10:20 pm

Exactly what I’ve been aligned with doing for several years – using existing rail or rial rights of way – with one almighty exception: Government controls the proprietary infrastructure and the operational side run and controlled by a public-private transit corporation, under government oversight. Let government do what is was meant to do and let private sector business do it is meant to do; meaning the system would not be GUB’MENT run and no GUB’MENT employees. The system should not be subsidized, since government supplies subsidy enough in providing proprietary infrastructure. Fares charged should reflect true cost of the trips taken with government stipends given only to those that really do need them who truly cannot pay full fare price. I still want a comprehensive network that connects the entire state. It will be necessary for several reasons, one of the most important ones being political.

Now tell me, Kyle what is wrong with this less government intrusive private sector approach as opposed to the traditional government socialist model that you seem to highly favor?

zeke

May 18th, 2010
12:01 am

marta should be forced to charge fares high enough to support all operating expenses! The taxpayer money should only be used for maintainence, capital expenditures and new buses or rail cars! If fares cannot cover all operating costs, reduce the size of marta, sell it to private owners, or, close it down! Also, the ridiculous spending on the beltline boondoggle and peachtree trolleys needs to be eliminated permanantly!

North Fulton

May 18th, 2010
12:31 am

“Just as problematic for MARTA’s budget, however, is that the agency historically generates only about 25 to 30 percent of its operating income from fares and related services like parking, compared to 40 to 50 percent for the industry nationwide.”

Please Kyle, how about backing those numbers up with a source? I’ve made many a trip to the National Transit Database and have never seen industry averages that high.

North Fulton

May 18th, 2010
12:37 am

“The rail is there and ready to use. Add some trackside sheds at needed stops, some lights and signage, and parking, and give it a try. Legislate Norfolk Southern and CSX to play ball and off we go. It is that simple.”
It is NOT that simple. Norfolk Southern and CSX own the tracks and right of way. You can’t simply pass a law to make them allow commuter rail to operate. They’re both in the rail business to make money and they don’t play cheap. Just ask the folks in Florida who have been negotiating with CSX for their commuter rail project.

30 plus yrs without a car

May 18th, 2010
12:44 am

Ive always found it interesting that those on the board of the transit systems Ive ridden (Memphis TN for the longest) have not….to my knowledge had any members in that decision making seat, who actually ride the system!

I think it was deplorable if not outright malfeasance on the part of state, local and whomever else would have a hand, was not up to the plate to garner “any” I mean not one dollars worth of recent transit funds available under the high-speed rail initiative…I mean come on! here we are the seats of academic excellence, and we cant come up with a viable plan to snag some of that money??? Seriously?????

Is this state and region so provincial that its going to let the major economic engine (the greater Atlanta region) wither and die because of some outdated, useless ideas?? Im shocked that the city/region that came together to win the greatest international prize, the Olympic Games, cant come together to solve this crucial problem, step up, dont pave….build a worldclass transit system the rival of any in the world!!

Michael H. Smith

May 18th, 2010
12:58 am

Norfolk Southern and CSX own the tracks and right of way. You can’t simply pass a law to make them allow commuter rail to operate. They’re both in the rail business to make money and they don’t play cheap. Just ask the folks in Florida who have been negotiating with CSX for their commuter rail project.

The alternative is not playing cheap either. In fact, you can forget the word “cheap” when talking rail. Using existing rail rights of way is still the best way to go IMHO.

Michael H. Smith

May 18th, 2010
1:08 am

Please Kyle, how about backing those numbers up with a source? I’ve made many a trip to the National Transit Database and have never seen industry averages that high.

Fares that don’t reflect true costs on top of government run systems is one of the greatest downfalls of rapid rail and mass transit in general.

Liberals always want to tell Conservatives to PAY UP…. Okay, your turn Libs: PAY UP!

ChicagoJoe

May 18th, 2010
4:40 am

Kyle,

MARTA may not be the agency to support region wide transit. That ONE agency may not exist. In Chicago we have 3 agencies under a umbrella agency. The city transit agency(CTA) handles bus and heavy rail in Chicago and a few inner burbs. The suburban bus system(PACE) handles bus outside the city limits. It has feeder buses to Heavy Rail and Commuter Rail station and express bus to downtown along with local service. The commuter rail agency(METRA) handles Regional(City and Suburban) Commuter Rail. The Regional Transit Authority(RTA) is the umbrella org that manages the entire system.

This setup works from a political standpoint. Each political party has a vest interest in one or more of the systems growing. Democrats support/fight for CTA funding while Republican support/fight for METRA funding. PACE is the redhead step child that both parties tolerate.

Hobo

May 18th, 2010
5:32 am

“Just as problematic for MARTA’s budget, however, is that the agency historically generates only about 25 to 30 percent of its operating income from fares and related services like parking, compared to 40 to 50 percent for the industry nationwide.”

Kyle,
I am with North Fulton, you need to publish your source or better yet sources on this one. All public transportation is subsidized as a means to an end. Whether it be easing congestion, reducing air pollution, or simply providing essential/critical lifesaving transportation services, public transportation is never paid for by the so-called farebox. When omparing these numbers, try to keep Apples and Oranges in their own baskets.

Churchill's MOM

May 18th, 2010
6:18 am

Are there $100,000.00 bus drivers working for MARTA or is it a myth?

Churchill's MOM

May 18th, 2010
6:37 am

That should have been Drivers being paid $100,000.00 by MARTA.

Horrible Horrace

May 18th, 2010
7:29 am

Marta doesnt deserve to chart its own future nor receive addl funding as to date we have seen nothing more than mis-management, condoned vandalism of pulic property, hiring of illiterate and stupid employees, gross ignorance etc.

The list continues indefinitely.

Not A MARTA Fan

May 18th, 2010
8:04 am

Again, “Go Away MARTA”……you started off being imcompetent and it’s been the same now for many, many years. As long as the current type of management is in place, there will be no improvements, only more shortfalls, lousy, no caring employees and forever bitching, griping, moaning, groaning and complaining about not having enough money……take care of what you have and use it carefully instead of making it another entitlement program for blacks. Kyle, you’re beating a dead horse here…..this is a train bound for nowhere.

alan

May 18th, 2010
8:17 am

If MARTA is short of funds. Raise the fares. Whats the problem?

If the price of gas goes up you pay it. Whats the problem?

Let the people who use MARTA pay for it.
I live in Johns Creek, work in johns creek, shop in Johns Creek.
So what good is MARTA to me?

If Atlanta wants buses and trolleys going up and down the streets of Atlanta let them pay for it

atlin83

May 18th, 2010
8:27 am

Agreed with others, you should cite your sources. MARTA’s peers don’t pull farebox recovery rates nearly at 40 to 50%, so unless you know something that the National Transit Database doesn’t, we’d like to see it. Otherwise, we’re liable to not believe you.

Also, I’m disappointed that you failed to mention how much variance MARTA has been granted from the 50/50 split over the years. I think the rates are relevant – for example, for part of the 2000s, the MARTA Act was amended to allow MARTA to use 55% for operating and 45% for capital. Not exactly much to work with, and it’s no surprise that the agency’s course wasn’t changed by the legislature’s self-congratulatory “generosity.” But that doesn’t do much to support your argument that removing the 50/50 split isn’t any “salvation,” does it?

Bottom line, it’s Fulton and DeKalb’s money, and MARTA should be able to work for them as is needed. While removing the 50/50 split may not be the fix for MARTA’s funding that they’d like, it’ll help them carry more people, and in a down economy, that means the preservation of jobs and school careers.

Morrus

May 18th, 2010
8:30 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.

Port O' John

May 18th, 2010
8:54 am

I agree that MARTA should accept the reality that it will never grow outside Fulton/DeKalb Counties and should re-align its bus routes to accept that reality. However I do think that part of the anti-MARTA rhetoric is racial, but more of it can be attributed to anti-Atlanta bias and the misconception that the rest of the state subsidizes the city. Although a GSU study disproved that notion (the metro Atlanta counties pay more to the state in than they receive) — that’s the perception. This paper recently ran a guest editorial from Rome Georgia that repeated that line in opposition to the recent, misguided transit bill passed by the legislature.

But I don’t see anyone in the GOP in this state (since the dems don’t really matter anymore I no longer bother to even think about them) looking hard at this issue.

And Kyle, you are also missing the point. GRTA, Cobb Transit, Gwinnett Transit has balkanized transit services in metro Atlanta. Highway funding is predicated on getting federal grants, to get federal grants for transit we have to have a dedicated funding stream and a plan.

We don’t have either. If the metro area passes a 1 cent sales tax for transportation the bulk of the money will go for roads — that’s just the reality. However Gwinnett will want money for its transit system and Cobb will want money for theirs. GRTA will probably get funding too — but having GRTA compete with Cobb, Gwinnett and MARTA for ridership is one of the dumbest moves we’ve made on transportation in a long time, and we’ve made some boneheaded decisions.

The feds will always pass us by for transit funding — we are too balkanized and, outside of Fulton and DeKalb, unwilling to pay for it. Before y’all start whining that Obama passed us up because we are a red state — note that Florida and NC — got lots of funding for transit. Why? They had a plan and funding.

Never happen here.

Enjoy your car.

I Report/You Decide

May 18th, 2010
9:43 am

” the agency historically generates only about 25 to 30 percent of its operating income from fares and related services like parking”

MARTA basic fare is $2.00, so the statement above means that the REAL cost per passenger trip is $8.00. You can DRIVE to work for that. MARTA is grossly inefficient and should be shut down.

“It’s only fair to note that MARTA had the fifth-lowest operating cost per passenger mile (45 cents) among the nation’s 20 largest transit systems in 2008.”

45 cents per mile? Once again more expensive than operating a private automobile with one passenger on board. Public transportation is a joke…another giveaway program from taxpayers to mooches.

Hillbilly Deluxe

May 18th, 2010
9:48 am

Legislate Norfolk Southern and CSX to play ball and off we go.

Kyle, isn’t it true that freight traffic has precedence before Amtrak on the nation’s rail lines? Correct me if I’m wrong but if I’m right, you could never have freight and MARTA or another agency using the same tracks and it be an efficient people mover..

toon

May 18th, 2010
10:03 am

I report… you need to cite your sources too… according to the AAA its an average of 70.7 cents per mile (for up to 10,000 miles a year, which is equivalent to a 38 mile round trip commute each day)

Base

May 18th, 2010
10:07 am

It remains a shame how much is spent by the fed ,state and local statewide for transit compared to roads.The state needs a role and it is not GRTA and Jim Richtey the express bus craz who makes $175,000 a year to run a few buses.

Horrible Horrace

May 18th, 2010
10:37 am

We hate you Marta
oh yes we do

We dont hate anyone
as much as you

Your busses smell like Doo Doo

Oh Marta we hate you!

Kyle Wingfield

May 18th, 2010
11:11 am

For everyone who wants the source on the revenue percentages: MARTA’s own 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (the most recent one available), page 45.

http://www.itsmarta.com/reports.aspx