Racial reasoning on MARTA is off-track

During my recent series of columns about MARTA, several readers suggested that the biggest obstacle for MARTA is a racial divide in which rich whites, mostly in the suburbs, despise a transit system for poor urban blacks.

I think they’re wrong. And not terribly helpful.

I was born in 1978, 13 years after the General Assembly passed the MARTA Act and mere months before the agency’s first train got rolling. So, I will not pretend to know first-hand about the racial atmospherics of MARTA’s early days.

I heard a reasonable argument recently — from a transit proponent, I’d add — that suburbanites opted out of MARTA based on one cold calculation: They stood to pay for years, maybe decades, before the rails crossed I-285 to reach them. Why say yes to that?

But I also understand that our branding as The City Too Busy to Hate always mixed public relations with public reality, in varying parts. I don’t doubt that attitudes toward race played a substantial role in any referendum in Georgia in the 1960s and ’70s.

Then again, lots of things that were true 40 years ago are no longer the case. So, what about this one?

Has racism been eradicated? No more than kudzu has. But we have come closer to the former, and certainly far enough that flat assertions that racism drives transportation policy don’t pass the smell test.

I’ve heard people say that connecting the city to the suburbs via transit would bring crime (read: blacks) to peaceful (read: white) areas. Strike that — I’ve heard people, mostly in-towners, attribute that line of thought to OTPers.

Some suburbanites think that way, but I highly doubt that theirs is the prevailing belief. Both Cobb and Gwinnett counties are increasingly diverse, to say nothing of majority-black Clayton County. The keep-blaming-race crowd ignores those facts. And it’s not as if these places are otherwise sealed off by moats.

Some readers pointed the finger at the state’s Republican — excuse me, republiNazi — leadership. Their idea is that institutional racism not only lives but rules in 2010. Hardly.

If the standard for “racism” among Republicans is whether they will agree to spend money the way liberals want them to do, then there are a lot of unwitting racists in the world.

If the standard is whether MARTA gets singled out for restrictions among the state’s other 100-plus transit agencies, then we have to ask whether Republicans have been fooled into thinking that wealthy whites fill most of the bus seats in Augusta or Savannah.

If the standard is whether top Republicans hear MARTA’s pleas, then we have to ignore that House Speaker David Ralston spent much political capital to pass a transportation bill. The bill wasn’t perfect, but it filled all of MARTA’s requests from just a year earlier. Ralston worked closely with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to secure GOP and Democratic votes.

And if the standard is whether these Republicans represent rural or urban areas, well, Ralston isn’t exactly from East Point.

The race-blamers offer no substantive counter-argument to any of this, just another finger pointed at the South’s stained past.

Neither will many of them engage on the substance of MARTA’s track record, and that’s too bad. Because any of them who truly care about the agency’s future would see there are plenty of real problems to address.

NOTE: I realize this is a touchy topic, and I ask that you keep that in mind as you comment on it.

144 comments Add your comment

Dave

May 21st, 2010
9:10 pm

“If the standard is whether MARTA gets singled out for restrictions among the state’s other 100-plus transit agencies, then we have to ask whether Republicans have been fooled into thinking that wealthy whites fill most of the bus seats in Augusta or Savannah.”

While I think there’s some residual racism in Georgia, I think you are right that its existence isn’t the reason for the anti-MARTA fervor seen in the comments on your series or practiced by the Legislature. But there is real anti-MARTA sentiment in the Legislature as evidenced by your sentence above. Without evidence, I can’t believe that every other transit agency in the state is perfectly run so as to justify singling MARTA out for such treatment because of its less than perfect performance.

There are more non-Atlanta Representatives and Senators in the Legislature than there are from Atlanta. And, I do think there’s a bias against Atlanta. They spent decades when times were good taking from Atlanta to fund the rest of the state, all the while resenting their benefactor. Can’t prove it, but I think the resentment is real. And Atlanta got by. Now that times are bad and Atlanta isn’t the tax receipts cash cow that it was, they are even more protective of spending the smaller pot on their constituents’ needs and even more resentful.

Augusta and Savannah? They are part of “us.” The folks in the big city, not so much.

Will

May 21st, 2010
9:29 pm

Nicely written sir. I’m guessing the comments to be approved pool is enormous because I don’t see any comments posted yet.

The Cynical White Boy

May 21st, 2010
9:33 pm

The central issue is not racism, but money. If the “right” people owned the companies who would profit from MARTA’s growth and expansion, then MARTA’s growth would be a foregone conclusion.

Just let some of these minority folks who scream about “racism” own some companies who get the no-bid “minority set-aside” contracts (that is, legalized racism) for the work, and MARTA would flow right along down the line.

diogenes

May 21st, 2010
9:49 pm

Having lived in Europe and going everywhere on PT I ventured out to MARTA a few years back and noticed
1. No employees in sight anywhere
2. No schedules posted in stations
3. No clocks to even know what time it was if you happened to find anyone that knew when the next train came
4. Dirty smelly trains
5. Took me 30 minutes longer to get downtown than if I had driven
6. Saving of $1 for roundtrip figuring in gas and parking for totalbof hour and 5 minute longer trip
7.incoherent communication over the speakers in train
8. no route maps inside train
Now why is MARTA smarter?

MiltonMan

May 21st, 2010
10:16 pm

MARTA – ran by the morons in Atlanta. Enough said. I guess we could use all that expertise in Clayton County with their crappy schools, defunct transportation system & all the idiots that the residents there elect.

Mike

May 21st, 2010
10:33 pm

Racial reasoning is not MARTAs problem. It like many agencies has either forgotten who its users are or, perhaps, feels it can’t serve them.

People will ride mass transit if it delivers them close to their jobs. Many people will drive to the nearest rail station, and take the mass transit to their jobs, but few will leave a car parked overnight at a rail station so they can drive the last few miles to their job. This point was driven home to me years ago when I lived in the city and worked in the suburbs. I had to walk about 2.5 miles from the bus line to the job. It got old very quickly.

In my travels, most of the examples I have seen with private mass transit, has been getting employees from the nearest mass transit station to the workplace. Private carriers understand this problem well. They know when the shift change occurs and adjust their schedule accordingly.

One question is whether the job market has changed so that this is no longer practical. Most suburban jobs are in small office parks without a concentration of hourly workers with shift changes. Many of these jobs have move overseas to places that have, ironically enough good mass transit. Take a look at the products you see in stores and ask yourself did the worker who made this drive to work.

The effective boundary of the perimeter however, is the design of the rail system itself. The choice of continuously powered third rail limits the system to dedicated rail lines without grade crossing. It makes sense only on heavily traveled rail lines, that are likely to only exist inside the perimeter. Most Asian cities, and some American cities, such as Salt Lake use overhead wire (or overhead rail for tunnels) and lines that can be shared with freight.

Peadawg

May 21st, 2010
11:30 pm

We need to arrest marta and through her out of the country.

96 SC

May 22nd, 2010
12:44 am

All Statewide Public Mass Transit should be put under the GDOT where connections can be made throughout Georgia. We could start by having rail lines placed in the middle median of all expressways. If the GDOT Boys aren’t up for the task then explore privitization.

Bill

May 22nd, 2010
1:54 am

I Live 5 miles from where I work. Rarely go into the big city. When I do, I try to take MARTA. The trains always smell and do not take me close to where I want to go( the Ted). Why should I pay for other peoples’ transportation. Will they pay for my car repairs? User should pay.

Name One

May 22nd, 2010
1:56 am

Well-run rail systems are worth their weight in gold. Chicago, New York, London, Paris, and heck, even Salt Lake City and Phoenix have good rail systems. Rail is on its way in Houston and Dallas.

But here, MARTA is a cesspool of bloated and overpaid management. The current CEO has added a bunch of administrators, with no return on investment. Staff wanted to expand west to Fulton Industrial in the 90’s, with a lot of hard data that MARTA have good rider numbers serving the business up and down Ful Indust. But the know-nothing board shot it down. Instead, they saw big dollar signs with the whole station/retail/residential development angle, which has been a major disappointment. Harold Buckley, a realtor, has represented DeKalb County on the MARTA Bd. for 20 years. And he was set to make some big bucks if a CID was passed for the Kensington MARTA station. Term limits, please??

The saddest part is that most MARTA administrators and managers don’t even ride their own trains and buses on a regular basis. Stations are filthy, the bus drivers aren’t just rude,they speed, run red lights, and park where ever the heck they’d like on a break, and who knows what in the heck the MARTA police department does. With competent management, their would be much more public support for MARTA. MARTA and its board likes to blame everyone else but themselves, but almost all of their problems are self-inflicted.

DS

May 22nd, 2010
7:05 am

In the early days, no doubt race was a factor in some peoples desire for the then outer counties (Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton) to not join MARTA. However, Kyle makes valid points about the demographic changes in those counties.

In fact, the heavy rail replaced the old trolley system, which included a line that ran from Atlanta to the old Bell Bomber (now Lockheed) plant in Marietta. However, even then times had changed. The old line when in due to WWII, then the turmoil surrounding the Civil Rights movement hit when heavy rail was gaining steam.

That brings us to today. . .People in Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton see how incompetent MARTA management has been at managing what resources they have, and they don’t like what they see. Furthermore, there are several other cities (DC most prominent though it did have the benefit of direct Congressional oversight) which have built out their systems with much more success without the apparent drama which surrounds MARTA and it’s at times incompetent management.

ken

May 22nd, 2010
7:18 am

I rode MARTA on time. Never again. I will sit in traffic and listen to my radio.

smarternotmarta

May 22nd, 2010
7:33 am

And white folks shouldn’t be concerned about black crime coming to their neighborhoods via MARTA? Ask merchants at the Permimeter Mall what happened. Train loads of thugs arrived for their daily “shopping.”

Taxpayer

May 22nd, 2010
7:44 am

Perhaps the bus and train operators need to start asking for a potential rider’s passport before accepting their fare, in order to keep those “illegals” out of the public transportation system.

Will

May 22nd, 2010
7:51 am

Kyle:

You are wrong about MARTA and race. MARTA, like public education in Georgia, is not a priority of the republican majority in the General Assembly because the users of these two entities are not priority voters for the republican majority in the General Assembly.

Republicans easily offset any voter loss from public school parents by keeping private and home school voters happy. Let’s use an example, say Henry County. A majority of the public school enrollment is a combination of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians. Around four of every ten students are white. What about the parents of the these white students? Aren’t they likely to be more in line with republican thought?

Possibly but losing a substantial number of the these voters can easily be made up by picking up the votes of parents who send their children to private schools or home school them, hence the lack of concern over decisions regarding public schools.

Don’t believe me? Try this, contact any republican member of the General Assembly, tell them you know next year will be another difficult year for public school funding and you know teachers are likely to not get a raise for the third straight year. Then ask, in lieu of measures that will cost money, what proposals are you working on that will improve public education and the lot of public school employees other than allowing local Boards of Education to increase class sizes?

When you then get a long period of silence, don’t hang up. Nothing wrong with your connection.

Greg

May 22nd, 2010
7:55 am

I think you are wrong about this, though the word racism itself may be outdated. Looking beyond race is not so easy to do. The last two posts are not racial in my opinion, but the fact that most the MARTA employees we see are black is an element of the problem. This might be because those of us who want a better system are afraid to complain…for fear of looking racist (and we would). The number of black employees needs to be explained to people at a basic level; it does not speak of hiring the best person for the job, for example. Further, you ignore the fact that MARTA in Atlanta treated like a Superfund site. You cannot walk into the Candler Park Station like a person. You cannot walk through a public park (Iverson) because the route is blocked by a fence, and you cannot stroll down a public street (Candler Park Drive) to enjoy the benefits of the public transit we support. Organizations like the Candler Park Neighborhood Association and ParkPride are spending tens of thousands of donated dollars to make Iverson Park especially fine…and nobody seems to notice the fence blocking the tax paying public from walking through a public park to use public transit. These are not people I would describe as racist, but where else do you go to explain that behavior? Earlier discussions about station access (15 years back) were like a law and order episode–crime, crime, crime. You do not need to go back that far to find the Candler Park rabid dog attacks on MARTA buses–danger, danger, danger. This problem is strewn with racial artifacts of some kind. This paper itself will not make an issue of MARTA functionality issues. If you fenced in some place white people wanted to go, you would have a front-page story. Looking beyond race involves more white people deciding to take a nice evening stroll downtown…and take the train to get there…and demand to be treated like a human being along the way…and to stop saying these problems are not about race, because they are in some more complicated way.

Kyle Wingfield

May 22nd, 2010
8:07 am

To Bill (not the one who posted at 1:54 a.m. Saturday, but another person posting under that name) and for everyone else’s benefit:

All comments are going through moderation before they appear. Your comment will not be appearing because you used a derogatory term for a group of people. We’re not going to get started on that here.

Taxpayer

May 22nd, 2010
8:12 am

I think it’s a shame that MARTA cannot branch out and include, for example, a lottery ticket with each fare. In no time at all, MARTA could then be transformed into a profit-center that would make any good capitalist — no, dare I say, Libertarian — blush with pride. Who knows. The keepers of the purse strings might even be forced to give such ingenious executives huge bonuses to show their appreciation for a job well done. And any less-than-positive thoughts about implementing a system designed to thrive off of the ignorance of those that can least afford it will be buried under visions of mounds of dollar bills in no time. No time at all. Then again, whats the odds of something like that ever happening.

A CONSERVATIVE

May 22nd, 2010
8:24 am

LIKE DURING KATRINA…..LIBERALs will insert RACE into every issue…Sports…Education..public safety…MARTA….politics…you name it….LIBERALs will insert race…AJC DOES IT ALL THE TIME..

Not A MARTA Fan

May 22nd, 2010
8:24 am

Kyle, you’ve had your head stuck in the sand waaaaaay tooooo long. MARTA is definitely about race…..ask the folks at Lenox Square how they like MARTA…..I’ll bet you’d get your ears full. The people who are presently running (I use that work loosely) MARTA have had long enough to show Atlanta and DeKalb County that they are not capable of such a task. If Cobb and Gwinnett are smart (and up to now they’ve done good) they will give MARTA a resounding NONONONONONONO…..never, never, never. Begone MARTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gil

May 22nd, 2010
8:36 am

I agree with Greg’s comments, from the standpoint that an acknowledgement of a racial (is “demographic” a more palatable word?) component to Marta’s problems leads to being branded a “racist.” Has anyone ever done a study to determine if there is any correlation between the incidence of violent crime in areas served by Marta and those that aren’t? What happens when affluent (or even middle class) people try to integrate into traditionally “minority” neighborhoods? Look no further than Atlantic Station, as every Georgia Tech student and parent now knows, to venture more than a block from the Station center is to place one’s life at risk. Unfortunately, it appears that before any progress can be made in “public” transportation, there must be a fundamental change in the attitude and behavior of the “thug” culture that is allowed (encouraged?) to exist downtown.

Burroughston Broch

May 22nd, 2010
9:02 am

Kyle, my heart would like to believe what you write but my head knows that it isn’t so. Much of MARTA is about race and jobs. Look at the MARTA employees, management and board members through the filter of “diversity”, that term so revered in “progressive” thought. There is little diversity in MARTA and, certainly, much less than in metro Atlanta. When I look at MARTA I am reminded of another failed institution – the US Postal Service. Both have the same look, the same attitude, and the same inability to react to change. Both are bound by intractable unions.
By the way, I regularly ride the MARTA rail system, mostly to/from the airport. My life would be more difficult without MARTA. I want it to reform and prosper.

Willis

May 22nd, 2010
9:15 am

Overheard some teens on subway heading to Queens for the Yankees game: “Yo, I’m mad fertile.”

BeBe KID

May 22nd, 2010
9:16 am

MARTA “Moving African Americans Rapidly Through Atlanta’s” chocolate inner city but not the vanilla suburbs. Keep many blacks from having transportation to the suburbs because we all know that you can’t have law and order and black people too.

McDonough Democrat

May 22nd, 2010
9:24 am

I wish I could join you in believing race is not the culprit. But as a white woman who lives OTP but works ITP I can tell you, when white people think they are among the like-minded they still use terms like “MARTA means Moving Africans Rapidly through Atlanta.” and talk about the “element” of public transportation bringing crime to their area. When people learn that I work in Atl. and use Marta they ask in hushed tones “aren’t you scared.” Our dialog in public may be more civil, but in private racism lives on!

Houckster

May 22nd, 2010
9:26 am

One poster comments: The saddest part is that most MARTA administrators and managers don’t even ride their own trains and buses on a regular basis. Stations are filthy, the bus drivers aren’t just rude,they speed, run red lights, and park where ever the heck they’d like on a break, . . .
____
I ride MARTA almost EVERY day (Blue Line from Avondale to Five Points). The buses don’t smell (some of the riders may), the drivers are good and the stations ARE NOT filthy. This is just propaganda from someone who probably just wants to make MARTA look bad.

Taxpayer

May 22nd, 2010
9:36 am

I agree with Greg’s comments, from the standpoint that an acknowledgement of a racial (is “demographic” a more palatable word?) component to Marta’s problems leads to being branded a “racist.”

I agree that one could use “race”, for example, as a useable criteria for stratification of a dataset, just as readily as one could use “age”, as long as the particular dataset contains sufficient data, that is. Further, the results of such an effort may or may not be used by anyone with access to said data. Insurance companies, as do many others, might just love that kinda stuff. One could even go so far as to use the search terms, “racist”, “bigot”, etc., if the dataset happens to contain such information. Perhaps Kyle has even been able to glean something useful, quantitatively speaking, in that regard from his dataset of posts, eh?

ejohnson

May 22nd, 2010
9:41 am

speaking as a ex-atlanta resident living for 30 years in new york city, i know that nyc had its problems also 100 years ago with the expansion of the nyc subway through parts of brooklyn and other areas.it was ,back then about class not so much race,atlanta will get there with there transportation system look at ny it took 100 and sum odd years to get to what people see today.

Scott

May 22nd, 2010
10:03 am

Kyle, I hope you also write about the Concept 3 plan in this series. Its a wonderful plan that would really go to the places people want to travel. I do remember the fit that people had when the buckhead and lenox stations went into operation. There were lots of complaints about the ‘element’ that was now coming in. I dont think that the racial component is as valid today ,and I also think that people “cry wolf” way to often when it comes to racism. It gets used as an excuse so often we’ve become desensitized to it, and thus when real racism appears everyone is quick to dismiss it. I think it is more a rural vs urban problem. It started with the ill advised decision that all federal transportation dollars had to be divided equally between congressional districts in GA regardless of need. In GA the rural representations influence far outweighs what it should be. Thats simply a fact. It was the same with Democrats and Republicans. I hope that with the 2010 census and Atlantas explosive growth this will change

Gerald West

May 22nd, 2010
10:24 am

Kyle, mixing rascism, party politics, and urban infrastructure on one page makes a rambling, inconclusive article. But you don’t shilly-shally around the “race” factor; that’s good.

I hope that in the wrap-up of this series you’ll frame MARTA in the context of the past, present, and future of Atlanta and Georgia. The Atlanta region has 50% of the population of Georgia and produces 70% of the state GDP. Without Atlanta, Georgia would be as poor and backward as the neighboring states of Alabama and South Carolina.

MARTA and Atlanta Airport are the backbone of the Atlanta region. The world’s busiest airport, connected to a modern heavy-rail metro, makes Atlanta commercially competitive with other sunbelt conglomerations like Dallas, Miami, and Phoenix. The creation of this marvelous infrastructure in the face of the rabid anti-spending, anti-investment, race-baiting politicians who have always held public office in Georgia is a miracle in state history.

Don’t confuse value with cost! No metropolitan transport system in the world derives sufficient operating revenue from passenger fares, but the economic and social benefits to the community far exceed the operating cost. Good transport reduces the traffic load on streets and highways in the central region, attracts businesses and jobs, and enables growth and beneficial change. The MARTA rail system has changed the face of Atlanta. Just look down at the city from the window of an airplane to see how development clusters around MARTA stations. Go along Peachtree from downtown to Buckhead in the evening, and notice that many affluent people are moving into townhouses and condos from suburban homes, to take advantage of the easy accessibility of the city venues and the airport.

Success builds on success; extending the train lines to suburban areas will bring more businesses and jobs to Georgia.

One of the readers, “Diogenes”, expresses disgust with MARTA train service. My experience is far different: I find the trains clean and usually on schedule, there are rail maps posted in every car, stations are announced in advance by recorded voices speaking clearly in common American English, often supplemented by the train driver speaking in local dialect. There is, however, one displeasing aspect of travel on MARTA: rude and boisterous young people, usually African American. However, I don’t find any better company on the subways of other large American cities. We must take people as they are since we are not willing to provide the education and social support needed to offset bad heritage and stupid TV shows.

Though I admire what MARTA has done for Atlanta, I recognize that MARTA train service falls far short of world-class urban transport. The London Underground and the Paris Metro provide frequent, fast service from stations located within a short walk of anywhere in the city. Like Atlanta, the rail passengers are of many ethnicities. Unlike Atlanta, they are generally healthy, fit, good-looking, neatly dressed, and well-behaved. Why is that?

The Tar and Feathers Party

May 22nd, 2010
10:26 am

Atlanta and Marta are both bottomless pits of incompetence and thievery, I would not trust either with one nickel of my money, or my tax payments. This whole “beltline” scam is just another attempt to steal federal funds to line the pockets of the city thieves, all of whom are in the brown skin category. We do not need or want any part of Marta in Cobb county, and if the brown skinned people (both legal and illegal) do not like that, they can get out.

Morrus

May 22nd, 2010
10:41 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.

Michael H. Smith

May 22nd, 2010
10:49 am

Waddle, waddle. When all else fails, after arguments proven to have no merit to stand on their own substance alone have left their fomenters abandon, all that remains for them to grasp is the “metal weakness” of a “social crutch” in attempts to avoid a personal total collapse.

When science and theology deny “race” a category for existence why must some people invent such an imaginary category within their own mind, are they scared of one and all being human, nothing more or nothing less; or is it too mentally stressing for them to assign and accept things on a basis of right or wrong, rather than comfortably assigning and accepting things falsely as black or white?

The reasoning of “race” per se’ is off track, Mr. Wingfield.

No amount of “ethnocentric” vitriol can hide or even camouflage the central issue of what is the role of government in transportation?

The answer from Libertarians liberals: Government’s role in transportation is none.

The answer from Socialist liberals: Government’s role in transportation is all encompassing.

The answer from Conservatives: Government’s role in transportation is limited to infrastructure the remaining role is left to private sector and the individual to perform.

Tammi

May 22nd, 2010
10:55 am

MARTA has been far too willing to attack others in the state, participating with the local legislators who would rather play politics at the capitol than build coalitions and have real accomplishments. Withough Mayor Reed this attitude would have kept the local legislators from supporting the help MARTA got in the last session. They would have rather stayed victims than actually help. MARTA needs a secretarty of state like position for it to assume a real leadership positon in the region rather than its current position as aggrieved victim.

mike

May 22nd, 2010
10:58 am

Kyle, believe what you want. I can assure you people in Cobb, Fulton and Cherokee don’t want Marta for one reason. Having lived in Atlanta for 30 years and having a child at Ga. Tech who is exposed to the street mentality and violence daily, I know excactly why they don’t want it. Wake up and face the reality of it. If we face the truth, ( that whites are afraid of blacks) then maybe we can make some progress. Do you watch the news? It is not middle class whites that are committing the violent crimes.

Aquagirl

May 22nd, 2010
11:01 am

I know it’s touchy to point out race, Kyle, but when there are more young African-American men in jail than in college, people are going to avoid young black men, and anything perceived associated with them.

When you add people like Bill @ 1:54 Saturday, MARTA will literally go nowhere. Plenty of suburban/exurban people expect a paved road from their front door to wherever they’re going. They expect taxpayer-subsidized living but won’t pay a penny for anyone else. Newsflash: roads are not naturally occurring features, and if you think your gas tax pays for them, you’re severely underestimating the cost of building and maintaining roads. Why should I pay money for Bill’s roads, sewer line (or river pollution if he uses septic) power lines, etc.? I don’t use them. He’s living off of my dime, just as much as any inner-city welfare/food stamp recipient.

Sheila

May 22nd, 2010
11:04 am

I have lived in several states where mass transit was available. In Pittsburgh, it was an interlocking bus system that coordinated lines over 2 seperate counties. I could get within blocks of walking the rest of the way to work. The buses did bring crime into our town – sometimes for teens to steal cars, shop lifting, etc., but it was usually crimes of convenience, and the race of who owned the stolen merchandise was inconsequential.
Now, I live in Gwinnett. The poor excuse for a bus system drives past my present employer in Corporate Square. I would have to take 1-2 buses to get back to where the I need to be. Why couldn’t someone figure out that they could fill a bus if it had stops along the I-85 access road?
A friend had their car broken into and engine parts stolen. Why would anyone leave their car unattended in a Park & Ride unless they had no choice?
My trips on MARTA have been uneven- clean or dirty, on time and late. It is the lack of reliability that keeps me from riding regularly – chronically late to work equals potential job loss.
The fact that the city of Atlanta sometimes acts like a prima donna impacts the desire of others to play nice. I have enough of my own problems without having to constantly stroke an entity that has a track history of poor management, bad budgeting, in-fightingting and name calling.

Daedalus

May 22nd, 2010
11:30 am

Here we go again, another op-ed piece that echoes Justice John Roberts misguided reasoning: since racial discrimination is illegal, we must presume it does not exist.

I live ITP and ride MARTA daily, my wife’s family lives in Forsyth, Gwinnett and Hall Counties. My brother used to live in Kennesaw — when the subject of MARTA came up, the uniform response was they did not want any (insert the usual derogatory term for blacks) up here. However, get them in a situation where blacks and whites intermingle (Falcons games, etc.) and they were all peace and love and brotherhood.

Maybe racial tension has lessened, but pretending it no longer exists is pretty naive. That the legislature would put a restriction on funding for MARTA in the new transportation bill — but not putting the same restriction on Gwinnett or Cobb Transit is an issue you conveniently omit.

Why is that Kyle?

Kyle Wingfield

May 22nd, 2010
11:44 am

Yep, here we go again — with Daedalus ignoring what I actually wrote. I never said that racism does not exist; I specifically said that it does. What I did say is that I highly doubt that racism is still driving policy in this state, specifically in the case of MARTA. Like I wrote, some suburbanites think the way you’ve described. But I doubt that is the prevailing view.

And I did not omit, conveniently or otherwise, that MARTA is sometimes singled out for restrictions by the Legislature. Why don’t you go back and read the column?

And fwiw: I’ve never read that Chief Justice Roberts said anything like what you’ve attributed to him. On this topic, his best-known line is that the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. A far cry from what you wrote, not that anyone should be surprised.

James

May 22nd, 2010
11:54 am

Kyle, two questions

1) If MARTA is so terrible, why it is year after year the absolute best in the country in terms of cost per passenger mile for heavy rail? Better than NYC, better than Chicago, better than LA, etc. As a journalist, you’d think you’d know this. It’s very easy information to obtain. Go to the website for the Federal Transit Administration and download the spreadsheets. It’ll take you a couple of hours to find that MARTA is the best in the nation year after year in terms of heavy rail efficiency (The buses are in the middle of the pack nationally). Kind of goes against everything you’ve posted for the past week or so which appears to be based on “well everyone knows MARTA is corrupt” and tons of anecdotes that sound exactly the same. Are you too lazy to do an ounce of research or do you only do “research” when it is handed to you by some industry funded think tank?

2) Are you a Christian? Do you believe that it is wrong to bear false witness? Do you think a bit of political glory here in the world of man is a good trade off for an eternity of burning in the fires of hell?

Churchill's MOM

May 22nd, 2010
12:35 pm

Yes MARTA is racist, the overpaid incompetent MARTA staff is taking money from the poor blacks who need MARTA’s services. Why not make a 25% cut in overhead and put it in bus service for under served areas? Why pay drivers over $75,000 per year when you can’t afford to serve the poor?

When I am in Atlanta I mostly see a MOVING bus with few or no passengers, that has to be a sign that something is wrong with MARTA.

Personal Preference

May 22nd, 2010
1:22 pm

Kyle, you are one the biggest racists and hypocrites at the AJC, and that is quite an accomplishment.

Some people just happen to like their mass transit and their elected President to be like their favorite sandwich cheese at Subway.

suzanne irvin

May 22nd, 2010
1:27 pm

Marta stinks except in very few instances. when colleagues and i had meetings in the bellsouth bldg I always rode marta and got there faster and without the hassles of rushhour traffic. getting to my office after was another story as marta went nowhere near my surburban office. in off hours i invariably encounter a mentally ill person or someone eating or playing loud music. As stated by other bloggers there is no staff around and you feel hesitant to say or do anything. the metro in Dc takes you everywhere and you feel safe at all hours. We need to get new management with the commitment and experience to make it a system that is worth having.

DawgDad

May 22nd, 2010
1:32 pm

As soon as the racial card gets played or the race-baiters make a scene my mind is immediately made up on ANY issue; i.e., whatever side they’re on is inherently morally repugnantly wrong-headed. So, if politicians want my suburban tax dollars for MARTA they need to either make a compelling argument for their case based on sound LOGIC or otherwise point a gun at my head. The fact that the racial card is defacto played in the case of MARTA is an out-of-the-gate show-stopper. If you want to capture the suburbanites tax dollars my suggestion is to REPUDIATE the race-baiters; stop promoting the self-serving dividers and people will naturally come together. Of course, that appears to be diametrically opposed to the AJC editorial platform.

Kyle Wingfield

May 22nd, 2010
1:35 pm

James, if you’ve really read “everything [I've] posted for the past week,” then you’d know I did give MARTA credit for being very competitive nationally on its overall cost per passenger mile — and that bus service, where “middle of the pack” is a very, very generous description of MARTA’s expenses, is where I suggested that MARTA look to improve through outsourcing, which has worked at a number of other cities.

Now, what was that about bearing false witness?

Michael H. Smith

May 22nd, 2010
1:48 pm

Newsflash 2: Roads are commonly subsidized for every acceptable motorized means of transport a state allows to travel on its’ government proprietary infrastructure, which includes all forms of government subsidize motorized vehicles. Cars are not naturally occurring. Neither do other privately owned motorized vehicles naturally occur and none of these private modes of transport receive taxpayers assistance. Government subsidizing road infrastructure is not comparable with Government subsidizing the entire total sum for a means of transportation.

Public transportation excluding commonly provided government owned proprietary infrastructure and the woefully insufficient fares paid to cover costs is “providing welfare”, period – Call this serving the greater good of only a few.

Public roads are established at taxpayer expense to fulfill government’s constitutional obligatory duties in “promoting the general welfare” of the United States. – Et al the commerce section of article one. – Call this serving the greater good of all.

DawgDad

May 22nd, 2010
2:01 pm

I don’t want to leave my comment standing in the context of a rant. I live in the Woodstock area. I would LOVE for there to be reliable light-rail service from downtown Woodstock through Marietta, Smyrna (where I work), and on into downtown. The only places I ever go downtown anymore are to sporting events, or to the aquarium when we have out-of-town guests. I use public rail transportation when travelling to other big cities (New York, Chicago, SF, DC area). I would take Marta to ballgames and hockey games as long as I didn’t have to walk miles, and I’d undoubtedly go to more games if it was convenient.

So, to me the real issue is NOT about race, it’s about economics and the inevitability of fiscal mismanagement and malfeasance in any public or pseudo-public service institution. The economics are just prohibitive for light rail. Am I concerned about criminals using the system? Sure, that’s a concern that proponents need to address. Economics, sanitation, safety, reliability, access; those appear to me to be the core issues. Now, am I willing to fund a system from Marietta downtown, that does not extend to Woodstock? Not likely, but possibly. The problem there is the lack of trust; once you let a politician get a foothold with a new tax levy you’ll inevitably regret it down the road.

atlmom

May 22nd, 2010
2:03 pm

User supported? How do you think that the roads get paid for??? The roads are subsidized, aren’t they? Why shouldn’t the mass transit be?
And, well, if you don’t want mass transit, look for traffic to be twice as bad.
You WANT AND NEED mass transit, EVEN IF you don’t take it.
That’s what’s so awful about what we have here. If it were managed better, we would have more and more stations would open, which would mean more people would take it, etc.
**(why do you want there to be mass transit? Otherwise, there will be more traffic. Otherwise, EVERYONE needs a car, so the prices of everything you pay for goes up. how? well, if one must have a car to get to work – then they must be paid enough to be able to afford a car. Which means you pay for more stuff.
And there are many more benefits – people are walking more – less obesity – people are out and about – less crime…I could go on and on…).

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

May 22nd, 2010
2:46 pm

Kyle, you just torpedoed any credibility you might have had no this subject. Did you not do your research? The opposition to MARTA most certainly is racially motivated. You were born in 1974; then you were around in the late 1980s when MARTA tried to expand into Gwinnett. Look at the letters in AJC archives. The comments about not wanting “those people” to follow them; about moving specifically to Gwinnett to get away from Atlanta and not wanting Atlanta to follow them; about MARTA bringing crime (the de facto code word for race in this country). Look at some of the responses to your own blog. You have nothing else to offer on this subject because you are being intellectually dishonest. Either way, you have no credibility. Move on.

DawgDad

May 22nd, 2010
2:53 pm

“And, well, if you don’t want mass transit, look for traffic to be twice as bad.
You WANT AND NEED mass transit, EVEN IF you don’t take it.”

There may be more traffic, but Marta doesn’t even dent the traffic flows up and down I-75. So, no, I do NOT need mass transit. I’d like to have it, if it made economic sense etc., but by no means do I NEED it (nor do most folks in the Atlanta metro area). That does NOT mean I don’t support the concept, but don’t expect blank-check support or expect me to favor throwing good money after bad.