Video: Think about privatizing MARTA, says Oxendine

Fox5 has been interviewing the Republican candidates for governor and posting the results.

So far, the most interesting has been a Paul Yates interview with state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who raises the possibility of privatizing MARTA:

Says Oxendine:

“I think MARTA needs to be reworked. The jury’s still out on whether MARTA should be privatized, but I think it’s a very important question that we should be looking at.”

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36 comments Add your comment


April 25th, 2009
3:54 pm

Yes, because companies always do everything better than governments. What a tosser.

Will Jones - Atlanta

April 25th, 2009
5:33 pm

Let’s make this the final nail in his public service coffin and ensure ‘Lil Siren & Lights Oxie Boy is fully privatized the next opportunity by the good and decent People of Georgia. No doubt some of his big money backers have told him they want to get a piece of MARTA to hold Metro Atlanta hostage…like scum Campbell selling our water system to the French.

Yellow Dog Georgia…let’s get back to our righteous roots.

Gay Old Perverts…be gone!

Chris Broe

April 25th, 2009
10:34 pm

That’s stickin’ your neck out, Oxendine! “I think it deserves further study.” That sounds just like the dialogue from the movie, “The Candidate”, with Robert Redford. Oxendine’s writer is a simpleton. I love it!


April 25th, 2009
10:36 pm

Why not just fund MARTA?


April 25th, 2009
10:43 pm

Yea, let’s privatize MARTA so we can have a bunch of hamfisted corporate executives run it into the ground then get a crap load of bailout money from the federal government. That said, MARTA needs to rethink it’s business model from providing transportation for the poor to reducing Atlanta’s traffic issues. That means more stations, more trains and buses, and a fair system that is not dependent on sales taxes. DC’s METRO system is very expensive, but so is parking forcing most people to use METRO. Atlanta needs to add on a surcharge to paid parking specifically for MARTA.


April 25th, 2009
10:52 pm

Why fund Marta, it is just a jobs program for Atlanta’s less than steller school system, much like the rest of Atlanta’s fine functioning government. What is lacking in performance and excellence is definitely made up in attitude.


April 25th, 2009
10:55 pm


April 25th, 2009
11:01 pm

Absolutly not. Marta is not the problem, it’s all of these counties outside of Fulton and Dekalb that aren’t helping to fund the system. Giving it to a private company won’t change that. Marta has done a great job with what they’ve had to work with.


April 25th, 2009
11:41 pm

Marta has been shackled since its inception. Instead of denying Marta the opportunity to manage itself by restrictive guidelines pertaining to capital funds; each member of the Legislature should be more receptive and supportive of Marta’s efforts to expand into surrounding counties. We all strive in our personal households to generate reserves for rainy days when. The 65 million in capital funds should be accessible in order to allow Marta to overcome the current deficit.


April 25th, 2009
11:50 pm

Again, why should the state government determine the fate of a local transit authority? The State hasn’t done anything for MARTA – no funding. No support. Most people in the legislature don’t represent anyone who pays for or receives MARTA service. So why is the state trying to exercise control over it?

Besides, if private enterprise could successfully provide transit service, it’d already be doing it. But it can’t. Much like private enterprise can’t successfully orchestrate the planning and construction of street and highway systems. Ever hear anyone talk about privatizing state or the US Department of Transportation? Private enterprise can’t, or just won’t, undertake some efforts that are necessary for a functioning society.


April 26th, 2009
12:43 am

The Georgia Republicans do not represent the people who are served by MARTA. Their extreme hostility towards this two county region, and the hostility that so much of the general population also holds towards the driver of the entire state’s economy is nothing less than the failure of Democracy. We, the residents who are stuck breathing the polluted air and being stuck in mind-numbing traffic are the victims of a political system in which rural interests are overemphasized and urban ones constantly denigrated. What is needed is bold political leadership on the part of the city of Atlanta and the counties of Fulton and Dekalb to create de facto political independence for this troubled region. The State the does not fund MARTA should thus not have any say in its operation at all. We seriously need a state constitutional amendment allowing additional gasoline taxes in these two counties which could easily fulfill all and more of MARTA’s funding needs and help it live up to the vision that Sam Massell had when helping to create the system in the early 1970’s.


April 26th, 2009
1:36 am

Let’s face it. MARTA has no power to do anything. They can’t expand into outlaying counties, they can’t spend our tax money the way they want to. Every year they go begging the state for money like a junkie begging for a fix. The only solution is to just turn it over to the state and let them run it because the state always fully funds all that it handles.

Business-minded professional

April 26th, 2009
1:46 am

MARTA is already at a serious disadvantage by being the only major metropolitan transit system in the country that doesn’t receive support from its state (everywhere else it’s considered wise to help fuel your own state’s economic engine). However, for whatever reason, the state still has a say in how MARTA is run – something akin to “taxation without representation” – and now this moron Oxendine suggests going as far as to privatize MARTA? Wow, he doesn’t have much in the way of business smarts, does he? I’m sure the business leaders in Atlanta – the sensible, pro-business crowd that consists of many of the state’s top campaign donors – are going to keep their distance from this loose cannon. This guy could wreck Atlanta’s economy, and that’s not good for anyone in Georgia.

Burn in Hell, MARTA !

April 26th, 2009
2:05 am


April 26th, 2009
2:24 am

No private entity in their right mind wants to take over a seriously underfunded public entity. This idea is another illustration of the silly games and silly solutions the Republicans play in regards to the transportation needs of the Atlanta region and I am not just talking about MARTA. The legislature refused to let the Atlanta metropolitan counties tax themselves to improve the woefully inadequate roads. All they are interested in is tax cuts to the detriment of nothing else. We see how well this strategy worked on the national level the past eight years.

Our legislature is the best friend South Carolina and other surrounding states ever had. They probably will not act until we lose another major employer due to the congestion.

There was also mention that the person over the State MARTOC committee is calling for a grandstanding audit. Isn’t she the same person who made a big deal a couple of years ago when MARTA offered her free tokens? I wonder how many miles of rails those tokens will buy?

I wish somehow MARTA could sue to get from under state control and reorganized and controlled by the taxing entities since the state does not provide a dime in funding, provides no meaningful assistance, and is not interested in the transportation needs of Atlanta public or otherwise.


April 26th, 2009
2:49 am

With a large, almost giant neighborhood festival (with little parking for it) going on 4 stations away, the Avondale Station parking lots were mostly chained off this Saturday afternoon, turning away HOW many riders? Is there any wonder MARTA is losing money hand over fist?


April 26th, 2009
6:57 am

I’ve been trying to do business with MARTA now for over a year. They wont even return my phone calls or e-mails, yet I can save them $500,000 a year by privatizing some of their services. MARTA and Government operated services are not designed to make money, only to spend it. When the MARTA GM cried about having to shut down services, she failed to see that in many cases private business owners would step in and take advantage. A prime example is the Hispanic operated bus lines that operate up and down Buford Highway. If these operators were not making money they wouldn’t be there. There are many ways that Mass Transit could be improved upon, but when you have elected officals putting their two cents into how it’s operated it’s only going to cost more money than they are willing to fund.


April 26th, 2009
7:16 am

Privitize MARTA and watch it die.There are a few routes that will be profitable.The others will be dropped.


April 26th, 2009
7:24 am

MARTA’s biggest impediment is that it IS run by state law, but without one thin dime of state-enabled funding. It is the only transit system in the United States whose enabling state does nothing but tie a noose around its fiscal neck. Good Old Boys don’t fund MARTA, ride MARTA, or care if it fails, since their buddies in the paving and highway construction industries keep their campaign coffers full. The very best thing that could happen to MARTA is if one backwoods heel would turn loose of trying to game the system.

Some business model

April 26th, 2009
7:43 am

Jerry, the Public Service Commission recently sanction one of your “prime examples” of private enterprise for operating a bus line on Buford Highway without insurance for almost a year – Royal Bus Lines. If these operators can only make money by putting their passengers and other vehicles at risk of uninsured accidents, I would not be holding them up as the model to follow.

Pierce Randall

April 26th, 2009
8:41 am

A broader untrue premise stated by Oxendine is that the state and city will have to “move forward together.” Nonsense rhetoric–Atlanta as a region (what candidates like Oxendine means when they talk about the city) has actually been moving forward and succeeding, occasionally subsidizing the rest of the counties that possess undue political power, and the rest of the state has foundered. Part of the problems of the rest of the state are, specifically, that the state spends money in projects to areas without employment viability to grow or sustain their populations, and props up a losing proposition that some town in the mountains is going to grow, and should have a highway just for that reason. Atlanta has grown in population to now be more than half the state’s population, regionally. The rest of the state will probably do poorly regardless, even if Atlanta moves forward–both in spite of the efforts by Mr. Oxendine and the fringe Republican state party he’s apparently beholden to.

Florida does not have a state income tax because that state’s revenue is entirely dependent on population growth through new housing starts. Florida’s state government is utterly staggered by this housing crisis. Oxendine should update his assessments of our “sister-states” in the southeast.

His privatize MARTA trope (what does that even mean? –Alas, Oxendine falls in line with the long tradition of Georgia politicians who say things that mean absolutely nothing) is probably borne out of ignorance more than anything else. MARTA could not succeed at privatization at any level, nor should it–like any other means of transportation, it is the province of the state. A route that’s “profitable” today would have far fewer riders with a fare increase or cut bus service to an existing rail station, and would not be profitable tomorrow. Nevertheless, numerous economic impact studies have shown that even MARTA’s relatively recent extension to North Springs (completed earlier this decade) has already paid for itself against state investment. If MARTA were privatized, it would be shut down, which would mean Atlanta would have no hope of meeting non-attainment air quality standards (the Obama administration is likely not particularly enthusiastic about resuming the Bush fight–which he lost–to change the rules in the middle of the game to Atlanta’s benefit on emissions, as well). The state would lose more than half of its federal transportation money–likely more than half the state’s–which means that the Governor would be cut off from the trough. Net-loss for the state.

Also, not running buses would be a nightmare for many people in Atlanta. This should be mentioned, even if the AJC political forums are dominated by a class of parents’ basement-dwellers, adept at ignoring without romanticizing, denying, or judging the lives of the less-bucolic.

Frankly, the privatization proposal is too stupid to argue with.

An interesting problem for Oxendine on this issue–why come out of the gate gunning with demagogic rhetoric against Atlanta? When the stakes are tough late in the primary game, one might score political points by doing this, but large donors to the governor’s race (especially in the Republican camp) often come from wealthy citizens and business leaders of Atlanta. It’s unlikely that they’re particularly excited about policies deliberately designed to screw the city, as evidenced by choice words from the Chamber of Commerce representatives after the utter mess Republicans made of transportation money in the state.

Oxendine is shaping up to share Perdue’s ignorance with none of his swine feign towards humility. Indeed, piggish pink-faced men in suits with no brains have run this state long enough.

Pierce Randall

April 26th, 2009
8:56 am

The vast majority of passenger trips along Buford Highway inside the perimeter are handled by MARTA, not Royal Bus, despite Royal’s lower fare. Royal Bus used to be a profitable enterprise–enough to spawn a rogue competitor, Georgia Bus Lines–but that system only worked because of a hole dropping off patrons inside MARTA’s bus bays to transfer without paying. This is no longer plausible with the Breeze system, and Royal is shrinking rapidly. Royal Bus also uses MARTA’s bus stops, and often rides in front of MARTA buses slowly, to damage MARTA’s schedule on this route.

Part of the reason for the development of Royal Bus was MARTA’s 2002 and 2004 service cuts. These cuts corresponded with dramatically-increased need for transportation service along Buford Highway. MARTA faced increase demand, but had to cut supply. This was a problem of poor management by the state–the agency faced a similar revenue downturn following the early 2000’s recession–not government management in general. MARTA, at the time, won a 5 percent concession in its capital/operations split–similar to the ineffective House counter-proposal to give MARTA a 60-40 split this year–which was clearly not enough to prevent staggering service loss for the agency. Good business management allocates more investment to a product whose demand is rising, and good government invests private-sector investment by counter-cyclical spending to preserve existing state jobs to avoid a vicious circle of job and revenue loss. MARTA’s problem then, as well as now, is an ineffective state oversight mechanism, involving nonsensical restrictions of the agency’s budget, and target practice by state Republican leaders like Jill Chambers, apparently Oxendine, Glenn Richardson, and Sonny Perdue. And that’s why the bus doesn’t come as often as it should.


April 26th, 2009
9:03 am

Some Business model. While it is true they were suspended for a paperwork error it does not mean that they didn’t have insurance.
I’ve also noticed several MARTA Mobility Vans driving around with dealer drive out tags some six months after they entered service. With Royal Bus Lines there insurance company and owner failed to file a form with the PSC. A common mistake, but just an example of a private business having to have redundent paper work. Generally if you fail to have insurance you receive a suspension letter from the DMV revoking that vehicles registration. With the PSC your insurance company has to file paper work with them (PSC) to keep your operating permit. Trust me however that there are plenty of gypsy operators out there that the PSC does nothing about.

Jim Callihan

April 26th, 2009
12:45 pm

“Nathan” makes a very good point – “Marta has been shackled since its inception.” Although it could be argued that “in the beginning”, the structure was established as an insurance policy against fiscal irresponsibility and insolvency, the time has long passed, with very little “expansion” opportunities left for MARTA. With that said, why the “50/50″ stranglehold? Why not go to a typical “function budget” of “65/35″ instead of the age-old “original” agreement? It makes no sense. It also smells…with that “reserve capitol” possibly being used for something other than intended (collateral in some “intergovernmental lending/borrowing” unseen by the public eye?

And although it is fact – no matter how you slice it, that “private companies” operate far more efficiently than “governments”, that train has left the building 9pardon the pun). To switch control after all of the capital has been spent is crap – screwing the taxpayers and handing over “profit” to those who have invested NOTHING! Look at the jobbing TX Gov. Rick Perry did to his state over the TCC (mgt contract given to Spain/Cinta for 50 YEARS! after state taxpayers funded the thing – ugh…) John may very well be another “neo-con” – one who claims to believe in “smaller government” but makes decisions that demand tax increases. It is hard to tell at this point – I meant to take nothing from the praise he earned while running his department so well for so long; but there comes a point when the “National Power Team” takes you in the back room and hands you “the playbook” – has this already happened to him? Sounds likely…


April 26th, 2009
1:21 pm

“We’re going to succeed together or fail together”? I would much prefer the situation where the Metro 10 do what they want – transportation taxes, alcohol on Sunday, city services that work, a nice metro – and the rest of the counties do what they want – to be left alone.

Shannon, M.Div.

April 26th, 2009
1:38 pm

A modest proposal: You know, it was good enough for certain communities in Fulton… They were tired of being part of Fulton County, so they decided to “secede” and form their own cities. Maybe that’s what North Georgia needs to do. It might mess up the flags a bit, but maybe we should split into North Georgia and South Georgia. South Georgia could tap Savannah as its capitol and the Good Ol’ Boy network would have a much shorter commute to the legislature and governor’s mansion. North Georgia could then make its decisions about Atlanta’s needs without interference from those rural areas and their politicians who want to siphon resources the state’s cash cow.

Alternately, someone needs to sit these guys down and explain the story of the goose that laid the golden eggs.


April 26th, 2009
1:51 pm

MARTA had a decent bus system decades ago. The fixed rail system ruined it as a real commuting alternative. I’ve been stuck on that train going nowhere too many hours to ever rely on it again. Add an unfriendly, unreliable system to racist and inept management — well MARTA is no crown jewel for Atlanta. It’s ripe for “reinvention.”


April 26th, 2009
5:39 pm

O. K. here are some comments that will fuel the fire. First I enjoyed the comments from Mr. Randall about the condition of the Hispanic Buses on Buford Highway. If these two businesses do not succeed they go out of business, if MARTA should not succeed it seems we should continue pumping money into it. If MARTA wants access to it’s money next year and to save some money here are some suggestions.

1. Instead of threating to shut down service one day a week, threaten to cut off the free transfers that riders on GRTA, Gwinnett and Cobb County buses get when they get to your (MARTA) stations. You will find that many of these riders are either Federal or State Government employees who receive free or reduced cost bus passes. In fact you can find many of these passes for sale on craigslist. Cut of the free transfers and these guys will raise the roof. GRTA is about to run out of it’s new start money and only siphons funds from MARTA. I say charge .50 cents to transfer. Do a study see how much money you can raise.

2. Eliminate MARTA bus routes that run down the same routes as your rail system. Two prime examples would be Buford Highway and Memorial Drive. You should set up your routes on a spoke and hub system so that your buses feed into the nearest Rail station whenever possible. It’s cheaper to run your buses into the rail station and transfer the customer than to run a bus past bus stops that are empty.

3. Ask the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to change some Para transit rules. Currently Para transit buses must pick up 3/4 miles on either side of a MARTA bus route. However the way they measure the 3/4 miles is based on a land mile. This means that MARTA Mobility vans may have to travel 4 to 5 miles to reach a house since many of our neighborhoods are not connected. Sometimes people at the back of a neighborhood can ride an L-van, but the ones at the front can not.

4. Restrict L-van service to those that live in Fulton and Dekalb County. I know many residents who drive from outlying counties and wait at McDonalds, Publix, etc for a L-van to take them somewhere in Fulton or Dekalb.

5. Position your L-vans in other areas besides downtown Atlanta. it cost money (fuel) to drive from downtown Atlanta to Panola Road or North Fulton or South Fulton County. You could fence in certain locations such as the lot in downtown Stone Mountain or the P n R at windward parkway and position the vans there. Theres this wonderful thing called fleet fueling and they bring the truck to your location and fuel your fleet. Try it you’ll like it. And Yes you can use some of these capitol funds to pay for the fence.

6. Look for other areas of revenue. The Georgia Medicaid contract for Fulton and Dekalb county is worth about $40 million a year. The current contractor burdens your system (regular routes and L-vans) with medicaid clients. They reap huge sums of money (profit) when they only have to buy a $105 MARTA pass and call you when their client needs a ride. You could also sub contract some of this work with private providers who would be happy to work with you to lighten the burden.

7. Fire your lobbyist. If these guys don’t know that the current Governor and a few others pull the purse strings at the capitol, then they need to find a new line of work. In private business we set goals for our employees. Employees don’t meet those goals they get fired.

George P. Burdell

April 26th, 2009
7:14 pm

I hope he didnt pay much for that Mercer education, as it apparently didn’t improve Oxendine’s understanding of basic economics at all.

Some Business Model

April 27th, 2009
7:50 am

Jerry said: “While it is true [Royal] were suspended for a paperwork error it does not mean that they didn’t have insurance.” According to the PSC and the insurance company, they had not paid their insurance premium and the policy was cancelled for that non-payment. That is not a “paperwork error.”


April 27th, 2009
9:14 am

Oxendine, just another provincial Republican offering a provincial idea in the 21st century.

GOP-is Lost in space then and now

April 27th, 2009
11:43 am

Georgia does not want Marta or any trains Backward(GOP). And and as for as people saying big business can run better than the Government What about Enron all the bank closing in Georgia Lehman Brothers, Gm , Delta airline . That may the way It use to Big Business is now areal joke.
All the Job losses are in Big and small Business. Big Business has Fail America The Last Five Year. And All you clowns who put there hopes on Business just look at there failure rate they are no better in 2009!


April 27th, 2009
12:39 pm

If Oxendine’s gist is to privatize poorly performing organizations, how about we privatize GDOT and the GA General Assembly first? What an ignoramus.


April 27th, 2009
12:54 pm

Georgia is giving up millions in federal funds by not planning for mass transit, not to mention additional millions we give up so we can be the only state that doesn’t require seatbelts in pickups. Our tax dollars are going someplace else so the good ol boys who who give big “campaign contributions” can keep doing the only thing they know how to do: build and rebuild roads. They don’t care about the future of what once was a model of a prosperous city with a vision of what could be. They’re getting their bucks now even as we cut education funding and throw veterans out of housing due to lack of money. We’re all paying the price while the other cities who we compete with are forging ahead with trolleys and trains.


April 27th, 2009
8:38 pm

Some business model. I stand corrected for Royal Bus Lines. I was not privy to your information and it sounds as if you have a stake in this somewhere reading thru the documents. Although Royal may not pass the poop test it sounds as if Georgia Community does. It also sounds as if somebody at the state dropped the ball. The PSC suspended their operating permit, but allowed them to have a temporary permit for 12 months. However since the PSC didn’t receive the Form K they just assumed they were still insured. It sounds like the folks at the
DMV dropped the ball since they should have suspended and then seized the tags of the vehicles that didn’t have insurance. Insurance companies generally report to the State within 24 hours when somebodys insurance lapses and then it’s up to the DMV to contact the owner and have the sheriff seize the tags. Since most of these buses are indepentially owned it was probably hard to track where they were located. I never meant to imply that these two companies were shining examples, just an example that a private business could handle some of what MARTA does if they reduced service. I don’t believe any one business could replace MARTA. When the transit workers went on strike in NYC, private companies picked up some of the slack. Even if MARTA should solve the issue with the 50/50 split it will only solve the problem for one year, unless the economy recovers and sales tax dollars return to MARTA’s coffers.


August 7th, 2009
4:34 pm

Great tips and reminders as show-goers adjust budgets and schedules in this economically challenged period.