Your morning jolt: A bid to wrap MARTA into state DOT

Perhaps the most important item in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution was an op-ed piece by state Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), recommending that MARTA be folded into the state Department of Transportation.

The most likely vehicle would be the penny sales tax for transportation that has been debated in the Legislature the last two sessions.

Technical problems prevent a link to the actual Millar article on the AJC web site, so I’ve built a temporary link to a Google document instead. But here’s the gist:

It is my intention in 2010 to add to SB 200 or any other approach a Public Transportation division under DOT with the director of that division also being appointed by the Governor. This director can be responsible for operating public transportation agencies in Georgia including MARTA.

At the same time, I plan to introduce local legislation in DeKalb and have one of my fellow members in Fulton do likewise to repeal the current MARTA Act.

Obviously there are details that need to be worked out with the state assuming the assets and liabilities of MARTA. Priority issues include operations and federal funding. Hopefully, in the not too distant future other transit systems such as Cobb and Gwinnett and agencies such as Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority can be incorporated into this comprehensive approach.

Any comprehensive transportation solution voted on by the people requires a two-thirds vote by the House of Representatives and the Senate in order for the initiative to be placed on the ballot….

The Republican continues:

This is our one chance to get away from a Department of Highways and have a meaningful Department of Transportation.

With this new MARTA financial data, any reasonable person must conclude that Fulton and DeKalb can no longer carry this burden alone. I would hope Fulton and DeKalb representatives and senators would agree with me and insist that MARTA be folded into any comprehensive transit solution.

Furthermore, per Georgia State University, metro Atlanta (10 counties) pay 53 percent of the state’s taxes and receive 37 percent of the state’s spending. If metro Atlanta’s physical infrastructure can not allow further growth and/or our competitive position deteriorates, then the balance of our state will not continue to receive this additional funding over what they collect.

This alone should be the necessary incentive for non-metro legislators to support the creation of this public transportation division under DOT and a regional transportation solution with a sales tax component.

No great city in our country (New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco) relies only on highways. We either seize the initiative now or in the not too distant future explain to our children why Atlanta is no longer the Capitol of the South. Remember when we were the financial headquarters of the South?

In an interview on Sunday, Millar said he gave the chairmen of the DeKalb and Fulton county legislative delegations an early peak at his article. He has not discussed the matter with Gov. Sonny Perdue, but has swapped letters with House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

The Millar approach has two hurdles. First, there’s the matter of whether state government and its parts are willing — and able — to assume responsibility for the operation of a major component of urban life.

Then there’s the question of the investment made by DeKalb and Fulton Counties over the last three decades in MARTA’s infrastructure. Can they be made whole? Should they be made whole?

Millar says he’s flexible on all counts. “There’s nothing sacred in what I’ve written here,” he said.

But all sides need to look past the black-white, metro-rural Georgia issues to see what’s in their long-term self interest, the lawmaker said.

“It’s not about MARTA. It’s like trauma isn’t about Grady,” Millar said. The state is well aware that, in terms of growth, “we don’t get squat if we don’t have mass transit,” Millar said.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson will endorse Kasim Reed, a former state senator, for mayor of Atlanta in a press conference later this morning.

Look for Reed to begin focusing on his ties to both the Obama administration and other members of Georgia’s congressional delegation as well.

State Sen. Cecil Staton of Macon was the topic of a 5-2 state Supreme Court decision released this morning, reversing an automobile insurance case from Floyd County.

At issue was whether the “stacking” of several insurance policies, in order to maximize the amount of coverage available to Staton. “The short answer is ‘yes,’” says today’s opinion, written by Justice Hugh Thompson.

Staton was headed to Rome in 2003 to meet friends for dinner when another driver failed to negotiate a curve and hit Staton’s Chevrolet Suburban head-on. Staton was severely injured and required multiple surgeries.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss were two of 30 Republicans who voted last week against a defense appropriations amendment to prohibit contracts being issued to companies who prevent employees from suing their employers if they’ve been raped or assaulted at work.

The amendment, offered Al Franken of Minnesota, stemmed from accusations from a KBR/Halliburton employee, Jamie Leigh Jones, that she was drugged and raped by multiple co-workers in 2005 while working in Iraq.

Jones was initially prevented from suing KBR/Halliburton because, as a condition of her employment, she signed an agreement that forced her grievances to be addressed by an independent arbiter, preventing her from taking the company to court. A Texas court later allowed the lawsuit to move forward.

This from the Macon Telegraph:

Both Chambliss and Isakson, through written statements, defended their votes on the grounds that the amendment would be thwart arbitration as an option for employers to address grievances.

“This would be a major, fundamental [shift] in U.S. labor law and I believe it would be very detrimental to employees to eliminate arbitration as an option,” Isakson said.

“If that happens, these employees’ only recourse will be to litigate suits in court, which is a very lengthy, expensive and time-consuming process,” Chambliss added.

It is easy play the curmudgeon and dismiss Twitter, along with other social media, as a narcissistic tool for self-promotion. But in politics, social media can also serve as a kind of early warning system. If it doesn’t pinpoint a politician’s location exactly, it reassure us that they are doing us no harm.

Republican candidate for governor Karen Handel put this out on Twitter at about 9 p.m. last night:

Go Falcons! Kicked butt in one Fantasy league. Got butt kicked in the other. Falcons get the INT! Woo hoo!

While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s

  • Are drastic swings in CRCT scores valid?
  • Georgia often sneers as Atlanta struggles.
  • Death sentence for killer ‘freakish.’
  • GOP won’t turn down stimulus spending.
  • Georgia banks bracing for major hit.
  • Q&A: Cleland discusses war, politics.
  • GSU inaugurates new president today.
  • Candidates grill Norwood on past votes, budget plans.
  • EPA investigation into Atlanta lead smelter.
  • Some opinion:

  • Kyle Wingfield says taxpayers can’t spring for new Falcons stadium.
  • Pro & Con: Should federal lawmakers create a ‘Passenger Bill of Rights’?
  • And from beyond:

  • WP: Digital texts gaining favor, but critics question quality.
  • LAT: U.S. says credible partner in Afghanistan is crucial.
  • WSJ: U.S. Enlists Oil to Sway Beijing’s Stance on Tehran.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

    51 comments Add your comment

    Ruth Jordan

    October 19th, 2009
    9:40 am

    OMG, is that Republican Legislator actually making sense on public transit?

    Road Scholar

    October 19th, 2009
    10:01 am

    Well we have the GDOT Director of Planning being appointed by the Governor. Now he wants a Director of Transit to be appointed by the Governor. The Governor already has a hand picked commissioner and Board.
    When will the janitor be appointed? When does the Governor have time for education, water, budget, ethics…oh what was I thinking?
    You hire professionals to run the Department, conduct studies and make project decisions. Let them do their job!

    As for the “rape” vote, it is contended that it would thwart arbitration? No it won’t; the judge could use that tool to gain a quick solution. If someone gets raped, I don’t think that they would want to arbitrate!


    October 19th, 2009
    10:05 am

    Its nice to finally see a Republican taking transportation infrastructure seriously — and Fran Millar is clearly heads and shoulders above that GOP Rep. Jill Chambers who is the Ga Assembly chair of the MARTA oversight committee. She’s a disaster who grandstands for the anti-transit suburban crowd.

    But giving Fulton and DeKalb tax dollars to any state entity overseen by Sonny Perdue, or any of the GOP Governor candidates, would be a mistake. They’d take the money for god knows what — and if was used for ‘transit’ they’d probably build a streetcar line in Valdosta before allowing us to keep our tax dollars in metro Atlanta.


    October 19th, 2009
    10:09 am

    If it’ll mean not seeing Jill Chambers on TV for a while, I’m all for a state takover of MARTA.


    October 19th, 2009
    10:11 am

    My man Ox has an answer for the transportation issue in the metro area, extend GA 400. He’s the man with the vision to lead.


    October 19th, 2009
    10:15 am

    GoOx: extend it right through my house you mean. No thanks.


    October 19th, 2009
    10:22 am

    If the GOP can get MARTA under state control, they will just try to kill it. You cannot trust them! Historically they have opposed mass transit, and still do. Who in their right minds think that the GOP wants to control MARTA to improve it and help the people who depend on it?


    October 19th, 2009
    10:32 am

    Anything they can do to improve MARTA’s operations would be a great thing.


    October 19th, 2009
    10:33 am

    Thank you for looking out for the citizens of the north metro area. My man Ox appreciates your sacrifice.


    October 19th, 2009
    10:38 am

    Between this transit proposal and his work on the Chamblee annexation, Fran has exceeded my criteria to actually vote for an incumbent.

    Now – get to work on a rail proposal that will actually earn some support from South Georgia – service to Savannah? Columbus? Albany?


    October 19th, 2009
    10:38 am

    Well, MARTA itself hasn’t done such a great job of building trust either. How many poor leaders and how much wasted money has there been? Remember the cell phone issues and the closets full of unused
    Any other group in charge would likely be an improvement.


    October 19th, 2009
    10:58 am

    I love this woman. I love the fact that she realizes what the problem is and is on the same page with common sense. I must commend her for stepping up to the plate and realizing Atlanta cannot be a great city without a decent regional transportation system.

    And did I say I love this woman?


    October 19th, 2009
    11:01 am

    Right, the GDOT with its ‘Enron style accounting’ is much better at accounting for its use of tax dollars than MARTA?

    I think not. MARTA has lots of problems, and accounting is one of them. And before the inevitable bashing begins, those GOP Temples of Private Enterprise such as Bear-Stearns, etc., are actually worse.

    To think that GDOT is the answer is just silly.

    Man about Town

    October 19th, 2009
    11:08 am

    Enter your comments here

    Daedalus is correct – at least in his/her second paragraph.

    It’s good to other congresscritters saying the same things that Roy Barnes has been saying for years. Has Fran Millar finally got on the train? Will Dunwoody allow more transit live/work/play? stay tuned!

    Robert M

    October 19th, 2009
    11:09 am

    A Republican promoting bigger government? Yep, sounds like Georgia Republicans to me. They want bigger government, less private competition and a state wide sales tax to fund the public transportation initiative. Funny how this is called socialism at federal level but a good idea on the local front.


    October 19th, 2009
    11:11 am

    I beg to differ… by her saying that, she’s essentially saying that transportation is a state priority. Yes, GDOT has some accounting problems that need to be straightened out. However, so does transportation in general. I’d like to see a more unified transportation system in which the entire metropolitan area participates in. That will really help to make Atlanta a world class city.


    October 19th, 2009
    11:15 am

    Great idea. Coming from a Republican, at that. I remember Roy Barnes mentioned folding MARTA into a regional transportation system. We really need something to improve our miserable metro traffic mess.


    October 19th, 2009
    11:53 am

    RobertM at 11:09am… Thank you!
    Webster defines hypocrite as:
    1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion.
    2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.


    October 19th, 2009
    11:56 am

    If this would reduce the graft and patronage at MARTA I say go for it. PLEASE do the same with Hartsfield !!!!! What a joke and snake pit of corruption.


    October 19th, 2009
    12:02 pm

    Anything to get it out of the control of the Idiots now controlling it.


    October 19th, 2009
    12:04 pm

    Since GDOT is run so well, let’s put MARTA under their purview as well. Yeah right. They would defund MARTA in a heartbeat if they had complete control of it.


    October 19th, 2009
    12:09 pm

    I don’t know what’s more sad– the fact that an idiot like Ox thinks he has a chance, or the fact that there are even greater idiots like GoOx out there.

    Anyone who thinks that a viable transportation option is creating a second connector by plowing over thousands of established homes is, well, so delusional that it’s probably not worth debating.

    Marta Not Smarta

    October 19th, 2009
    12:27 pm

    Marta’s totally corrupt and poorly run now under city command. Under the state of Ga, nothing much would change. Just as many crooked legislators with their hands out looking for money for contracts to give “their friends” on Marta deals.

    Dash Riptide

    October 19th, 2009
    12:32 pm

    @AeroNautica0909 Fran Millar is a dude. Here is a link to a video to help illustrate the point.


    October 19th, 2009
    12:35 pm

    Why in the world do we need the state to run a transit agency? Probably because they want all of the power to award contracts to their buddies in the construction industry.

    I keep hearing about all of these problems at Marta but no one ever gives examples of what Marta has done that is so horrible. Lets not forget what a mess the DOT itself was last year – they had a billion dollar deficit, and later discovered over $ 400 million worth of unpaid bills in a cabinet.

    Most importantly, I thought Republicans were about local control. The ideal solution would be for the state to FINALLY allow metro counties to join together to form a new REGIONAL transit agency that Marta can be folded into. We don’t need people from Valdosta and Bonair making decisions about transportation in one of the largest metro areas in the country for obvious reasons.


    October 19th, 2009
    12:37 pm

    Most of the people are so ignorant about Marta and transit that they don’t even know Marta


    October 19th, 2009
    12:40 pm

    It probably hurt him to reach this conclusion but at least this guy isn’t allowing old school thinking get in his way of the mighty dollar. He finally is seeing that this president will be here for at least 4 years and during that time Obama will be shooting all types of $ towards infrastructure(if that isn’t obvious already). Atlanta and its surrounding areas will be left behind if something isn’t created to progress into a true transit system. Millions of federal dollars will continue to go eaverywhere but here until this area acts like a real city and services its citizens with unified transit!! Suprised this guy had enough heart to call notice to this current “pimping situation.” The state of GA pimps Atlanta(and surrounding counties)for most of the states taxes then they spend the money elsewhere!! We are the state of GA’s bottom _______


    October 19th, 2009
    12:48 pm

    Um, y’all…Fran Millar is a guy.


    October 19th, 2009
    12:58 pm

    The only thing worse than MARTA operating MARTA would be GaDOT operating MARTA.


    October 19th, 2009
    1:01 pm

    MARTA NOT SMARTA, please do not let us know that you do not know that the City of Atlanta does not operate MARTA and has nothing to do with its operations. The City of Atlanta does collect the penney sales tax to fund MARTA as obligated. MARTA is a quasi-governmental authority. Its authority is derived from the state legislator.


    October 19th, 2009
    1:02 pm

    Should have read legislature.


    October 19th, 2009
    1:15 pm

    The idea is great that the state would be funding MARTA finally but there definitely should be concerns about then taking that money and giving it to other agencies that don’t really need it and leaving MARTA out in the cold. Hopefully they can extend the rail so that it isn’t just a train to “nowhere” and actually have it in the metro area. MARTA could be a great system if there was support for it and had people in there that can make sure that the accounting and budgeting aspect is on point.


    October 19th, 2009
    1:20 pm

    @ Carmikal

    That was funny but very true. Metro ATL is getting pimped by Georgia

    Morehouse Guy

    October 19th, 2009
    1:31 pm

    If I trusted the legislature not to shaft the City of Atlanta (see:, I would be more willing to go along with this. The state legislature is dominated by rural and suburban interests that are transit-averse, so why should we think that state control will actually strengthen the transit system and make it the regional spine we have all hoped it could be? Would putting it under state control put any state dollars behind it? I doubt you’d be able to convince folks in Macon or Columbus that this is a worthy investment of their dollars. Remember the comments from the guy from Simons Island about him being closer to Disney World than a MARTA station ( Why should we trust these folks or the body they perform oversight for (GDOT) to invest in what could be a valuable regional asset?

    Putting it under GDOT’s jurisdiction won’t do much to address the irrationality of suburban Atlanta and their resistance to MARTA (e.g. “people will steal my television in Cobb County and ride back to Bankhead” or “homeless people will ride the MARTA to Dunwoody and establish squatter settlements”). We need a functional, regional transit system with MARTA as the spine of that system, and nothing about the history of MARTA or the legislature’s relationship with Fulton and DeKalb counties leads me to believe that the Legislature collectively has the best interests of the system in mind.

    I’m open to further details on this proposal though, but the trust issues I have will be difficult to overcome.


    October 19th, 2009
    2:07 pm

    If the state takes control of MARTA, maybe the next diversion of funds from GA 400 tolls can be placed on improving public transit!

    Sad Stuff

    October 19th, 2009
    2:18 pm

    First, wasn’t GRTA created by Roy Barnes years ago to get all the transit agencies working together? GRTA has amounted to a hill of beans.

    Thanks to Rep. Millar for telling it how it is: GDOT is only the Dept. of Highways, not really a Dept. of Transportation. GDOT is still functioning on a good old boy network where highways are the only thing that counts. And road builders pay a whole lot of campaign contributions and hire GDOT employees to come work for them. GDOT needs some bigtime changing. I am all for folding MARTA into GDOT if the other area transit agencies come into the fold. It will be an important step to making GDOT a Dept. of All Forms of Transportation!

    For some reason, Georgia Republicans hate mass transit. And they hate hearing about how great rail is in Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, etc. But I’ve been to three fairly politically conservative metro areas recently, Charlotte, Salt Lake City and Dallas, and they all have nice rail systems.

    Fran is right about Atlanta losing its mojo. Charlotte is now the banking capital of the South. Having an extensive commuter rail system is something metro Atlanta and the state in general needs to stay the economic engine of the South.


    October 19th, 2009
    2:31 pm

    As a businessman, I have to say, take the politics out of it. It is incredibly important that there are multiple rail options to get to and from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. I don’t care who runs MARTA. But there always needs to be good rail options to and from the airport. The convention and hotel industry in Atlanta, which benefits the whole state, needs good rail. It would really help business too if there were rail connections to the airport from the rapidly growing Southside, from Macon, and even from Gwinnett and Cobb. Fast train service to Chattanooga, Birmingham, Charlotte and the Georgia Coast would sure help businesses like mine. Fast trains for under 300 mile trips are always faster than flying when you consider the various wait and delays.

    Union City

    October 19th, 2009
    2:36 pm

    I would glad take a train to savannah if it were offered. How awesome would it be that every major city in this state were connected through a web of rail that we could get where we needed w/o driving. I wish we had a gubernatorial candidate with a vision for this state instead of the status quo or a stupid bunch of lakes.

    GDOT Mess

    October 19th, 2009
    2:39 pm

    I have a lot of friends at GDOT. Yes, there are a lot of dedicated professionals who work there. But my friends are amazed at how many bright people leave, especially young people who don’t want to put up with such a slow moving massive bureaucracies, and women who don’t want to deal with such a male dominated old boy network. GDOT is still all about the good ole boy network, all of whom belonged to a handful of fraternities at UGA and Tech.

    GDOT simply does not get the best and brightest young talent from the Southeast. 20 years ago, working at GDOT was one of the best jobs anywhere for someone just out of college or grad school. It’s no longer the case and hasn’t been for a long time.


    October 19th, 2009
    3:52 pm

    Sad Stuff – Just so you’ll know, GRTA has been practically gutted under Gov. Boss Hogg. It’s nothing more than a paper tiger now.

    The rest of your post is spot on!


    October 19th, 2009
    6:52 pm

    Uh-oh. Let them Republicans get control of MARTA and they will shut it down.


    October 19th, 2009
    7:22 pm

    Whups… didn’t know that Fran Millar was a guy… the first name made me think otherwise. In any case, I love the fact that he says MARTA needs to be under state control. About time someone with some brains spoke up.

    Dash Riptide

    October 19th, 2009
    7:33 pm

    Yeah, and if you see any stories about Judge Frank Hull, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    fran millar

    October 19th, 2009
    11:14 pm

    Yes I am a guy. We need to bring all the transit interests together and GDOT is the best vehicle. Look at the numbers for MARTA and it can’t survive with just Fulton and DeKalb. Furthermore, Atlanta can’t continue to be the economic center of the South with just asphalt. If you have a better idea bring it. I appreciate the comments pro and con. Like the water shortage and education ranking, this won’t go away and you need to let my fellow legislators know you want us to deal with the issues that affect your daily lives. Aren’t you tired of sound bites?

    TarHeelBred bleeds TarHeelBlue

    October 20th, 2009
    5:56 am

    MARTA and GDOT together as one! Can there actually be a more perfect marriage of incompetence? No, I don’t actually think that there can be.

    Sad Stuff: Spouting off about how great the mass transit is in a bunch of overpopulated yankee burgs ain’t exactly a conversation starter for rural conservatives who live in remote areas criss-crossed by dirt roads. No, Georgia Republicans don’t like to hear about mass transit in northern cities and never will.

    The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) was formerly the Georgia Department of Highways (GDOH) and the department still primarily focuses on screwing up highway projects more than it does screwing up transit as a result of its history of being used to screw up roads by a screwed-up and loopy state legislature. MARTA has had a great and oh-so-glorious run as a stand-alone dysfunctional urban agency, but now I guess its time for MARTA to be ran into the ground by the flaming good-ole-boy idiots at the GDOT which is an arm of Georgia state government which doesn’t disappoint at being disappointing as everyone knows that GA state gov’t is both DYSFUNCTIONAL and INCOMPETENT, which is sorta like walking and chewing gum at the same time, which is like GENIUS!

    Rep. Millar’s proposal to fold MARTA into GDOT may be well-intentioned but as they say, THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS. I say we should rightfully let both deeply troubled and flawed agencies continue to flounder and fail on their own accord. LET MARTA FAIL ON ITS OWN! It clearly doesn’t need any help at massive failure and disappointment from the state-level trainwreck experts at GDOT! Sorry, I meant carwreck experts at GDOT, because it would be an insult to suggest that they do transit! But then again, it might be an honor to have GDOT manage urban transit the in the same great way that they’ve managed statewide roads all of these years! In that case, count me in!


    October 20th, 2009
    11:23 am

    Why is everyone ignoring the fact that our two US Senators voted AGAINST protecting US citizens from being raped and sexually abused while working for US defense contractors? SHAME ON THEM!


    October 20th, 2009
    4:14 pm

    Here is a comment regarding DC’s Metro system – the system we all wish we had instead of MARTA.

    “My biggest complaint: the culture of utter apathy that pervades Metro.

    At the worker level, nobody cares about anything other than doing the absolute minimum during their shift.

    At the management and planning level, it’s like none of these people have ever traveled outside the USA to see how a *proper* mass-transit system operates. Our system is a huge embarrassment compared to the impeccable, high-tech, on-time systems in (for example) Hong Kong or Berlin. Our Metro managers are continually patting themselves on the back for the fine job they’re doing, despite the fact that our transit system is literally of Third-World quality.

    It all starts with having a professional attitude, and *wanting* to be better. Metro doesn’t have it.”

    Maybe MARTA is typical of transit systems nationwide?

    Wing nuts of the confederated Taliban GOP have lost it

    October 20th, 2009
    7:24 pm

    we need Marta to get better and expand it could help north Georgia. But three thing we love cars in the south and the state law maker need to look at the big picture we can’t build enough roads and keep them all up for our car use! build company work places near by so workers can use it to get to work and every body get more bang for our bucks!


    October 20th, 2009
    10:49 pm

    I see that the REPUBs want to share Marta money from the Government with all the other buses. If they do take over Marta, they might as well repair the streets in Atlanta with all the Bus traffic from Cobb, Gwenette, and GRTA, messing up Atlanta streets, while their own streets are smooth and pot hole free. It is a slap in the face to see a CCT bus cruising up MLK Drive as if to laugh in Atlanta face by shouting:See I Can Come In Your City with My Buses, But YOU Cannot Bring YOUR Buses in My City With All Your Crime. Something needs to be done, BUT with the REPUBs in charged this is what they want for Atlanta NOTHING but mess up streets. Those other counties should pay the 175 Millions to fix Atlanta Streets. You tear-up to pay-up. The nerve of these counties thumbing their noses at Atlanta. I will be glad when those Repubs leave office, then maybe someone will give a hoot about the City that is suppose to be the Capital of Georgia.


    October 21st, 2009
    1:29 pm

    The best thing we could do for MARTA is boot JILL CHAMBERS the hell out of office. If she would actually be helpful to mass transit and give up this vendetta she has against MARTA they wouldn’t need to spend money lobbying to get around her. She is a disgrace to the people who elected her