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News - Should the state take over MARTA?

Yes. A state takeover would extend MARTA's financial liabilities and allow for the creation of a unified metro transit system.

MARTA is in trouble. Facing a $10 million budget shortfall, the beleaguered transit system wants to eliminate scores of bus routes, run trains less frequently and boost prices on discounted monthly passes.

While none of these measures would begin to address MARTA's fundamental challenges, all would make matters worse by discouraging ridership.

Here's one of the root problems: MARTA stands for Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, yet only Fulton and DeKalb counties — a fraction of metro Atlanta — support MARTA with sales tax revenue. As Fulton County Commission Chairman Mike Kenn often points out, folks in Fulton and DeKalb aren't the only ones using MARTA, and they shouldn't be the only ones left holding the financial bag. And he's right.

While MARTA facilities are located only in Fulton and DeKalb, the system serves workers, businesses and communities across metro Atlanta and beyond. A state takeover would extend MARTA's financial liabilities and allow for the creation of a unified metro transit system.

Having said that, there is another root problem. Far too many people today have a grossly inflated concept of what MARTA can do and should become. Professional nags are always telling us how we "should" ride MARTA and how the train system "should" crisscross the metro area. The cold hard facts are that we don't and it doesn't. And neither is going to change in our lifetime.

Instead, we need to ratchet down our puffed-up expectations of MARTA — not as an organization, but as an idea. After 30 years, MARTA moves just over 2.5 percent of metro traffic. According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, we could spend 55 cents of every transportation dollar on transit for 25 years and only boost MARTA's traffic share by one lousy point.

Politicians can blather, reporters can howl and enviro-nuts can scream, but MARTA will never, ever move Atlanta's auto-owning suburbanites to work in large numbers. Why? Because, with just 6 percent of metro jobs downtown, another 20 percent located in "edge cities" like Perimeter Center and nearly 75 percent scattered elsewhere, metro Atlanta is all but transit-proof.

Instead of continuing some quixotic quest to get suburban commuters out of their cars, MARTA needs to focus on a narrower but far more important goal: getting people who don't have cars to their jobs. And MARTA's current drive to cut routes, run fewer trains and jack up monthly fare cards is a step in precisely the wrong direction. Question is, will the Gold Dome boys care enough to stop it?

Luke Boggs will ride MARTA more when a rail line connects east and west Alpharetta.??





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