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Transit Funding – Again!

March 29, 2010

Yup, it’s time for me to get back up on the transportation funding soapbox.  Last Friday was cross-over day, the day when a bill, if it hasn’t crossed over from the house to the senate or vise versa, it dies.  So, let’s take a look at the funding playing field now.

House Bill 1218, Governor Perdue’s laughable attempt at a transportation funding solution is a casualty of last week.  It relieved MARTA of it’s 50/50 restriction on tax dollars from Fulton and Dekalb counties, but it didn’t offer much else.  After hanging out in the House, a MARTA exclusion had been tacked on, and due to some revisions, GP had even said he was going to veto it in its current form.  So that now leaves us with HB 277, HR 206, and, I believe, SB 120 is still out there.

HB 277 – House Bill 277 amends Title 32 of the Official Code of Georgia to create a 2020 Transportation Trust Fund Oversight Committee which will determine what to do with funds that would in part be gained from an additional 1% special transportation use and sales tax.

HR 206 – House Resolution 206 that does, in essence, the same thing with less fanfare, proposing an amendment to the state constitution to create a Transportation Trust Fund to levy a 1% sales and use tax and determine the use of those funds.

Also, Friday gave us HB 1393 which lifts the sales tax cap on Clayton County, allowing voters to pass a 1% sales tax to fund transit, much like Dekalb and Fulton counties do now.  This could be a save for C-TRAN, which is desperately needed.  A lot of people don’t realize what a reduction or total loss of service of transit means.  I’ve had this discussion with a coworker and she says people got along fine without MARTA 30 years ago.  Well a lot of things have happened in those 30 years, and they still had buses which offered a level of service.  Clayton County will have no service as of Wednesday.

So what?

Well, in a survey published by, most C-TRAN riders will loose their jobs.  See, a few years back, Atlanta razed all the projects in the name of progress and sent those people to Clayton County.  Therefore, Clayton County is full of working poor.  The working poor are those on minimum wage, and fall below the poverty line of $11,201 a year.  These are people who have jobs, but can’t afford cars.  These are the people I work with at my shelter.  So out of the 500 riders surveyed, 75% said they may loose their jobs and 52% may have to quit school.  These are people who are trying to make their lives better, but are being forced to continue the cycle of poverty because of funding.  People who went to school when they were laid-off.  61% use C-TRAN to get to work, 12% own a car.  54% of those riders are between the ages of 16 and 34 and 23% of them make less than $10,000 a year.  41% have some form of college education and 91% said they’d support an additional 1% sales tax devoted to transit.  92% are black.

Remember, though, that MARTA can’t go into Clayton County because of it’s charter, they actually were a vendor to the county for C-TRAN.   How could they afford to operate in another county, anyways?

And just so we’re clear, because I had to have this conversation this weekend with someone who I thought would know, transit is not paid for at the fare box.  Period.  It’s not that MARTA is mismanaged or that enough people aren’t riding, no transit system is self-sustaining, not MTA in New York or WMATA in DC, that’s why they’re all funded by the state, o, well, except for MARTA.

There are additional transit funding sources that are readily available out there.  Things like TSPLOSTs, but those won’t help soon enough, and the removal of the 50/50 stipulation is, while necessary, no longer enough to fix the problem.  There’s also the 1% sales tax on motor fuel which currently goes to the General Fund.  I know, they need that money too, but it can help.  As it stands, however, these moneys are only available for roads and bridges, and this would need to be changed so that all transportation purposes qualify.

And while I don’t have the full scoop on this, apparently Dr. Beverly Scott, CEO of MARTA, also has proposed to sell MARTA property, like the rail yard, to the state, giving MARTA an instant source of cash.  This could also make the state a share holder and giving it some of the control it seems desperate to have.  I think it’s actually a good plan.

So that’s where we’re at, best I can figure.

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