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the Atlanta transit update

September 24, 2010

Tomorrow’s D-day, the service cuts are coming. My usual route will be gone, but I get a new one, so it’s not so bad for me. I think this new route will take a little longer, and it’s already a thirty minute ride, but at least I’ll still have service.

So let’s take a look at the state of transit in the metro region, shall we? We made national news in The Economist, showcasing our plight as one of 160 transit systems in the nation facing service cuts.. It’s not the first time we’ve made national news, of course. For months now, Clayton County has been a prime example of transit failures of epic proportions.

The deadline for Clayton to vote to join MARTA this fall passed on September 2nd without any chance for public input. Then again, they re-elected two county commissioners who killed C-Tran, so maybe they just don’t care that much. The way that the MARTA Act and HB 277 were written, this was the only chance they had without some changes to those two bills or some new legislation. But hey, they have QuickTransit now, right?

Residents of Clayton recently went to the PSC to protest QuickTransit, postponing their Class B license. They’ve been operating on an emergency license and are seeking a permanent operating license. However, those buses that they purchased haven’t been running, instead, they’ve only been sending out passenger vans. They level of service they promised hasn’t been seen, and in a county were people desperately need some level of service, people aren’t happy.

The non-binding referendum will still be on the ballot this fall. The theory is that a good showing on this vote could help push forward future support for joining MARTA or the TSPLOST in 2012. And what about that TSPLOST, anyways? It seems that every mayor in Fulton and Dekalb counties has something to say. The consensus? That they’ll support only if the other counties start chipping in, too. With all the politics at play, I don’t know if the TSPLOST will happen, and it’s slated to have the best luck in the metro region. There will still a lot left to be seen, the deadline for comments on the draft criteria is the end of the month and then the roundtables will begin, the biggest pissing contest of them all. In the metro region you have five out of ten counties, Paulding, for example, that don’t care about transit and don’t want to increase taxes, two who do, but only if the others will, too, and those last three who are on the fence. Yes, Cobb, we’re looking at you.

Speaking of Cobb, that fancy pants light rail they want to build won’t qualify for TSPLOST funds under the current criteria. Their best bet is to join MARTA. Oh, they had a chance for that this fall, along with Clayton.

The regional roundtables are expected to start in November. These round tables are where we’ll get our project lists, what the funds generated by the tax will go to. Will it be transit orientated? Will it be more of the same crap, roads and bridges? Could the whole state coordinate and create commuter rail? Because, as the bill divides the state into regions, each region on a line would have to put commuter rail on their list and then pass the tax. And does any of that matter? Either the newly elected governor or the state legislate could crack open HB 277 and change everything. They could kill the MARTA exemptions, they could extend the deadline for the MARTA referendum, they could do any number of things. But will they?

Barnes has said that if elected, he will reopen the bill. Deal? He’s more of a crap shoot, and I don’t have much faith in him. He has said he does support rail in the future, just not at this time. That’s a copout answer if I ever heard one.

In other news, the toll for 400 was extended until 2020! They just don’t have enough money yet, so keep saving those quarters. Mayor Reed has been hanging out in Washington, pushing for support for the streetcar.. Reed stated that the streetcar is the only thing he’ll be talking about until October 15th, when the TIGER II awards should be announced. I’m hopeful. But hey, Reed, what is your priority, anyways? Streetcar? Beltline? Finally, your transfers between MARTA and GRTA will still be good, but for how long is questionable. Maybe those GRTA folks wised up.

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