Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Marta atlanta skyline.jpg
Locale Atlanta, Georgia
Transit type Rapid transit and bus
Number of lines 4 (rail)
132 (bus)
Number of stations 38 (rail)
Daily ridership 482,500[1]
259,900 (rail)
220,900 (bus)
Began operation February 17, 1972 (buses)
June 30, 1979 (trains)
Operator(s) Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority or MARTA (play /ˈmɑrtə/) is the principal rapid-transit system in the Atlanta metropolitan area and the ninth-largest in the United States. Formed in 1971 as strictly a bus system, MARTA operates a network of bus routes linked to a rapid transit system consisting of 48 miles (77 km) of rail track with 38 train stations. MARTA operates almost exclusively in Fulton and DeKalb counties, with bus service to two destinations in Cobb county (Six Flags Over Georgia and the Cumberland Transfer Center next to the Cumberland Mall) and a single rail station in Clayton County at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. MARTA also operates a separate paratransit service for disabled customers. As of 2009, the average total daily ridership for the system (bus and rail) was 482,500 passengers.[1]



Map of the initial plan of the MARTA system from the 1970s

MARTA was originally proposed as a rapid transit agency for the five largest metropolitan Atlanta counties: DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties. MARTA was formed by an act of the Georgia General Assembly in 1965. In the same year, four of the five metropolitan area counties (Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett) and the City of Atlanta passed a referendum authorizing participation in the system, but the referendum failed in Cobb County. Although a 1968 referendum to fund MARTA failed, in 1971, Fulton and DeKalb Counties successfully passed a 1% sales tax increase to pay for operations, while Clayton and Gwinnett counties overwhelmingly rejected the tax in referendum, fearing the introduction of crime and "undesirable elements".[2] In 1971, the agency agreed to purchase the existing, bus-only Atlanta Transit Company and on February 17, 1972 the sale was completed for US$12.9 million giving the agency control over all public transit.[3]

Construction began on the MARTA system in 1975, with the first rail service commencing on June 30, 1979.[3] The system has since built most of the proposed rail lines, as well as stations in Sandy Springs and North Springs which were not included in the original plan. The missing rail segments include a Tucker-North DeKalb line with service to Emory University and North Druid Hills, a Northwest line with service to Brookwood and Northside Drive, extension of the West line to Brownlee-Boulder Park near Fairburn Road, extension of the Proctor Creek line to Perry Homes, and a branch off of the south line to Hapeville.[4]

MARTA system

Map of the MARTA rail system

MARTA is composed of both heavy rail rapid transit and a bus transit system that operates primarily within the boundaries of Fulton and DeKalb counties. Exceptions to this service area include the Airport Station and 7 miles (11 km) of rail that are located in Clayton County[5] and one bus route to Cobb County's Cumberland Boulevard Transfer Center.[6] For the fiscal year 2006, the average weekday ridership was 451,064. Over the entire year, bus and para-transit ridership was 69,194,285, whereas rail ridership was 69,209,027.[7]

The MARTA system allows bicycles on its trains and buses at any time.[8] At the Atlanta International Airport, bicycles can be locked up in all of the parking decks, so long as they are not obstructing either pedestrian or vehicular traffic.[9]

In 2007, MARTA had 4,729 full and part-time employees, of whom 1,719 were bus drivers or train operators.[10] rail and bus operators, the station agents, the rail maintenance workers, and many other employees of MARTA are represented in negotiations by the Amalgamated Transit Union's Local 732.

MARTA Police station at Lindbergh Center station

MARTA has its own police department with 300 badge-wearing officers, making it the ninth-largest police department in Georgia.[5]


The MARTA rapid rail system has 47.6 miles (76.6 km) of railroad tracks and 38 rail stations located on four service lines: the Red Line (prior to October 2009, known as the North-South Line), Gold Line (former Northeast-South Line), Blue Line (former East-West Line), and the Green Line (former Proctor Creek Line).[11][12] The tracks for this system are a combination of elevated, ground-level, and underground tracks.

The deepest station in the MARTA system is the Peachtree Center Station which is located in a hard-rock tunnel, 120 feet (36 meters) beneath downtown Atlanta, where the highest hills in Atlanta soar to 1100 feet (300 meters) above sea level. No artificial lining of any kind was installed in the walls or the ceilings of this station, or the adjacent tunnels, but rather, the architects and civil engineers for this station decided to leave these with their rugged gneiss rock walls.

MARTA switched to a color-based identification system in October 2009. Formerly, the lines were named based upon their terminal stations, namely: Airport, Doraville, North Springs, H. E. Holmes, Bankhead, King Memorial, Candler Park, Indian Creek; or by their compass direction. During the transition between the two naming systems, all stations on the Red and Gold lines are using their original orange signs, and all stations on the Blue and Green lines are using their original blue signs.

All of the rail lines have an ultimate nexus at the Five Points station, located in downtown Atlanta.[12] MARTA trains are operated using the Automatic Train Control system, with one human train operator per train present to make announcements, operate the doors, and to operate the trains manually in case of a control system malfunction or an emergency. Many of the suburban stations have free daily and paid long-term parking in park and ride lots.[12] These stations also have designated kiss and ride passenger drop-off areas close to the station's entrances.

Rolling stock

Inside a new CQ312
Inside a renovated CQ311

MARTA rail cars are air conditioned steel-wheel trains which can operate at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). The trains are powered by an electrified third rail and can be operated in any combination from two to eight rail cars.[11]

The MARTA rail car fleet is currently composed of three different classes of married pair rail cars:[13]

  • CQ310 class (118 active cars, car numbers 101-200, 501-520, built by Société Franco-Belge, 1979–1982)
  • CQ311 class (120 active cars, car numbers 201-320, built by Hitachi, 1984–1987)
  • CQ312 class (100 active cars, car numbers 601-702, built by Breda, 2001–2005)[14]

MARTA contracted with Alstom to rebuild 98 of the CQ310 cars and all CQ311 cars (218 rail cars in total).[15] The rehabilitated cars feature upgraded passenger amenities and upgraded propulsion and train control hardware. The first rehabilitated cars began service on March 12, 2006. The rehabilitation was completed on February 23, 2009.[16]


MARTA bus stop sign

MARTA's bus system serves a wider area than the rail system, serving areas in Fulton and DeKalb counties such as the cities of Roswell and Alpharetta in North Fulton, along with South DeKalb. As of 2010, MARTA has 554 diesel and compressed natural gas buses that cover over 91 bus routes which operated 25.9 million annual vehicle miles (41.7 million kilometers).[11] Effective November 20, 2006, MARTA now has one bus route providing limited service in Cobb County (Route 12 has been extended to Cobb County's Cumberland Boulevard Transfer Center).[6][17] All of the MARTA bus lines feed into or intersect MARTA rail lines as well. MARTA shuttle service is available to Six Flags Over Georgia during the park's summer season.

In addition to the free parking adjacent to many rail stations, MARTA also operates five Park and ride lots serviced only by bus routes (Windward Parkway, Mansell Road, Stone Mountain, Barge Road, and South Fulton).[18]

Paratransit service

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), MARTA provides paratransit for those persons defined as disabled by the ADA. MARTA uses 140 special lift-equipped vehicles for this service,[11] and can either deliver passengers to their final destination (curb-to-curb service) or can deliver the passenger to the closest accessible bus stop or rail station (feeder service). Paratransit is limited to existing rail and bus routes and cannot extend more than a 0.75-mile (1.2 km) radius from any existing route. Paratransit service is only provided during the hours of the fixed route servicing the area. An application for acceptance into the paratransit service is required; reservations are required for each trip. In fiscal year 2006, MARTA provided 289,258 paratransit trips.[7]

The average cost to MARTA for providing a one-way trip for an individual paratransit passenger is US$31.88.[19] This is much greater than the US$3.80 fare the paratransit rider is required to pay. The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids MARTA from charging a paratransit fare more than twice the normal fixed route fare.[20]

A 2001 federal civil lawsuit, Martin v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, was brought by several disabled riders who alleged MARTA was violating the ADA by failing to provide: bus schedule and route information in an accessible format, buses with working wheelchair lifts, stop announcements on rail and bus routes, and adequate staff to schedule and provide on-time paratransit service. The district court ruled in 2002 that MARTA had violated the ADA and granted the plaintiffs an injunction requiring MARTA to improve service to the disabled.[21]

Fare structure and operation

Example of a MARTA single one-way fare token; tokens have been replaced by MARTA's Breeze Card

Effective October 2, 2011, the one-way flat-rate fare for MARTA will cost US $2.50. Breeze cards are $1. Passengers over 65 and Medicare recipients are eligible to receive a discounted fare of $0.95. A one-way paratransit fare is $3.80 (effective January 2006, disabled riders who are paratransit-eligible can ride fixed bus and rail routes for free).[dated info] Ten one-way trips can be purchased for $25, and twenty one-way trips can be purchased at a discount for $42.50. MARTA also offers unlimited travel through three different transit pass options: 24-hour pass $9, 7 day pass $23.75, and a 30 day pass for $95. Additional discounted pass programs allow for university students and staff to purchase calendar monthly passes. Additional discounts are available to corporate partners who sell monthly MARTA passes to employees and also to groups and conventions visiting Atlanta. Some employers (at their own expense) also provide reduced cost or free MARTA passes to employees to encourage the use of public transportation.

Free shuttles also operate within the MARTA area, but are not part of MARTA. The Buckhead Uptown Connection (The BUC) goes around Buckhead, Atlanta's uptown section and its third major business district behind downtown and midtown. This includes Lenox Square mall and the many high-rises and skyscrapers built along Peachtree Road. Georgia Tech operates the Tech trolley between central campus, Technology Square, and the Midtown MARTA Station, as well as "Stinger" buses around its campus. Emory University operates "The Cliff" shuttle buses in and around its campus. The Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association (CCTMA) operates a shuttle connecting Emory with downtown Decatur and the Decatur MARTA station.

Breeze Card

Examples of MARTA Transcards (monthly and weekly), limited-use Breeze Ticket, and extended-use Breeze Card

MARTA finished implementing the "Breeze" smart card electronic fare collection system in September 2006, replacing the previous token-based fare collection system. The new Breeze Card allows riders to load money on the card for use over time, and to add weekly/monthly passes that are not fixed to a calendar period. The Breeze Card ($1) is for every passenger riding MARTA. The new Breeze fare gates are designed to help prevent fare evasion; with the older fare collection system fare evasion was much easier and was estimated to cost MARTA $10 million per year.[22] Other connecting transit systems such as GRTA Xpress, CCT have adopted the infrastructure, and are currently building implementation plans.

MARTA stopped selling tokens after the Breeze conversion.[23] Cards (without fare) were sent by mail for free to those who requested them when the system was first implemented.

Hours of operation

MARTA train at North Avenue station
CQ310 switching tracks heading southbound from Lakewood Station
Breda CQ312 approaching Lakewood Station on southbound service to the Airport

MARTA operates 365 days a year. Rail service is provided from approximately 4:45am to 1am, Monday through Friday, and 6:00a. to 1:00a. on Saturday, Sunday & most Holidays. During certain events (New Year's Eve) trains run until 2:00a.m. (Trains also run all night during winter storms, though not in passenger service, to prevent ice from forming on non-underground lines.) On weekdays, trains run every 20 minutes from the beginning of service to 6am. Starting at 6:00a., trains run every 15 minute on all lines until 7:00p. After 7:00p., trains operate every 20 minutes until the end of service. Turnback service starts at approximately 7pm, every day. On weekends and public holidays, trains run every 20 minutes for each day. Single-Tracking occurs on most weekends therefore turnback service can vary. Bus routes have varying frequencies dependent upon passenger demand.[24]

Fare reciprocity

Through formal fare reciprocity agreements, MARTA riders are able to transfer for free to the three other metro-Atlanta transit systems: Gwinnett County Transit, Cobb Community Transit and GRTA Xpress. Some of these agreements require that neither system have significantly more transfers than the other. MARTA has stated that this is the case, that inbound (to MARTA from another system) and outbound (from MARTA to another system) transfers are approximately equal (for second quarter 2006, 8888 daily passengers transferred inbound and 8843 transferred outbound).[25] Analysis of morning transfers (5 to 9 am) to MARTA shows that Cobb County had 718 inbound transfers but only 528 outbound, Gwinnett County had 239 inbound and 269 outbound, and GRTA Xpress had 1,175 inbound but 615 outbound.[25] Some have suggested that more people from the other systems may benefit from free transfers than those living in the MARTA service area. However, it has been noted that workers traveling in the morning to Atlanta from another system will more than likely make the return trip home, resulting in an equal number of transfers.

MARTA funding

Sales tax

In addition to fare collections, the MARTA budget is funded by a 1% sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties along with limited federal money. For fiscal year 2007, MARTA had a farebox recovery ratio of 31.8%.[10] By law, funds from the 1% sales tax must be split evenly between MARTA's operational and Capital expenditure budgets. This restriction does not apply to other sources of revenue, including passenger revenue.[26] The split was written into MARTA legislation at MARTA's formation with the rationale that MARTA should continue expanding and investing in the system. However, MARTA has no active rail construction projects. Capital funds continue to decrease every year, creating a shortfall. The operations funds limit the amount of service MARTA provides. The sales tax law was amended by the state legislature in 2002 to allow a temporary three year 45% capital/55% operations split.[27] This additional 5% for operations expired in 2005. A 2005 bill to renew the split was tabled by the legislature's MARTA Oversight Committee, forcing MARTA to pass a new budget with cuts in service. The temporary 45%/55% capital/operations split was renewed again in the 2006 state legislative session. The capital funds surplus has resulted in projects, such as a new US$100 million Breeze Card fare collection system and US$1.1 million automatic toilets in the MARTA Five Points station, occurring at the same time that MARTA is struggling to pay for bus and rail operations. Due to low Sales Tax Revenue and no source of funding from the State of Georgia, MARTA was forced to eliminate 43 Bus Routes, eliminate shuttles, (Excluding the Six Flags Over Georgia and Braves Shuttle) and reduce Rail Service frequencies and hours. MARTA also closed the majority of its station restrooms. There are only 9 station restrooms open to the public, which are located at the end of each line including College Park, Candler Park and Lindbergh Stations. There are only two ridestores available now. The two Ridestores are located at the Airport and Five Points Rail Stations. Despite the cuts, MARTA predicts the system will still come up 69 million dollars short for FY 2011; in which they will pull the 69 million dollars from their Reserved Account.[28]

The current 1% sales tax was set to be reduced to 0.5% in 2032. In early 2007 MARTA made a request to the City of Atlanta, DeKalb County, and Fulton County to seek a 15 year extension of the 1% sales tax from 2032 to 2047, with a 0.5% sales tax from 2047 to 2057.[29] This is the fourth time in its history that MARTA sought the extension, the most recent in 1990.[30] MARTA said the commitment to the tax is needed for the agency to secure long-term financing in the form of bonds to pay for any future expansions to the system.[29] The resolution called for four new routes: bus rapid transit from H.E. Holmes station to Fulton Industrial Boulevard, bus rapid transit from Garnett station to Stonecrest Mall, transit for the BeltLine, and a direct transit link from Lindbergh Center to Emory University (formerly called the "C-Loop").[31] To approve the tax extension, two of the three government agencies needed to agree to the extension. In March 2007 the City of Atlanta voted 12-1 to approve the extension.[29] In April 2007 the DeKalb County Commission also approved the sales tax extension.[32] Some Fulton county officials opposed the sales tax extension on the basis that the proposed service expansions did not include previously proposed expansion of the North Rail line to Roswell and Alpharetta in North Fulton County.[33]

State funding controversy

MARTA has never received any operational funding from the State of Georgia, making it the largest public transportation agency in the United States and the second-largest transit agency in Anglo-America (after the Toronto Transit Commission)[citation needed] not to receive state/provincial funding for operational expenses.[34] The State of Georgia has contributed extremely limited funds for MARTA's capital projects. As of 2006, this amount was less than one percent of the total revenue sources for capital funds.[26]

In early April 2009, the 150th Georgia General Assembly created a budget crisis for MARTA by failing to pass a bill that would allow it to access its own capital reserve account, in order to compensate for a severe drop in sales-tax revenue during the late-2000s recession. MARTA has stated that this could force the agency to discontinue operations one day out of the week, possibly a weekday. The agency's budget crisis forced MARTA to lay off 300 employees. Service cuts and other budget-stabilizing measures began in fiscal year 2010, with the first affected service mark-up in September 2009. Governor Sonny Perdue refused to call a special session as requested, and did not issue an executive order as he stated it would not be legal to do so.


MARTA is a multi-county agency that is governed by a board of directors, consisting of representatives appointed from the city of Atlanta (3 members), and the remainder of the counties of Fulton (3 members) and DeKalb (4 members). Additionally, there is 1 member from the Georgia Department of Transportation, and 1 member from Georgia Regional Transportation Authority) who also serve on the MARTA Board of Directors.[35]

Positions on the MARTA board are directly appointed by the organizations they represent. A board-member controversy occurred March 13, 2007, when Chairman of the MARTA board, Edmund Wall, was arrested at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for public indecency on allegations of having sex in a bathroom stall with a man he met over the Internet. Wall claims he is innocent of the misdemeanor charge.[36] Although Wall initially said he would not resign his position, on March 16, 2007 he resigned his post as Chairman of MARTA's board of directors.[37]

The highest position at MARTA is the general manager and chief executive officer. In October 2007, Dr. Beverly A. Scott was named the new general manager. Prior to joining MARTA, Dr. Scott served as GM/CEO of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. She has over 30 years of experience in the transportation industry.[38] Prior to Dr. Scott, MARTA's General Manager was Richard McCrillis from 2006 to 2007. In October 2007, McCrillis retired after 22 years of service at MARTA.[39]

The Georgia General Assembly has a standing Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Oversight Committee (MARTOC). This committee is charged with financial oversight of the MARTA organization. During the 2009 session, Representative Jill Chambers,[40] the MARTOC chairperson, introduced a bill that would place MARTA under GRTA, and permanently remove the requirement that MARTA split its expenditures 50/50 between capital and operations. This would allow MARTA to avoid service cuts at times when sales tax revenue is low due to recession, without having to ask the state legislature for temporary exemptions (typically a 55/45 split) as it has received before.

Performance and safety

During the 2005 fiscal year, MARTA had a customer satisfaction rate of 79%. On-time performance for rail service was 91.64%. The mean distance between rail service interruptions was 9,493 miles (15,278 km) and the mean distance between bus failures was 3,301 miles (5,312 km).[41]

April 2000 MARTA accident at Lenox station

MARTA has had two fatal accidents which resulted in a formal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. On February 25, 2000 a train near Avondale station struck two automatic train control technicians who were inspecting a relay box; one was fatally injured and the other technician suffered serious injuries. The workers had failed to apply for a safe clearance restriction for the track work. In addition, the rail system center controller, who was aware of the workers, failed to notify train drivers of the technicians' presence.[42] A second accident occurred on April 10, 2000 when a train struck a bucket lift containing two contract workers at Lenox station; the workers were fatally injured. Although the MARTA employee who was accompanying the workers notified the rail control center of the work over the track, the control center employee failed to block off the section of the track in the automated rail control system and also failed to notify the unscheduled southbound train of the workers' presence.[43] In 2001 MARTA settled with the families of the two killed workers for US$10.5 million.[44]

In addition to these accidents, MARTA trains have derailed four times in recent years. The most recent incident occurred at the Medical Center station on December 4, 2006 when a train carrying passengers was moved over a rail switch. No injuries were reported.[45] A previous derailment occurred in July 1996 during Atlanta's hosting of the Olympics. A paired car on a train which had developed mechanical problems was uncoupled from other cars at Indian Creek station (the last station on the east line). The train began rolling, crashing through the bumper at the end of the rail line and running off of the track. The train operator, the only person on board, received minor injuries.[46][47] In June 1996 a minor derailment occurred at the junction between the North and Northeast lines; MARTA estimated 150 people were aboard.[48] The derailment occurred when a rail supervisor told the train driver to reverse the train after realizing the train had gone the wrong way at a track split; a MARTA investigation of the incident showed the derailment caused $125,000 of damage to the train and track and caused injury to 16 passengers.[49] And in August 1994 a minor derailment occurred at a switch between Candler Park and Inman Park. Approximately 20 passengers were on board and no one was injured.[48]

On December 31, 2007 MARTA had three separate escalator accidents that injured at least 11 people. The incidents occurred as large crowds were going to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Two escalators failed at Five Points station, and one escalator failed at Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center station. MARTA initially blamed the incidents on rowdy patrons jumping on the escalator.[50] However, a subsequent formal investigation showed that the braking systems and a weak motor were to blame for the incidents.[51]

In September 2008, a Fulton County jury awarded a woman $525,000 for injuries received in an accident at the Peachtree Center MARTA stop. MARTA has been criticized for its escalator maintenance policies after recent injuries due to escalators overloading, but has discussed plans to improve its policies and regulate passenger loads with posted station agents.[52]

Expansion plans

Previous expansion plans

MARTA was built with at least two stubs for rail lines which were never built. The Northwest Line towards Cobb County has a stub tunnel east of Atlantic Station, but that redevelopment has not been built with a MARTA station in mind, and Cobb County would instead most likely get a light rail or commuter rail system (either of which have been studied) or a bus rapid transit service (see Northwest Corridor HOV/BRT). The Northwest line was cut back to a distance of two stations, and next the idea was dropped entirely.

The South Line's branch to Hapeville was considered for extension into Clayton County as far away as Forest Park, but this idea was also cut off when the voters of that county refused to approve tax funding for the line. Another idea for a rail spur line spur was for an above-ground line from near the International Airport for a spur line to the town of Hapeville, but no work has ever been executed.

Yet another proposed spur line would have branched off the East-West Line in DeKalb County, running northeast to the area of North Druid Hills, Emory University, and the town of Tucker. Now under consideration is an idea for light rail line (rather than heavy rail) or busway called the "C-Loop".

The Northeast Line of the rail system, which has ended in Doraville for two decades, was considered for extension into Gwinnett County as far as northeast as Norcross, Georgia, but this idea was cut off when the voters of that county declined to approve sales-tax funding for it.

The Proctor Creek branch was also projected to go one more station northwestward to the Perry Homes area, but no work has been done on that one either.[53]

Expansion westward to Fulton Industrial Boulevard through the use of either heavy rail extension or bus rapid transit has been proposed as an extension of the West Line since the system was originally planned.[54]

Eastward expansion focuses not on rail but on bus rapid transit from downtown Atlanta along Memorial Drive (see below), as well as along the I-20 corridor to the Mall at Stonecrest.[55] The 1-cent sales tax which the region will vote on in Summer 2012 includes funding for BRT to Stonecrest.[56]

The final three MARTA rail stations to be built, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and North Springs - all north of the Interstate 285 Perimeter, were opened in 2000. The tracks to those stations were run on the surface of the median strip of the Georgia 400 tollway which was constructed just east of the Buckhead area during the early 1990s. Thus is one of just two places at which the MARTA rail system extends outside of Interstate 285. The other is at the Indian Creek Station in eastern DeKalb County.

From 2000-2011, there were no active railway expansion projects in the MARTA system due to lack of additional sales-tax funding, the need to spend its limited capital budget on refurbishing its older rolling stock, replacing the fare-collection system, repairing the tracks and their electrical systems, and other long-term maintenance, repair, and operations requirements.

Memorial Drive BRT

Currently the only active expansion in the entire MARTA system is the development of bus rapid transit along Memorial Drive from the former Avondale Mall to the MARTA park and ride lot in Stone Mountain. (Bus Service started operating on September 27, 2010). This project has cleared the environmental study stage, when the Federal Transit Administration issued the project a finding of no significant impact in December 2006). This project has been completed and started operating on September 27, 2010. The implementation of revenue-collecting service had initially been planned for early 2009.[57] A slight extension to the South Line is expected eventually, in order to serve a new and separate airport terminal building (the "South Gate Complex"), which will be self-contained and separate from the existing terminal, and its concourses with gates.

Transportation sales tax vote 2012

In Summer 2012, there will be a referendum on a 1-cent sales tax (SPLOST) to fund traffic and road improvements (final list). If approved, the tax will fund:

  • Two streetcar routes (maps, p.56-57):
    • Midtown to Northeast: from North Ave. MARTA station east along North Ave. to the BeltLine, then north along BeltLine to 10th and Monroe (southeast corner of Piedmont Park) and south to Glenwood Park and connection to the Downtown streetcar at its eastern terminus
    • Downtown/Midtown to Southwest:
      • one branch from Ponce City Market along North Avenue towards downtown
      • one branch from the western terminus of the Downtown streetcar at Centennial Olympic Park
      • the two branches meet at Luckie Street. Then along North Avenue, Northside Drive, out Donald L. Hollowell Parkway, then south along the BeltLine to the intersection of Ralph David Abernathy and Cascade Ave.
  • Clifton Corridor rapid transit from Lindbergh Center to Emory University and possibly on to Avondale
  • MARTA northern extension to SR 140 in Roswell


Map showing BeltLine and connected neighborhoods; numbers represent discontinuities in current rights of way

Additionally, several traffic corridors are currently being studied by MARTA for possible system expansion. The BeltLine is a current proposal for the use of light rail and possibly bus or streetcar service on existing railroad right-of-ways around Atlanta's central business districts.[58] The conversion of existing rail right-of-way to the proposed BeltLine also calls for the creation of three additional MARTA rapid transit stations where existing lines intersect the Belt Line at Simpson Road, Hulsey Yard, and Murphy Crossing.

Northern extension

In 2006, MARTA proposed extending the North line beyond North Springs station along Georgia 400 to either Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell and North Point Mall, Old Milton Parkway, or as far as Windward Parkway in Alpharetta.[59] By 2007, MARTA's website focused on an 11-mile (18 km) extension of heavy rail service from North Springs to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta, or a separate light rail line between those two points.[60] Extension of the North line was estimated to cost US$100 million per mile.[33]

The 1-cent sales tax, on which the region will vote on in Summer 2012, would fund MARTA heavy rail extension as far as Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell.[56]

Clifton Corridor

Rapid transit alternatives are as of October 2011, under consideration for the Clifton Corridor, from Lindbergh Center, following the CSX rail corridor to Emory University, with possible continuation along the northern edge of Decatur on to Avondale MARTA station. Bus, light rail and heavy rail rapid-transit options are under consideration.[61]

Proposed new infill stations

Adding another station to the existing line near Armour Yard (MARTA's main railyard, opened 2005) has also been discussed, as the north-south MARTA lines, the northeast BeltLine light rail, proposed commuter rail lines to points northeast such as Athens (the "Brain Train") and Gainesville, would all pass through Armour Yard.

The proposed Atlanta Multimodal Passenger Terminal (MMPT) would be built next to Five Points station, connecting MARTA to surface passenger rail, including commuter rail, future intercity rail, Amtrak, and possible high-speed rail in the Southeast Corridor.

Additional expansion plans for MARTA and other metro Atlanta transportation agencies are detailed in Mobility 2030 a timeline by the Atlanta Regional Commission for improving transit through the year 2030.

Criticism and concern

Criticism of MARTA has originated from many different groups. Opponents of MARTA are critical of MARTA's perceived inefficiency and alleged wasteful spending. Supporters of MARTA are critical of the almost complete lack of state and regional support of MARTA. In recent years, additional concerns have been raised regarding criminal activity on MARTA, the reliability of service, as well as the governing structure of MARTA.

Lack of regional financial support

Since the formation of MARTA, the Georgia state government has never contributed to MARTA operational funding. Currently, MARTA is the largest mass transportation system in the United States not to receive state funding.[34] Revenue from the Georgia motor fuel tax is currently restricted to roads and bridges and cannot be used for public transportation, further complicating potential sources of state funding for MARTA.[2] In addition, the other largest three suburban counties (Gwinnett, Clayton, and Cobb counties) have refused to join or fund MARTA. Both Gwinnett and Clayton counties initially agreed to join MARTA but refused MARTA rail and bus service when voters in their respective counties voted against paying to help fund the system. These two counties along with Cobb County have instead created their own independent bus systems: Cobb Community Transit on July 10, 1989,[62] Gwinnett County Transit on November 5, 2001,[63] and Clayton County C-TRAN on October 1, 2001. On November 2, 2010 Clayton County Residents agreed on a Non-Binding Referendum to join MARTA.[63] A separate regional bus transit service, Xpress, is operated by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in partnership with 11 metro Atlanta counties including Fulton and DeKalb, which began service on June 6, 2004.[64]

The MARTA Board members are criticized for not being regular users of MARTA and thus are not actually aware of the concerns of MARTA commuters.

Due to no funding from the state of Georgia and its limited funding from Fulton and DeKalb counties, MARTA has struggled for many years to provide adequate service to the metropolitan area. As a result, MARTA has gained a notorious reputation throughout the metro Atlanta area for being ineffective and inconvenient.[34] Many people who own cars avoid using the system altogether while residents in suburban areas usually drive their car to a MARTA rail station (instead of using bus service) if their job is near an adjacent one. MARTA's financial structure (being tied to a 1% sales tax) has forced the agency to cut services during times of economic depression, further resulting in complaints about the inconvenience and inadequacy of MARTA services.[34]

Although surrounding counties do not pay for MARTA, many of their residents use MARTA by driving directly to a MARTA station or by using a county or regional bus system which connects to MARTA. A license plate study from 1988 to 1997 showed that 44 percent of the cars parked in MARTA park-and-ride lots were from outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties.[2] Current fare reciprocity agreements also allow non-paying counties to provide bus service for their residents which provide free connections to MARTA (see Fare reciprocity). According to a 2000 MARTA ridership study, 12 percent of MARTA riders live outside of MARTA's service area.[63]

Effects of race on expansion and funding

It is often argued that racial politics also play a role in the operation and future service planning for MARTA. Opponents of Georgia's transportation policies have alleged a race-based two-tiered system, where billions are spent by the state on highway expansion to aid the commutes of mostly Caucasian residents of the suburbs and rural areas (like GRIP), while service cuts at MARTA have hurt mostly African Americans.[34] Proponents contest that a portion of state funding for highways comes from the gasoline tax, a user fee analogous to the fare MARTA riders pay. Supporters of MARTA have alleged that the lack of participation by other metro Atlanta counties is rooted in racism and classism.[34][65] In 1987, David Chesnut, then chairman of MARTA, stated, "The development of a regional transit system in the Atlanta area is being held hostage to race, and I think it's high time we admitted it and talked about it."[66] A 1999 MARTA rider survey revealed that 78 percent of MARTA riders are African American.[2] Furthermore, MARTA is sometimes sarcastically said to stand for "Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta", a replacement backronym, due to the relatively low number of white riders, particularly after peak commuting hours.[67][68]

Criminal activity

Despite a strong safety record, throughout MARTA's history there have been continued concerns regarding criminal activity on MARTA trains and in and around MARTA train stations. In the aftermath of a 1985 aggravated assault against the daughter of a Georgia State University professor, complaints were made that MARTA was underreporting its annual crime statistics. A 1986 review of the previous year's records by MARTA's audit office and the state legislature's MARTA Oversight Committee (MARTOC) showed no deliberate underreporting of crime, but rather over-reporting of crime because MARTA included crimes not related to the rail line and did not adhere to the Uniform Crime Reporting system (reporting multiple crimes by the same person instead of only the most serious crime).[69]

According to Federal Transit Administration records, MARTA's crime statistics are in line with those of similar-sized systems, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit in the San Francisco Bay area.[70] However, high-profile crimes on or near MARTA have created the impression with some that MARTA is unsafe and lacks a strong police presence, even though it has its own police department.[70] From 2005 to 2009, two homicides and one rape were reported on MARTA property. The most common crime reported was larceny. The most common area for crime was MARTA's rail service, followed by MARTA's parking lots. For fiscal year 2009, MARTA had a crime rate of 3.09 per 1,000,000 riders, with 483 crimes reported during the entire year.[71]

Suburban counties have opposed expanding MARTA on the basis that it would lead to increased crime, as well as the cost of expansion and the lack of perceived necessity to areas currently outside MARTA transit. It is alleged that because MARTA's service area includes some of Atlanta's most economically depressed and high-crime neighborhoods, expansion of MARTA would supposedly allow crime to spread to suburban areas. MARTA CEO, Dr. Scott, has acknowledged that assumption and cites a study that did not find transit systems to nucleate crime[citation needed]. Other counterarguments often cite the case of the Washington Metro, which provides services in economically depressed areas with limited problems in suburban Washington D.C. stops.[72]

Reliability of service

MARTA construction at Peachtree Center

As is typical of rail transit in the United States, MARTA's rail lines have two parallel tracks. Any train failure or track work results in shared use of the other track by trains going opposite direction, a situation known as single-tracking.[73] There are no plans at this time to expand the number of tracks. MARTA is currently nearing the end of a complete replacement of tracks on all rail lines. Over the past few years, this replacement work has caused the agency to implement single-tracking on the weekends, which in turn has caused weekend patrons to experience less-frequent service.[74]

In the summer of 2006, as a result of unusually high summertime temperatures, many MARTA rail cars became overheated, damaging on-board propulsion equipment. As a result, many trains broke down and had to be taken out of service for repair. This was further compounded by the fact that at any given time up to 50 older rail cars were out of service as part of MARTA's rail car rehabilitation project. To compensate for the reduced number of operating rail cars, MARTA shortened trains from six to four cars in length. This sometimes resulted in almost half of the trains being shortened, creating crowded conditions for passengers.[75]

Misuse of funds by employees for personal expenses

In 2006 internal and external audits of MARTA corporate spending revealed personal charges on a pair of MARTA credit cards used by former General Manager and CEO Nathaniel Ford and two of his secretaries.[76] Ford's charges included $454 at a golf pro shop, $335 in clothing from Men's Wearhouse and a $58 visit to the dentist.[76] In response to the 2006 audit, Ford sent MARTA a check for $1,000 as reimbursement for the charges.[76] An additional credit card with charges involving two of his secretaries, Iris Anthony and Stephannie Smart, was also uncovered. Smart used the cards to pay approximately $6,000 in private expenses, and subsequently agreed to repay this amount to MARTA.[76]


On October 15, 2011, 19 year old Joetavius Stafford was killed by a MARTA police officer at the Vine City rail station. MARTA said Stafford was armed while his brother said he was unarmed.[77][78]

See also

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