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Fare Increase & Transportation Investment Act are Bad for the Region

The Atlanta Public Sector Alliance opposes MARTA fare increases, service cuts, and the Transportation Investment Act. The proposals by the MARTA management, and the Transportation Investment Act respectively, will make life worse for transit riders in general, and the transit dependent ones in particular.

Fare increases will drive some riders off the bus in frustration. Other transit riders living on fixed incomes will be forced to choose between the bus fare and other primary living expenses. Many riders with whom we’ve spoken, say they simply won’t be able to go much of anywhere because of the added cost. Because of service cuts and fare increases, MARTA dependent passengers will have a much harder time maintaining and finding jobs. This isn’t what the region needs in the midst of so much joblessness.

Additionally, placing riders in this sketchy economic circumstance will also have a cascade affect on housing – as job instability will affect people’s ability to pay the rent and/or their mortgage. Students and young people will find it more difficult to get an education, if this proposal passes. With limited transportation options, getting regular access to healthcare also starts looks like a fantasy out of reach for working families. And MARTA management admits that fare increases and service cuts don’t solve MARTA’s fundamental financial problem, which is a lack of state and regional funding. It just makes no sense to do this.

As bad as this is, the scene starts to look bleaker when one examines who will be deciding whether or not to limit the mobility of riders, and cutting jobs for workers. The deciders will be The MARTA Executive Board –a body lacking in any representation by transit dependent riders, or MARTA operators and mechanics. For this reason, on their own, we can’t expect this make up of the MARTA Board to make good decisions that will affect MARTA riders and workers. They simply don’t represent the communities most impacted by what takes place on the buses and trains. And when we couple this with the fact that the Transportation Investment Act will do nothing to fund MARTA operations –the part of MARTA’s budget that transit dependent riders and workers interact with most- we see that neither of these respective proposals do what transit riders need most..improve access, affordability, and accountability. One has to really wrack their brains in an attempt to grasp why anyone would create a law to supposedly fund regional transit development, yet exclude the institution that represents the vast majority of regional transit assets. But that’s just what Georgia lawmakers did last year, and worse still, we have regional leaders actually trying to implement this as regional policy. Hunh, Come Again?

Clearly, the only hope for regional transit policy that is just and equitable is to say NO to both the MARTA fare increase, and the Transportation Investment Act. The people of the region are going to have to let both the MARTA Board and the purveyors of the Transportation Investment Act hear their cry for justice. We have to start with newer, fresher ideas if we are to move forward together in Metro Atlanta. We at the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance believe four things need to happen to make regional transit work.

First, we need MARTA riders and workers on the MARTA Board to make decisions about the budget. Riders and Workers have the most interaction with the MARTA system, therefore they are the experts on transit.

Second, we have to have MARTA re-allocate what little resources it has, into improving service for the transit dependent. But MARTA says its broke, right? Yes, it is indeed true that MARTA has been underfunded by regional counties and the state for forty years. It’s also true that only resources from regional counties and the state can make MARTA fiscally sound enough to do the job for which it was created –provide regional public transit. This brings us to our third demand: MARTA must have state and regional funding for operations. This demand won’t be easy to achieve, though. MARTA is not making friends with the public by proposing service cuts and fare increases. Yet, the only way for MARTA to get the resources it needs is with public support. Therefore to win that support, MARTA needs to start by not attacking MARTA riders and workers with cuts and fare increases, thereby building a positive relationship with these communities who have the power to persuade county and state lawmakers to pay their fair share.

Finally, we have to recognize that MARTA represents the vast majority of regional transit assets. We should not try to go around MARTA, or cut it out of the loop. We call for MARTA to be the regional planner and provider of public transit. In other words, the only way forward for public transit is to get rid of backward ideas.

WHO: Atlanta Public Sector Alliance,
WHAT: Opposition to Fare Increase & Regional Sales Tax
WHEN: Monday, June 6, 2011
WHERE: Atlanta Ga.