In November of 2016, 72% of Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax — expected to raise $2.5 billion over the next 40 years — in order to expand and improve public transportation in Atlanta. Recently, MARTA released a list of proposed projects which has elicited strong opinions from many residents. On Wednesday Ben Limmer, MARTA’s assistant general manager in charge of planning, joined us to discuss the project list and answer questions from community members.
Watch the entire event here:
Short on time? Read our Top 5 Takeaways:
1. The More MARTA expansion is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
As Ben Limmer explained, “we only get to do this once and we gotta do it right” — with the first sales tax increase in the City of Atlanta since collection started in 1972.
2. Equity is key.
For the past several years, Atlanta has been consistently ranked as one of the cities with the highest levels of income inequality and the lowest levels of income mobility. Because the areas where low-income people live and the areas where low-income jobs are concentrated are often far apart, safe and convenient public transportation is a crucial part of any plan to address inequity in Atlanta.
3. There is no one solution.
MARTA’s project list includes Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Arterial Rapid Transit (ART) and Light Rail Transit (LRT), as well as increased frequency on existing routes, especially during non-rush hours and on the weekends.
4. Our transit wish-list is bigger than our budget.
While the list of potential projects released before the sales tax referendum includes $11 billion of projects, the sales tax is expected to raise $2.5 billion over the next forty years. MARTA does expect to receive money from the federal government — current plans assume the Feds will pick up the tab for 50% of the light rail budget and 80% of the BRT budget. MARTA is also exploring potential innovative financing opportunities, like public-private partnerships. Still, not every project will make the final cut.
5. Community engagement is a long process.
Wednesday wasn't the first meeting and it won’t be the last. MARTA engaged the community both before and after the sales-tax referendum (including an event at CCI!), and held over 40 meetings and collected 4,300 survey responses in 2017. Now, after releasing the project list, MARTA is collecting a third round of public input. Ben Limmer emphasized that the current project list is not final: Everything is on the table. Overall, Atlanta residents have very strong and differing opinions on what should be prioritized, especially around the BeltLine (the released project list includes some, but not all of the original proposed light rail) and the Clifton Corridor, as Emory did not join Atlanta until after the referendum.
Love cool maps of Atlanta? Want the wonky details?
See the presentation slides from the event here.
Even more nerdy details, information about upcoming events, and MARTA’s survey
Check out MARTA’s More MARTA page here.
You can the list of MARTA's scheduled public engagement opportunities here. We will be following up with MARTA’s staff on a few things that came up at the event including our questions about open sourcing the data from the More MARTA surveys and the idea of a citizen’s council to help residents be connected during planning for MARTA projects. Stay tuned for updates on that!
Here are a few links and information that came up in our talk:
June 20th Presentation to City Council
As mentioned by an audience member, the Atlanta City Council reviewed and approved the initial project lists in 2016 for MARTA and TSPLOST. The legislation that allowed the More MARTA tax requires City Council to approve a list of potential projects that would then go through a review process to create a final project list. We are currently in the review process.
MARTA Initial Outreach Survey
MARTA published a report on its initial outreach survey in October 2017. This information was used as part of the review process to create the current proposed MARTA project list. We have requested the raw data from MARTA and will work with them to see if that data is available and can be released.
Two very specific projects seem to be top of mind for many attendees: the Clifton Corridor and the full Beltline loop.
- The full proposal for Clifton Corridor can be found here.
- The full list of Atlanta Beltline transit projects can be found here.
Atlanta's Overall Transportation Plans
Did you know Atlanta has a long-term plan for its transportation future? Atlanta’s Transportation Plan is in-progress the comprehensive transportation plan currently being prepared by the Department of City Planning and is available here. The document covers the current conditions and future ideas to solve some of the City’s most pressing transportation needs.The transit portion of the plan starts on page 32.
The last comprehensive plan to be adopted was the Connect Atlanta plan which was adopted in 2008 with several updates added in recent years. This plan focused on solutions including transit, sidewalk, and road upgrades to solve Atlanta’s transportation issues.
In addition to these resources, the Atlanta Regional Commission also has the Atlanta Region’s Plan, a comprehensive transportation plan for the entire Atlanta region.
In 2018 the Georgia state legislature voted to create “the ATL” a new regional transit authority for Atlanta. The Atlanta Regional Commission has a good overview of what this means for Atlanta and MARTA.
Housing Justice League Report
A few questions asked at the event focused on the potential of transit investments to change the socioeconomic makeup of a community. The Housing Justice League, a local housing advocacy group, created a report on the Beltline and its impacts on communities.
The full video from the forum is on our Facebook page, but you can click here to go ahead and relive the forum or share it with the world. You can also click here to check out our recap of the evening to find highlights, key dates, and additional resources and information you need to know.