Atlanta Gets an Ambitious New Transit Plan

A more unified vision for the region's transportation. 

(Photo by dbking)

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

A bill that could expand transit and unify the county-by-county patchwork that makes up Atlanta’s transportation grid passed the General Assembly last week.

HB 930, the so-called “transit expansion bill,” now awaits a signature from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who has endorsed the measure according to the AJC.

The final version of the bill allows the 13 counties around Atlanta to impose sales taxes of up to 1 percent for mass transit. Fulton County (where 90 percent of the city is located) already has a .75 percent tax for road and bridge construction and a 1 percent MARTA tax, so it would be limited to a smaller increase of .2 percent. The legislation also creates a regional board — which would have the final say over which project lists counties submit to voters — to oversee transit funding and construction. Finally, it allows Gwinnett County to hold another vote on joining MARTA this year (although the county has twice rejected proposals to join) and authorizes a special transit district in Cobb County to ask voters for approval of a transit expansion.

The state plans to add $100 million in bonds for transit expansion under a 2019 budget that already passed the General Assembly, the AJC reports. Those funds, combined with the bill’s allotted taxes, could “spark the biggest transit expansion in metro Atlanta since MARTA finished its existing passenger rail system in 2000,” according to the paper.

Curbed points out, however, that the bill simply allows — but doesn’t mandate — each county to impose taxes or join up with systems like MARTA.

It “provides flexibility and autonomy for member counties, who must ‘opt in’ to any specific project or funding mechanism,” a release from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) states.

As Next City has covered, the (historically whiter and wealthier) suburbs around Atlanta have long resisted joining transit systems like MARTA. In 1987, the New York Times reported that bumper stickers often seen on suburban Cobb County cars declared “Share Atlanta Crime — Support MARTA.”

In 2014, however, residents of Clayton County voted to tax themselves to join the regional transit agency. And as traffic worsens, voters in Gwinnett County have warmed to alternative transportation as well, according to the AJC.

“Traffic congestion doesn’t stop at the city or county line. It’s a regional problem that requires a regional solution,” Rep. Kevin Tanner, House sponsor of the Bill, said in a statement. “Improving regional transit is also important for economic development, as many businesses are choosing to locate in places served by public transit.”

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

Follow Rachel .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tags: transportation spendingtransit agenciesatlanta

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 1064 other sustainers such as:

  • F in El Cerrito, CA at $5/Month
  • Ann at $5/Month
  • Linda at $25/Year

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine

has donated ! Thank you 🎉