Transportation is a major issue on the minds of many metro Atlantans.
Several counties will be voting in the coming months on a Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax, or TSPLOST, that could expand public transit beyond Fulton and DeKalb Counties. The municipality of Atlanta has its own decisions to make regarding transit.
In the second part of Rickey Bevington's conversation with Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, she talked about the city's plans and what transportation improvement projects are top priorities to fund.
ON WAYS CITY COUNCIL CAN ADDRESS TRAFFIC AND TRANSPORTATION ISSUES
In terms of traffic and transportation, we have the Renew Atlanta bond money, we have the TSPLOST money and how that is going to be allocated and how we're going to move those projects forward. We also have connections and coordination with MARTA. MARTA comes and presents on a quarterly basis about how they're moving forward – because MARTA is a big piece of our transportation.
I sit as a representative for the council on the Atlanta Regional Commission and I come to that committee and give reports. The Atlanta Regional Commission is really important at this point, because we are now in the process of formulating the board which will be the ATL board, which is the new transportation arm that has been established by the state.
Who's going to sit on it, how that is going to work in terms of transit and how it will impact MARTA … those are key and important issues that we are dealing with.
From the infrastructure needs, we have with the Renew Atlanta bonds, whether it's paving unpaved roads, repaving roads (because potholes are the number one thing people complain about), traffic signals….
People really need to pay attention to how that money is spent and how those projects are allocated.
And then with the TSPLOST money, we have some of those projects but also funding from MARTA. One of the big controversies there is which project is going to be the first project? Is it going to be rail for the BeltLine, which we definitely need? We created the BeltLine for that, and that's certainly where we need transit.
But then you have the south side of town that’s been waiting for many years for rail to come there. How are we going to prioritize those two things?
And then on top of that, we have annexed the Emory area into the city of Atlanta, and they have been asking for the Clifton Corridor. All of those things are kind of in the mix now and this committee has some influence in how that will be done.
Of course, MARTA has a big say in terms of the prioritization of the rail projects.
ON THE ROLE CITY COUNCIL PLAYS IN APPROVING TRANSIT PROJECTS
We don’t get the final write off. There is a board.
The MARTA Board will be making that final decision. Understand that MARTA is funded primarily through the City of Atlanta, Fulton County and Dekalb County. So there are more partners involved in that.
Each of us, of course, can send our strong desire for one thing or another. We have appointees from those different entities on the board that we can certainly interact with. But right now it's sort of a MARTA Board decision in terms of what’s going to be prioritized.
And we're hearing a lot from citizens. There's a lot of citizens that want to see that rail built out on the Beltline as well as the Southwest corridor, and then now that we've added Emory we're hearing a lot from them on the Clifton Corridor and how important that is.
We don't have enough money to do all three, and that's where the controversy comes in. So stay tuned.
ON THE NEW STATE-APPOINTED ‘ATL’ BOARD
You know, I understand what the state is doing. They're saying ‘hey, we want to put some money in the game, so we want to sort of take over.’
But I think the thing that was missed when it was passed is the fact that Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb Counties have been the sole funders of MARTA for the last 40-plus years.
And we don't have any dedicated seats on those boards. I believe that those three entities should have had a dedicated seat on the board, and the rest of them could figure it out. The board composition, and how you go about doing it is very convoluted. It’d probably take me 10 or 15 minutes to explain it.
And that still does not necessarily guarantee Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb a seat on those boards. If we end up with one from one of those three entities, we will be lucky.
MARTA is the backbone to all of this, whether it's buses that come from GRTA or any of these other systems, everybody hooks into the backbone which is MARTA. And unfortunately we don't have a say. One vote is not going to necessarily give us much control over what happens.
ON THE STATE’S SUDDEN INTEREST IN MARTA AFTER DECADES OF INACTION
You know, finally they're saying they're going to put some money in the game. And how much and to what extent, that's going to be seen.
That's the power of state government. People don't realize state government is very powerful. Cities operate under home rule. We're not even a constitutional entity. So you know, we have to bow to their will and that's what they chose to do.
I do think that we can certainly go back and say ‘now that you see how this is all shaking out, can you amend it? Can you make it so that at least Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb have a seat on the board?’
Because without some say, if you're not at the table you're on the menu. And I don't think we should be on the menu, because we've been providing and are providing the backbone for this system. At the time, no one else wanted to participate in public transportation. And if it wasn't for Atlanta, Fulton, and DeKalb, we wouldn't have anything to work with.