MARTA Expansion Funding Could Depend On Project Variety

More Atlanta bus routes are some of the transit expansions that Atlantans like Mike Reid want in the city.
More Atlanta bus routes are some of the transit expansions that Atlantans like Mike Reid want in the city.
Credit Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

Bus Expansion Could Be Key To New Funding For MARTA

MARTA last week unveiled its wish list for how to use $2.5 billion in potential transit dollars, but whether that money comes in largely depends on what ends up in the final version of the list.

Atlanta resident Mike Reid wants to see bus expansion in the final version.

Reid said he won’t vote for the new MARTA expansion tax if it doesn’t expand the way he gets to his grandkids: MARTA bus service.

The preliminary list does include some new bus routes, but one of the bigger projects, at the end of the east side BeltLine near the Krog Street Market, could accelerate urban change: a light rail line to connect the BeltLine to the Atlanta Streetcar.

Reid said he remembers what used to be at the proposed light rail site: Atlanta Stove Works.

Things have changed a lot in Atlanta since he settled in the city 45 years ago.

“They used to make them wood kettle stove in a building right here,” said Reid.

The light rail might get built if Atlanta voters approve a half-penny sales tax increase this November to raise $2.5 billion for MARTA expansion.

But Reid said he has no need for light rail because he can’t afford many of the restaurants where it might take him.

“I can’t eat at those ritzy places, no how,” he said.

Georgia Tech professor Mike Dobbins, who was a former city planner for Atlanta, said Reid isn’t alone. 

Dobbins said for the new sales tax to pass, the transit plan has to appeal to people well beyond the BeltLine. The list should include new bus routes for people like Reid, said Dobbins, and Atlantans who rely on it to get to work. 

“Why am I going to vote for something that’s going to be putting a fancy streetcar where it doesn’t do me any good?” said Dobbins.

But Dobbins said light rail around the quickly developing BeltLine neighborhoods is important too. 

Jacqueline Bassette works for Delta, and she and her new spouse are looking to buy a house along the BeltLine.

Bassette thinks light rail in the area would be transformative.

“I’ve heard so many great ideas,” she said, and it’s just taken such a long time for things to actually happen, and if money is the way that things are actually going to start happening then I totally would pay.” 

If the light rail and bus expansions make the final list, it could get most of Atlanta to agree to a half-penny sales tax for MARTA when they vote in November.