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Officials From MARTA, The ATL And BeltLine Rail Now Advocacy Group Outline Transit Goals

Jeffrey Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA; Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, and Patty Durand, co-chair of the group BeltLine Rail Now, join "Closer Look" to share their organizations’ transit goals.
Jeffrey Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA; Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, and Patty Durand, co-chair of the group BeltLine Rail Now, join "Closer Look" to share their organizations’ transit goals.
Credit Grace Walker

This Monday, “Closer Look with Rose Scott” wrapped up a weeklong transit series called “Gridlocked: What’s Moving Atlanta?”

Today, the program concluded the series with a look at how the Atlanta region’s transit options can be more connected and inclusive of all needs.

Jeffrey Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA, and Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, kicked off the program with a conversation about their goals for Atlanta’s transit system.

On who’s responsible for expanding public transit:

Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority: “In this 13-county region, we have at least 11 different transit operators. Now clearly, MARTA and the MARTA system is the backbone of transit in this metro area. But, there’s more that we need to do, and it can’t just all fall on the shoulders of MARTA, whether we’re talking about funding or whether we’re talking about all the different areas that we want to reach or connect with transit. It’s going to take a collective group.”

Jeffrey Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA: “I think one thing that happens is that the brand of MARTA is so strong in this region that when people hear “MARTA” sometimes it’s synonymous with transit. … What’s exciting to me that’s going on in this region right now is that … the communities, the counties and the city of Atlanta have laid out their priorities for transit. Gwinnett County has laid out a regional vision for transit within that county. DeKalb is in the process of finalizing that plan…”

On what’s next:

Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority: “I think be it enhancements for, such as, trying to increase frequency of service to even some of these larger expansions, we’re all aware that everyone wants to see it sooner than what’s planned. And so that’s what we’re going to focus on next. If we can identify funding, how can we accelerate these time tables for the projects?”

Jeffrey Parker, general manager and CEO of MARTA: “One thing that I think is so important that we should never forget about here in Atlanta is, when you look at our existing heavy rail system — the East/West Line the North/South Line — we’ve got plenty of opportunity to increase capacity on those corridors. … What we need to do here in Atlanta is to invest in transit to get more people into our core MARTA rail system, that has capacity to grow. We can eventually, over time, run eight-car trains instead of six-car trains.”

BeltLine Rail Now 

Following “Closer Look” host Rose Scott’s conversation with Parker and Tomlinson, we heard from Patty Durand, co-chair of the group BeltLine Rail Now. She shared her organization’s goals, which includes asking MARTA to place light rail on the BeltLine within the next three years.

BeltLine Rail Now

On why light rail is important: “One of the things that MARTA does well is it moves people to job centers. What MARTA doesn’t do well is move people around to neighborhoods, communities, other recreational amenities and jobs. … The BeltLine rail would solve that problem. It would provide the hub for the spokes that heavy rail is now.”

On MARTA’s current plan: “When we looked at the construction timeline, MARTA wouldn’t complete BeltLine rail until 2045. That’s the same thing as saying it’s never going to happen. Because the money will be gone by then.”