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Clayton County Votes in Favor of Joining MARTA, What Next?

(APN) ATLANTA -- In the General Election on November 02, 2010, Clayton County voters voted in a nonbinding referendum upon whether or not to join the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), which since its inception has served only Fulton and Dekalb Counties.

The vote was 41,170 (67%) yes, and 19,959 (33%) no.

Clayton County voters previously had rejected MARTA in 1971 with only 23 percent of the voters in favor, according to Citizens for Progressive Transit.

This time, Clayton County had just suffered the loss of its own transit system, C-TRAN, as previously reported by the Atlanta Progressive News.

The ballot question was titled, "Whether Clayton County should become a full participant in MARTA," and asked: "Should Clayton County become a full participant in MARTA... and levy a sales tax in support of MARTA and Clayton County's public transportation needs?"

If Clayton joins MARTA, residents will pay an additional one cent sales tax on items purchased in Clayton County, which will to go Clayton County to fund MARTA.  Fulton and Dekalb residents already pay a one cent sales tax.  

For Clayton County, the funds raised through the one cent sales tax will be several times the amount previously used to fund C-TRAN, as much as 35 million dollars per year, according to CPT.  

It could be used to not only restore bus service, but to add rail service as well.  Cities that could be served include Forest Park, Lovejoy, Morrow, and Riverdale.

"The federal money to build it [light-rail] has been there, but there's been no money for operations," Lee Biola, President of CPT, told APN.  "It's a capital grant, it's an earmark.  Congressmen David Scott and John Lewis (D-GA) were involved in getting that money.  It was about 10 years ago, 80 million from the federal government and 20 million from the state.  But we can't get that money until we show the government we can operate it."

"It's frustrating.  There's been a complete lack of leadership for the last ten years under Perdue.  If they had allowed a bond referendum in Clayton County, we could already have been working on it.  It's on existing tracks," Biola said.

US Congress could decide to take the federal grant money back if not used in the near future, he said.

In the cases of all three counties which would pay into MARTA if Clayton joins--Fulton, Dekalb, and Clayton--this one percent sales tax would be separate from any additional penny they might pay for transportation as part of a special transportation district.

On May 27, 2010, former Gov. Perdue signed legislation, HB 1446, which allowed for Clayton to vote on whether to join MARTA.

The legislation, which had been sponsored by State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam, only provides, however, that the nonbinding resolution be held.  It does not state that a binding resolution be held.

A binding resolution would have to be approved first by the Clayton County Commission, Rep. Abdul-Salaam told APN.

"The nonbinding resolution sends a message that they've been saying all along, they're willing to pay the sales tax, they're willing to have fewer routes, the riders have always said that.  Getting an official vote, even though it's nonbinding, shows the will of the citizens," she said.

Abdul-Salaam says that the challenge in the past has been getting the Clayton County Commissioners to support public transportation, whether keeping C-TRAN operational or to join MARTA.

"That's how we got to where we are- the Commission voted to shut it [C-TRAN] down.  The Commission had options to do something else like accept federal money [separate from the light rail funds described above] that had been offered to them in September," she said.

"As a legislative process, we've done what we can do," she said.  "We've got to get the County Commissioners to see what the rest of our county officials see," she said.

"We can have world class public transit in Clayton County,” Riverdale City Councilman Wayne Hall said in a statement.

In the weeks before the election, activists passed out thousands of postcards with information about the vote at churches, festivals, rallies, and at local businesses.

"It was hard work, but well worth it," Shegale Crute, a community activist in Clayton County, said in a statement.

Organizations which supported Clayton County joining MARTA include ACT NOW Georgia, Atlanta Transit Union, Clayton County Ministerial Association, CPT, Georgia Conservation Voters, and Sierra Club.

An ad hoc group called Friends of Clayton Transit was also formed to deal specifically with Georgia issues.

In terms of the County Commission, "It's a 4-1 split," Biola said.

"The Chairman Eldrin Bell has been supportive of MARTA and transit in general and the commuter rail line.  He's very supportive.  The other four Commissioners have not been.  Wole Ralph, the Vice Chairman, was part of the group that voted to end Clayton transit.  He was part of the group that was resisting efforts to bring a bond vote last November," Biola said.

"He [Ralph] did indicate that if voters indicated they wanted to join through a non-binding vote, that he would support have a binding vote," Biola said.

"They [Commissioners] were saying with the regional SPLOST coming up in 2012, if they increase the sales tax for MARTA [in Clayton], they could also raise it for the area [special transportation district], so they could be as burdened as the City of Atlanta [Fulton and Dekalb].  They said it would be two pennies rather than one penny," Biola said.

However, Biola said he doubts the regional transportation sales tax is going to pass in 2012 in Metro Atlanta, given the difficulty of finding agreement on a project list between progressives in Atlanta and Tea Party elements in other counties.

"They [Commissioners] said Clayton County had been dumped on by the region and all the poor people moved there who had been displaced by the Atlanta Housing Authority [public housing demolitions].  They had been enabled by C-TRAN.  It was the classic 'bringing the wrong people' argument.  It was interesting to see African American leaders making this argument," Biola noted.

The next step for Clayton County and MARTA will be to see how Commissioners react to the non-binding vote, and whether they allow Clayton voters to take a binding vote.

(END / 2011)

Comments (14)

Said this on 1-18-2011 At 11:49 pm

This is crazy! I was looking to move to Clayton County but now I am really thinking,no way !!As big as the county is it really needs a bus ( and rail ) system. Get federal money grants that are there for this purpose and re-start C Tran and rail. Come on commissioners,get it together...........

Said this on 1-18-2011 At 11:52 pm

I will not move to Clayton County without a transit system.........

Bryan Farley
Said this on 1-26-2011 At 02:26 pm

It's a shame that the discussion is about a system that should have been here 30 plus years ago.  MARTA rail and bus service should have been there.  We should be talking about expanding to counties outside of the big 5 counties (Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb, Gwinett, and Clayton) and expanding the MARTA rail and working on an express bus network along with commuter rail network.

Get rid of Xpress, CCT, and GCT and these stupit light rail proposals (except for the Beltline... that needs light rail) and expand the existing heavy rail system and local bus service and increase frequencies and have some routes and the rail system run 24 hours. 

Come on people .... Support MARTA!!

Said this on 5-2-2011 At 02:21 am

i agree i had to drop out of school because c tran closed down I admit i didn't go to any of the meetings honestly but i see now just how important it is email me or facebook me if i can help


Said this on 8-28-2011 At 10:41 pm

marta needs to come to clayton county. but on the marta facebook wall somebiody said that clayton WANTSmarta but the damn stupid ass commission aint doing anything to get started!! marta should have been here by now

Said this on 8-28-2011 At 11:15 pm

commission, you are so damn retarded and stupid! why the fuck would you vote Not to have marta???? we oughta get the police dept to DESTROY your cars, take away your Money, Shut down all your accts, whether it be cash, bank, credit, or debit, then see how you get around!! oh, we should also put each one of you on the international news to tell EVERY HUMAN ON EARTH to not give any of yall a ride and see how you feel for not having transportation!! you dumb idiots!!

Helen S.
Said this on 10-1-2011 At 11:58 am
No Marta in Clayton County. When C-Tran came along, it brought more crime to Clayton County and ethier the Police don't care or they aren't able to control it. We don't need any more crime here! A bus and/or rail system will only make the crime worse. Clayon County used to be one of the best counties to live in, but now I'm looking forward to moving out, esp if a new bus or rail line is brought in. Say No To Marta, Please. Think of the families, children, and elderly in Clayton County. They don't need more crime here.
Said this on 10-12-2011 At 10:41 am

It's odd to me that every since Ctran left crime has not gone down. On the contrary. From what I can see it seems to have gone up. My point is this. Everyone can not afford a car and people still have to work and most times in different areas. Folks need to the ability to get around. What about people that are elderly, disabled, or that do have cars and just can't afford the gas while they are out here trying to survive. Something needs to be done about transportation and ASAP. I moved over on this side and unfortunately right after I did, Ctran left. Very hard for me to get around.:(

Said this on 12-2-2011 At 01:18 pm

Helen I can't believe in the year 2011, individuals like you have made it your mission that individuals with less won't be able to secure a job, get a higher education etc. the list goes on. You can't come up with anything else but to parallel the so call rise in crime with public commuters. 

It's a shame and just another excuse to make show those who low SES stay poor and those who are trying to create a better life style for themselves get disheartened.

There needs to be a study that shows proof that public transporatation commuters are causing crime in these neighborhoods. Helen I wonder how'd you would feel if you lost access to your car and inturn lost your job as a result of it. Something as simple as that.

It's 2012 wake up and smell the coffee lady. It's time for a different mind set all together when it comes to public transportation in this state overall.



Said this on 2-28-2012 At 10:22 am

I find it funny when people say that basically bus ridders cause the crime rate to go up. i just can't see someone robbing some place, kidnapping somebody, or killing some one then using the bus as a get away. my point being these people for the most part hop into cars. guess the should stop the sell of cars as well and not allow them on the road eeh? because according to your and many others logic yawl dont want anything that brings crime in. 

D. Loudd
Said this on 6-22-2012 At 12:58 pm

The only people who have a problem with a transit system in Clayton County are those who don't have to depend on one to get around. Unless you are willing to personally drive those without transportation, please consider how many people would be helped by it. You mention kids and elderly. Do you not know how many chidren have to ride public transportation because their families don't have reliable transportation. Basically, it's easy to knock it when you don't need it.


Dick Smith
Said this on 10-18-2012 At 04:05 pm

Are you stupid ??? Transportation doesn't bring crime. Crime comes from EVERYTHNG And is everywhere regardless. Yhu illiterate, inconsiderate bastard. The crime in Clayton County is the sane as it always been, if not, worse. 

Said this on 1-10-2012 At 11:29 pm

When I see the struggles of the people trying to get to and from jobs, women walking in th cold with babies, and old ladies walking the streets with shopping carts and I can't help but see a need for public transportation.  People, crime is something you cannot run from.  The love of many is growing colder by the day. Some of the coments here confirms that. It seems that all people care about is themselves and their little slice of heaven. I should hope that heaven is FAR better that that which is upon this earth. It grieves me to see how people are so concerned about themselves and have not figured out that FEAR gives way for the enemy to break in and steal your stuff. I lived in the worse ghetto in Philidelphia and what's going on here cannot compare to the crimes there. Pray and plead the blood of Jesus over your stuff and don't be so stuffy with it. Share a ride, or give of yourselves and you will find that God will surely see to it that all thinks works well for you, your family and your stuff.  

Said this on 2-8-2014 At 11:52 am

It's funny how this vote was rejected on the ballot long ago yet people still comment here. If you wanted Marta in Clayton county then you should have voted for it... the citizens that did vote said no. For the people who continue to comment here badgering me about my not wanting Marta due to increased crime, you have the audacity to call me stupid, yet you are showing your own ignorance by posting such comments. You should have gone and voted for Marta if that is what you wanted. Apparently enough people didn't want Marta in Clayton county and that is no fault of mine. I didn't vote myself however if i had my vote would've been no as I'm sure you could figure out on your own. All you people who desperately wanted Marta should have voted for it... end of story. BTW that vote was held in Nov. 2012

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