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Atlanta Council Seeks State Action on MARTA

By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (March 15, 2010)

(APN) ATLANTA -- Today, Monday, March 15, 2010, the City Council of Atlanta approved a resolution asking the Governor and Georgia Legislature to immediately take steps to address the MARTA funding shortfall.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, given the current funding shortfall, Metro Atlanta's public transportation system is in danger of having to again raise fares or cut half of its bus services.

There are several bills currently in the legislature concerning MARTA. This Council resolution asks the State to support the bill which would give MARTA more flexibility over how to spend its revenue, where currently fifty percent must be spent on capital expenditures.

In addition to seeking emergency funding, it also asks the State to support a multi-county regional funding structure for MARTA, although it does not specify preference for either the Democratic or Republican bills. Both bills currently propose a one cent sales tax.

"NOW THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA RESOLVES AND REQUESTS; SECTION 1: That the Legislature and Governor of the State of Georgia enact:

"Short term transit funding to assist MARTA out of the current economic crisis."

"A long term funding mechanism that allows regions to raise revenue for transit capital and operations of existing and new transit projects."

"Permanent flexibility for MARTA in the budgeting of its sales tax revenue for operating and capital expenses."

"SECTION 2: That the Municipal Clerk provides a copy to the Governor and each member of the Georgia Legislature."

Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) introduced the resolution at the request of Area Coalition for Transit (ACT) Now. ACT Now is a fairly new organization formed in November 2009 whose mission is to improve public transportation in Georgia, spokesman Brian Baj told Atlanta Progressive News.

ACT NOW was formed after MARTA invited various community members, who had previously contacted MARTA with concerns about its lack of funding, to participate in a training being offered by Move America Now, a nationwide organization, Baj said. The training participants decided after the training that they wanted to continue working together and ACT NOW was formed.

Cheri Mitchell of Atlanta ADAPT, who has previously advocated for accessibility for people with disabilities and against the public housing demolitions, is also the Outreach Coordinator of ACT Now. Alvanila Upshaw of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732 is ACT Now Secretary.

The resolution passed 11-0 with no debate or discussion.

A second resolution approved by the Council announces the City of Atlanta's support for Ride MARTA Day, which will be held March 26, 2010.

The first Ride MARTA Day was on April 17, 2009, and was organized by Rachael Spiewak, a grassroots organizer formerly with the Sopo Bike Cooperative who no longer lives in Atlanta.

On Ride MARTA Day, Metro Atlanta residents are asked to show support for MARTA by riding it.

On the 26th there will be a 3pm press conference at the Five Points MARTA Station as well.

This resolution also passed 11-0 with no debate or discussion.

While the Council passes legislation supportive of MARTA every year as part of its annual legislative package sent to the State, these resolutions were much more specific and urgent, given there are only a couple weeks left in the State's Legislative Session.

MARTA is currently facing a 120 million dollar shortfall for the current fiscal year, mostly due to the decrease in sales tax revenue because residents of Fulton and Dekalb Counties have decreased their consumption of goods and services during the economic crisis.

As previously reported by APN, MARTA has been holding public hearings to hear from the public how they should address this shortfall.

Another major problem--which APN intends to cover in more detail--is the pending elimination of public transportation service in Clayton County on March 31, 2010.

Groups like the Atlanta Public Sector Alliance (formerly known as Atlanta Jobs with Justice), the Atlanta Transit Riders' Union, the Clayton Transit Riders' Union, ACT Now, and others are each working to address the issues facing Atlanta, CTRAN, and other public transportation entities throughout the State.

While the efforts of these various groups do not appear to be well-coordinated with each other, the various efforts do present many ways for concerned Atlantans to get involved in public transportation advocacy.

(END/2010)

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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