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MARTA Expansion Plans Hinge on Sales Tax Revenue

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In the last two years, MARTA has experienced a major boost under CEO/miracle worker Keith Parker. With revenue rising, ridership swelling and timeliness improving, many plans have been floated for capitalizing on the successes. To sum things up, Keith Parker, at the request of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, addressed possible expansion plans and the funding that would be required to complete the various schemes. Parker lays out four options to provide additional service to residents — really three options with two variables — which are contingent on the levying of new taxes in Fulton and possibly DeKalb counties.

[A map of the proposals. Image via MARTA.]

Option 1, the least expensive of the three, is posed as two hypothetical scenarios. Both would provide for a 12 mile BRT line in managed or dedicated lanes from North Springs Station to Windward Parkway via Ga. Highway 400. This scheme, like the proposed rail extension, would service new stops at Northridge Road, Holcomb Bridge Road, North Point Mall and Old Milton Parkway, before terminating at the Windward Parkway Park and Ride. Additionally, one of the schemes would provide unspecified "service improvements" to the bus networks in Atlanta, East Point, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Union City and Palmetto — though admittedly Johns Creek really deserves nothing... All this could be funded by a quarter-percent sales tax boost in Fulton County.

Option 2 provides a much more comprehensive expansion plan, coinciding with a half-percent increase in sales tax through 2057 for Fulton County residents. The funds could bring heavy rail to Windward Parkway, provide for the same "enhanced and premium bus service" in all the neighborhoods mentioned in Option 1, and provide for "high capacity transit" to be studied further. A possible project is identified as a two-mile extension of the Blue Line from H.E. Holmes to Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive at the Perimeter.

Option 3, like the previous option, would be for a half-percent tax increase, but would also include DeKalb County. By far the most comprehensive plan of the three, the funds could provide for not only the 12-mile Red Line expansion, but a similar expansion of rail service from Indian Creek to the Mall at Stonecrest. Stops on the way could include Covington Highway, Wesley Chapel Road, Panola Road and Lithonia Industrial Boulevard, with track running in a new dedicated right-of-way. Additionally, the much-anticipated Clifton Road Corridor — a light rail system linking Lindbergh to Avondale via Emory University — is included in the list of projects funded under the proposal.

With three options clarified by the MARTA chief himself, will residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties see the potential in the plans and pony up the money to fill out the system?

· Letter to Chairman John H. Eaves, Ph.D. [Keith Parker, MARTA]

Emory University

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