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Atlanta councilmembers to school public on hot-topic More MARTA tax projects

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In four scheduled community forums, local leaders will hash out plans for $2.5 billion in tax cash

A photo and a rendering of what the Beltline would look like with light rail.
A dated rendering shows what light rail along the Beltline might have looked like.
Atlanta Development Authority

Ask Atlanta City Council leaders, and they’ll say it’s high time for Atlantans to educate themselves on the proposed plans for More MARTA tax cash.

In 2016, Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax bump, which was expected to raise some $2.5 billion to expand the city’s transit network over the next four decades.

The referendum promised to, among other things, expand and enhance bus lines, grow the city’s light rail network, and possibly plop down more train stations on the existing heavy rail corridors.

Now, however, MARTA’s board of directors’ exact plans for spending the tax cash have become less clear, and Atlanta’s elected leaders want to help constituents understand the stakes and learn how they can have a say.

At four separate meetings, on August 2, 9, 15, and 23, Atlanta city councilmembers—and, in some instances, MARTA officials—will open the floor to questions, comments, and concerns about the implications of mapping out plans for the tax money.

“We want to hear from our residents,” said Councilmember Joyce M. Sheperd in a prepared statement. “These forums will give the community an opportunity to join more in-depth discussions and get updates as we prepare to roll out MARTA transit projects across the city. We’re asking everyone to attend.”

In recent months, discussions over how to allocate the tax funds have stirred some controversy related to past promises of a light rail loop along the Atlanta Beltline.

Activists with Beltline Rail Now!, an organization led by Beltline champions Ryan Gravel and Cathy Woolard, worry that MARTA’s most recent project list—which, they claim, was crafted without proper community input—jeopardizes the prospects of having transit along the trail.

The proposed Clifton Corridor, a light rail line that would connect Atlanta’s Lindbergh MARTA station with Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has emerged as something of a competitor to Beltline rail.

Both projects, BRN! advocates concede, are worthy of carrying out. But light rail along the Beltline, they say, was a main selling point when the More MARTA referendum was being marketed to Atlanta voters.

The MARTA board’s recent project list called for only seven miles of light rail to be built along the proposed 22-mile Beltline loop.

The city nonetheless insists that existing plans for tax dollars will be impactful: “More MARTA Atlanta will serve 126 neighborhoods and is slated to increase access to jobs by 56 percent, improve transit services to communities with large minority or low-income populations by 61 percent, and provide access to more than 70 healthcare facilities and 83 grocery stores,” according to a city press release.

All of that, BRN! supporters posit, won’t be possible without total Beltline rail connectivity.

The first forum, which will be hosted by Atlanta City Councilmembers Joyce M. Sheperd (District 12), Marci Collier Overstreet (District 11), and Cleta Winslow (District 4), will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. at Fort McPherson.

The other August meetings are scheduled as follows:

August 9

  • Time: 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Location: MARTA Headquarters, 2424 Piedmont Road
  • Hosted by: More MARTA Atlanta

August 15

  • Time: 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Location: To be determined
  • Hosted by: Atlanta City Councilmembers Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Carla Smith (District 1), Amir Farokhi (District 2), and Jennifer Ide (District 6)

August 23

  • Time: 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Location: C.T. Martin Recreation Center (formerly Adamsville Recreation Center), 3201 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
  • Hosted by: Atlanta City Councilmembers Andrea L. Boone (District 10) and Michael Julian Bond (Post 1 At-Large)