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MARTA CEO: $100B (!) in transit investment needed for Atlanta to compete

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But does Jeffrey Parker’s “moonshot” goal for coming decades have a prayer at becoming reality?

A MARTA train arriving at a crowded platform at Five Points Station.
Growing metro Atlanta’s transit network fast enough to account for an ongoing population boom is a key issue.
JTesFaye

Looking back, 2018 was an exciting time for MARTA and its stakeholders, but the years and decades to follow could change the way metro Atlantans perceive transportation altogether.

In July, the transit authority took control of the struggling Atlanta Streetcar; in September, the West End station debuted a new soccer field for its patrons and neighbors; in October, the agency’s board of directors approved a project list that’s expected to infuse the transit network with $2.7 billion worth of growth.

All the while, transit-oriented development projects and proposals have been cropping up along several sections of MARTA’s cruciform rail network.

What the future has in store for the transit system could make all of that seem minuscule—that is, if MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker’s “moonshot” goal of juicing the agency with $100 billion (with a B!) worth of transit and technology over the next four decades comes anywhere close to fruition.

Alternately, Parker is candidly calling the $100 billion idea a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” or BHAG.

“If we continue to invest incrementally to improve transit, traffic will only get worse,” Parker said during Friday’s State of MARTA address, according to his Twitter page.

Sure, the $2.6 billion More MARTA expansion plan is a step in the right direction, but an exponentially larger investment would be necessary to (attempt to) put Atlanta’s mobility services on par with world-class cities.

Los Angeles, for instance, is projected to grow by 11 percent over the next three decades and has committed to investing $120 billion for transit over the next four decades.

Washington D.C. leaders are considering making a much larger investment: $500 billion over 20 years, according to another @MARTACEO tweet.

Since metro Atlanta’s population is anticipated to swell by some 2.5 million people by 2040, it makes sense that transit leaders should become ambitiously proactive in finding ways to move them.

Nevertheless, exactly how that $100 billion—about $2.5 billion per year—would be raised and spent is still up in the air, of course.

MARTA leaders would also have to work with nearby governments and other transit authorities to sketch out blueprints for the region’s transit future. (In March, for example, Gwinnett County voters will determine if the suburb will join MARTA).

Parker also said Friday that MARTA would be establishing a Riders Advisory Council and creating a chief customer experience officer position—new channels for customer engagement.