SELC op-ed: Atlanta-region transit at a crossroads

A busy MARTA station.  (© Ron Sherman)

As two bills in the Georgia legislature look to build on Atlanta’s transit progress, Senior Attorney Brian Gist encourages moves that create regional solutions. For too long, a piecemeal approach has allowed for localized improvements that often fall short of providing the connectivity travelers need. In a piece published in Saporta Report, Gist points that, to truly address the needs of travelers, a broader perspective – and funding stream – are going to be key to success.

An excerpt of Gist’s op-ed is below. You can read the full piece at Saporta Report.


There is widespread acknowledgment that transit is an integral part of the solution to Atlanta’s famous traffic woes, and that MARTA and other transit agencies provide important services. But many have argued that metro Atlanta has too many counties and transit agencies, with too little coordination and funding to connect the necessary dots. And politicians seemed less supportive of transit than the citizens they represent.

But now it seems that the issue of regional transit is finally gaining steam.

The General Assembly is considering legislation that could address many of these problems and help make regional transit in metro Atlanta a reality.

The bills attempt to address several of the major challenges facing transit in the metro area. We have multiple transit providers and limited coordination between them, but travel patterns crisscross the region and span different government jurisdictions. Currently a transit line from the Cumberland Business District to Duluth would require crossing four different counties and three different transit systems.

One of the reasons for our disjointed system is the heavy reliance on local funding for transit service. Depending on local funding creates a county-by-county approach that emphasizes local concerns and projects over regional ones. And although transportation in metro Atlanta is one of the most pressing issues facing the state, Georgia has not provided meaningful state-level funding for transit.

Both SB 386 and HB 930 would create an entity called “the ATL” to facilitate transit service throughout the region. The ATL would help identify projects, coordinate service across county lines, and provide state funding for key projects. Most importantly, the ATL would provide this regional leadership without undermining MARTA’s existing service.

The General Assembly’s interest in transit is encouraging and long overdue. Metro Atlanta’s continued growth and success relies on addressing our transportation challenges, and any solution to our traffic problem will require a substantial investment in transit. The two bills represent bold and important steps toward a more robust regional transit system in metro Atlanta. Georgia lawmakers should work out a compromise bill and include these recommendations in the final days of the 2018 legislative session.