Transit expansion bill passes Georgia legislature

In passing the General Assembly, SB 369 will allow City of Atlanta residents to vote in November whether to enact a new sales tax to extend MARTA service. (© Joel Mann)

Marking the end of Georgia’s 2016 legislative session, a scaled-down version of a transit expansion bill passed the General Assembly late yesterday.

Pending the Governor’s signature, Senate Bill 369 will allow residents of the City of Atlanta to vote on whether to levy an addition ½ cent sales tax to fund an expansion of MARTA, metro Atlanta’s mass transit provider.  This vote would support the largest expansion of MARTA service in the City of Atlanta in decades.

Under the original bill, voters in Fulton and DeKalb Counties would have been offered the same option to enact a sales tax to fund transit expansion. Although this more extensive bill did not pass the General Assembly this year, SB 369 will provide a template for similar expansion of MARTA service for those counties in the future.

Current law allows Fulton and DeKalb Counties to move forward with a five year sales tax for any transportation purpose.  Should those counties elect to pursue that sales tax, a portion of those funds can–and should– be used for transit, sidewalks, and other non-road transportation improvements.

“For years, Atlantans have consistently asked for expanded transit service and have been willing to pay for it–SB 369 will finally give them that opportunity,” said SELC Senior Attorney Brian Gist. “We encourage Governor Deal to sign the bill into law, and for the City to move forward quickly with a robust public engagement process to help identify the best use of these transit funds.”

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