Anyone who knows me personally knows I love public transportation. I once made Davis and Shannon ride The L with me one stop from one end of Wicker Park to the other because we weren’t going to be leaving the neighborhood during our quick visit for the Renegade Craft Fair, but I really wanted to experience Chicago’s transit. They were sweet to indulge me. The idea of being able to get around without the use of a car is liberating, and I wholeheartedly believe that excellent public transit is essential for a large city to be successful, viable and sustainable.
Which brings me to my hometown, my beloved ATL. I think lack of excellent public transit has held Atlanta back. It has stunted its growth. It has turned the city into a big traffic jam. While I often curse MARTA under my breath while waiting and waiting for the bus, I also believe in it, support it and want it to be wildly successful. Point blank, it is an essential part of Atlanta’s make up.
Creative Loafing’s cover story this past week, called “MARTA faces drastic cuts”, was an article by Thomas Wheatley about the transit system’s ongoing woes and proposed service cuts. These are big deals cuts that would eliminate half of the 131 bus routes and would restructure the remaining routes. Waiting for a train could take half an hour. We’re talking 30 percent reduction in service overall.
A few key points from the article (these are direct quotes):
• MARTA is the only major transit system in the nation that gets no funding from the state.
• The cuts would come at a time when transit ridership has dramatically increased, gas prices are predicted to rise, and access to jobs is increasingly vital.
• According to a study by the Federal Transit Administration, MARTA ranks as one of the most cost-effective transit systems in the country.
• Political infighting puts Georgia at a disadvantage when compared to states such as North Carolina and Florida, which have invested in transit and have been awarded millions – in some cases billions – in federal funding.
• Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell: “It is sort of man’s fifth freedom to let people travel,” he says. “Large numbers of transit-dependent people are imprisoned. This is a dangerous and damaging effect on society and on our community’s well-being. Even for the wealthiest among us, if the labor force can’t reach their job, everyone’s going to be hurt.”
While I don’t usually reference my day job here, I was recently interviewed by our local NPR station, 90.1 WABE, on this exact topic. The Creative Loafing article references Atlanta’s $11 billion tourism industry, and many service industry workers rely on MARTA to get to and from work. Because events sometimes end late at night, the proposed cutbacks could leave staff without a way to get home after working a long day.
Of course, the cuts would have an effect on all industries…AND take note everyone…the cuts would have an effect on all drivers. Anyone who drives a car in Atlanta and thinks this doesn’t affect them, listen up. There are people who choose to take MARTA and if it becomes less convenient they will start driving. That’s one more car you have to contend with on a daily basis. This means more traffic for everyone. Not acknowledging that this is an issue for the whole community is part of the problem.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the CL article:
“It appears they had the same sentiment toward mass transit as they did toward public assistance,” says House Minority Leader Dubose Porter of Dublin. “Which was the wrong way to view it. You ought to view transit as a major way to move people in a major metropolitan center.”
I love MARTA and you should too.