MARTA Gets Smarta With Service Cuts

It’s a universally accepted truth around here that if you are a government entity, and you want to protect your budget in an era of cuts, you make the most painful public cut of services possible to ensure that the public demands your funding is restored.

Don’t believe me? Ask the Board Of Regents about their great plan to cut 4-H.

Marta now takes up the mantle by saying “No More Braves Shuttle“.

While I don’t have statistics to prove my point (like I ever do?), I think it’s a safe assumption that MARTA sees it’s greatest spikes in ridership, and thus additional revenue, around sporting events.

But, these riders are mixed in with a heavy group of suburbanites who, according to common knowledge, don’t pay taxes to support Marta (because, you know, these folks never shop in Fulton or DeKalb counties).

It is true that Marta receives no state funding. I’m pretty sure some of our local experts on the subject will be quick to point out they are the only large metro transit agency in such a position.

So, Peach Pundit community, I posit this questsion: Is Marta right to take away the services not relied on as much by their core county residents relative to use by non-supportive suburbanites? Or is this a ploy to make folks in Cherokee County demand the state to fund their Braves shuttle? Neither? Both?

Discuss.

39 comments

  1. Chris says:

    Wonder how much Marta would have to charge for the Braves Shuttle to be 1) revenue neutral on the shuttle, and 2) actually be able to meaningfully fleece the suburbanites to fund other operations?

  2. drjay says:

    i would think the obvious solution is to raise the fee for this “braves shuttle”, if the market would bear a surcharge for it, supply and demand and all….

  3. analogkid says:

    The Braves Shuttle is just about the only Marta bus you’ll ever see that is completely full. It’s also one of the shortest routes Marta offers. I have a hard time believing they lose money on it.

    • ByteMe says:

      Think about the time when the bus isn’t shuttling people between a station and the venue. What’s it doing? What’s the cost of that? What’s the cost of the driver who has to sit there during the game waiting for people who want to leave in the 5th inning because their kid threw up his hot dog all over the seat in front of them?

      • analogkid says:

        I’ve actually observed what they do, believe it or not. The buses don’t line up in en masse until around the 7th inning at the end of the game. That tells me that they were smart enough to do two shifts of drivers, one for the beginning and one for the end of the game (with a few drivers working throughout), which reduces the labor cost and fuel cost of idle buses. I’ll admit that there may be some increased costs due to labor (overtime) however.

        On a semi-related note, why doesn’t Marta have any small to mid-sized buses for less popular routes or off-peak times?

        • ByteMe says:

          I can’t answer the question about smaller buses, but you missed part of the question:

          When the Braves Shuttle buses aren’t being used for the Shuttle, what are they being used for? Where are they and what is the cost of that? Imagine those frequent nights when you have both a Braves game and a concert. That’s a lot of extra buses that are not being used for routes. Are those buses sitting around? Are they extras for other routes? What is the savings of reducing bus inventory if they get out of the venue shuttling business?

          • analogkid says:

            Right. I understand. I’m not saying they are definitely making money on it, just that there doesn’t seem to be a good, obvious reason that they’re not. The article doesn’t shed any light on it.

            I also have a hard time believing it was being provided as any sort of subsidized public service (e.g., Marta Mobility).

          • KingWulfgar says:

            Who knows? It’s entirely possible they just pull buses off less popular routes for that timeframe and they’d be sitting there idle anyway. If they really can’t afford to run completely full buses on a short route, why don’t they charge a little more to support those extra services?

            Sounds to me like Ic is right–they’re cutting the thing the people with money and political influence will scream loudest about.

  4. ByteMe says:

    They also dumped the Lakewood Amphitheater Shuttle and closed all the bathrooms except at 5 points station.

    Seems penny-wise, pound-foolish. The activity generated by sports and music venues is a great opportunity to build “goodwill” with semi-infrequent riders.

    However… if I’m running the Braves, I’m putting a couple of million out to make sure the shuttle stays running. LiveNation should probably do the same. The shuttle is specifically for their patrons, so it makes sense that they should pony up some of the cost.

    • trainsplz says:

      …yeah, I don’t get it. You’d think that with GWCC, the Braves, and Georgia Tech all relying heavily on the system to move conference attendees and employees, they’d exert more pull.

      • macho says:

        That’s the point. They’re are making the most painful and high-profile routes. The routes are more than likely profitable. I’m sure a lot more profitable then some of the desolate routes they run, were it would be cheaper to higher a taxi for the 2 or 3 people they drop off every night. But the desolate routes don’t get any publicity. They wouldn’t want the money from Turner field, they are trying to make a high-profile, high-impact statement. It’s no different than when Atlanta wants to raise taxes, they tell everyone they’ll have to cut police and fire if they don’t get the money, as the media marches like a bunch of lemmings, filming and interviewing a bunch of firemen and police officers.

        Making the statement, “We’ll have to cut a bunch of bureaucrats at City Hall” just doesn’t invoke the same level of sympathy, or media interest.

  5. Junius says:

    Fine by me. If MARTA has to inconvenience riders, why not start with those with the least essential need for the service? Having ridden the shuttle, I have yet to meet anyone on there reliant on it as a primary means of transportation.

    • benevolus says:

      Right. If the choice is to cut this entertainment welfare or something that people rely on to get to their job, CHOP that route.

      If the Braves want a shuttle, they can frikkin pay for it themselves. If it’s such a big moneymaker they should jump at the chance.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Over-representation of “essential need” at the expense of public transportation service fuels the mis-perception MARTA is a form of welfare.

      Cutting the shuttle is a stupid move on MARTA’s part (as is requiring a walk through Underground if that is still the case). MARTA ought to charge a nominal surcharge to help support the service. If MARTA can’t efficiently and effectively move high traffic volumes, what good is it?

  6. Jas says:

    That Braves shuttle is an absolute piece of garbage.

    Notice how they changed it a few years ago to make you have to walk the entire length of the urine smelling, panhandling, failure gauntlet that is Underground Atlanta

  7. ZazaPachulia says:

    When they’re always playing against a stacked deck, can really blame MARTA leaders for busting out their trump card whenever possible?

    MARTA is not a terrible mass transit system, but with genuine state and federal investment, it could be so much better.

    • KingWulfgar says:

      Why should the state (much less the federal government) pony up money to pay for one municipality’s mass transit system? Does this mean a portion of my federal income tax should go to support the NYC subway system (perhaps it does, but I wouldn’t know and would find that just as distasteful).

      • analogkid says:

        KW:

        The 10 Metro Atlanta counties produce 51% of the State’s total tax revenue, and receive 37% of the State’s total expenditures. Roughly the same percentage of transportation dollars, 36%, is spent in those 10 counties. Does this change your opinion?

        Source: http://aysps.gsu.edu/frc/files/Brief_188.pdf

      • Mid Georgia Retiree says:

        It seems as if MARTA has wanted the State to fund their system but without any accountability for how the funds are spent. It is also apparent that the MARTA Board has used the wrong approach in order to win favor from the State. Maybe it should take a lesson from Mayor Reed and extend an olive branch of sorts. You can draw more flies with honey than with salt.

        • benevolus says:

          Yeah, well, with Jay Roberts – a farmer form Ocilla- the Chair of the Transportation Committee, it probably wouldn’t matter much anyway.

        • stephaniemills21 says:

          MGR,

          MARTA wanted the state to fund their system without any accountability????? Whatever. Right now MARTA which get NO money from the state, YET has to ask the state how to spend their own money. MARTA has one of the, if not the best, fiscally run transit systems in the country and the only major system without state funding. MARTA could crawl on their knees to the legislature with olive trees in their mouths and they would not help.

          Also, the mission of MARTA is to provide needed transportation service to its riders. Braves games are not needed. Kudos to MARTA for using some of the only leverage it has to get the State or whomever, to act.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        For the same reasons they pony up funds for airports, air traffic control systems, ports, harbor and waterways, railroads, and highways.

  8. c_murrayiii says:

    Now come on Ronald, you can’t expect people to actually pay for a service they use….

  9. Game Fan says:

    A busload or trainload of loud obnoxious white people with a beer buzz coming from a concert or a game can be a scary thing. I know because sometimes I am one.

  10. BuckheadConservative says:

    Well, if it is just a stunt to incite public outrage, where can I go to start raising hell? Braves games and travel to the airport are the only times I use that forsaken transportation system

  11. gt7348b says:

    Just a couple of minor points:
    1. MARTA does indeed provide the Braves and Lakewood shuttles as part of regular service. If the Braves or LiveNation wanted to pay MARTA, that would be considered charter service which can not be done with vehicles with federal interest (which covers MARTA’s bus fleet). This is the reason GRTA no longer runs shuttles to the track down in Hampton.
    2. MARTA does see spikes with sporting events, but the biggest events are usually ones at the Dome (you know, Falcons, SEC Champtionship, etc). In 2009 MARTA’s highest ridership day on the rail system was April 15. Why? Combination of the Sean Hannity Tea Party at the Capitol and a Braves game: http://www.atlantaregional.com/about-us/boards-committees/regional-transit-committee (go to April Committee package and last page)
    3, MARTA also does operate smaller buses. The 300 series routes use converted paratransit (aka Mobility) vehicles. There are also a few 30′ and 35′ buses running instead of the standard 40′ bus and you can see them on routes like the 45 – Virginia between Midtown and Candler Park Stations through Virginia Highlands.

    Just wanted to provide some extra information.

    • benevolus says:

      They should almost all be the smaller buses. If they can’t make a legal turn or stay in one lane, they are too big.

    • ByteMe says:

      I seem to recall this issue flaring up a couple of years back and MARTA officials met with Braves officials and the service continued. Are you saying money didn’t somehow change hands? I would think there would be a way for them to contribute to MARTA’s operating costs in exchange for the service without calling it a “charter”. Heck, if we can give to a Congresscritter to get a law passed and it’s not called a bribe….

  12. gt7348b says:

    No – there is no money that changes hands between the Braves and MARTA. Despite its regional reputation, MARTA has a stellar reputation among the Feds and does not risk that reputation. MARTA’s earmarks (which I’m assuming are what you’re referring to as congresscritter bribes) are published in the federal register and related primarily to the I-20 East corridor, Clifton Corridor, Hamilton Garage CNG conversion, etc. Nothing to do with the Braves shuttle. Actually, from my understanding, the Braves shuttle is something inherited from the Atlanta Transit System.

    As far as MARTA buses making legal turns, MARTA provides the turning radii of its buses to all interested parties from the engineering department and they are standard turning radii for buses and larger vehicles available from AASHTO. For those (i.e. Kimley Horn and Midtown Alliance at 15th and Peachtree from the southbound Peachtree to westbound 15th Street right turn) who choose to ignore standards from traffic engineering on major streets with buses, that is another issue unrelated to the Braves Shuttle.

  13. Gerald says:

    A better question would be why so many Republicans/conservatives/suburbanites hate MARTA with a passion, especially those who drive on interstate highways built and maintained by state and federal tax dollars, and who send their kids to public schools who receive funding from the same.

    It is amazing: these same Republicans/conservatives/suburbanites know full well that tons of low wage workers who can’t afford reliable vehicles rely on MARTA to get to work and to school. They bash those people for relying on MARTA knowing full well that if they lose their jobs or have to drop out of school because of a lack of transportation, they will bash those same people for being on welfare and for being school dropouts.

    And it isn’t about “small government.” Again, if these people wanted small government, they’d demand that the interstate highway system be abolished and they pay THE FULL COST of their own highways with tolls. It reminds me of how the vast majority of Tea Partiers wouldn’t support MediCare and Social Security … programs that just happen to benefit them. It’s the programs that DON’T benefit them that the vast majority of the small government “conservatives” oppose. They support highways because they need it, MediCare and Social Security because they want it, but hate MARTA because they don’t.

    But that is not the entire story. Most of the MARTA haters (and Tea Partiers) don’t have anywhere near the same level of antipathy for, say, Department of Agriculture handouts, many of whom were originally created to help struggling family farms but now go to corporations and wealthy large farming operations. So, the antipathy against MARTA is mostly dislike of A) poor people, including low income workers, B) urban dwellers, C) minorities and D) Democratic voters.

    So, suburbanite Republicans either want MARTA to shut down (which will benefit the conservative, small government, lower taxes, free market, pro-business family values agenda exactly how precisely?) or want to take over the system and run it in a way that benefits ONLY the suburbanites who don’t need it at the expense of the low income people who do. It is all about completely ignoring the common interest in favor of sticking it to the other side. Politics as usual.

    • Doug Grammer says:

      Maybe it is as simple an non-metro-Atlanta tax payers don’t want to see their tax dollars going to Atlanta and being spent on something that doesn’t benefit them personally or any area outside of metro-Atlanta?

      Is there some clause in GA state constitution that says the state will provide a means for all citizens to get from point a to point b? If so, what is the plan for those of us who don’t live in metro-Atlanta?

      • benevolus says:

        Better public transportation reduces the burden on the highways, which does benefit a lot of suburbanites. There is a limit to what we can effectively do with just building wider roads, and private companies aren’t going to pay for it.

        And it’s not a Constitutional issue, it’s a free market one. Transportation is one of the criteria that companies use when they are deciding where to build/locate.

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