Why Should Clayton County Approve MARTA?

Tomorrow, Clayton County voters will decide whether or not to approve a 1% sales tax hike that will expand MARTA services to the south Atlanta county. For their trouble, they’d see more bus routes and an escrow account for future light-rail or “high capacity transit options” drawn from that 1%. Clayton will be awarded two voting members of the MARTA board, who will join the five each from the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County. Bus service would begin in March of 2015 and MARTA wants to remind you some will be nice buses.

Like the rest of MARTA’s bus fleet, Clayton County’s proposed routes will operate from 5:00 AM to 1:00 AM on weekdays, shutting down at 12:30 on weekends. By December of 2015, there will be eight bus routes, culminating in ten by 2020. By 2022, high capacity transit (presumably rail) will be extended to the county seat of Jonesboro, with hopes to be in the early stages of high capacity transit for Lovejoy by 2025. The whole system will connect Clayton to the airport and downtown. The proposed map can be found here.

The much-derided transit service has a history of difficult expansion votes; tomorrow’s election may determine if changing demographics and transit preferences will allow an expansion in our generation. In 2010, Clayton County voters approved a non-binding referendum to join MARTA. In 2012, they voted out two county commissioners who had reduced bus service in the county, indicating “their preference for more transit options”, per the pro-referendum Sierra Club. This is in keeping with national trends favoring urban centers and “walkable” cities. If you want to cheer on those trends, join the Friends of Clayton Transit from 7:00-11:00 PM tomorrow at Riverdale Town Center.

The short analysis is this:  Clayton County voters will make a decision for their future tomorrow. The future of busses could appear within months.  Rail or BRT will take a little bit longer.

13 comments

  1. MattMD says:

    Chet–

    Rail and BRT will always take longer to implement than buses on the road, what is the point here?

    I don’t know if it the GT grad in me or what but it takes orders of magnitudes of more time to develop and study proposed rail lines. I am sure you know that there isn’t some magic rail fairly that makes transit lines available from the get-go. Yes, MARTA is much derided because my home, the previously majority-hick, County of Cobb and our sister county Gwinnett voted against MARTA back in the 60’s-70’s to the 90’s. It was racial pure and simple. We would have had a much more comprehensive system if the original five counties would have voted in.

    PS: Are you intentionally trying to come across as a jackass? You’re the Yalie, right?

    • MattMD says:

      I’d like to pull the PS part, sorry, had too much call duty the last two days. I don’t really think you were trying to be antagonistic.

      My apologies.

      • Noway says:

        Despite your apology, Matt, what part of Chet’s narrative would have possibly lead you to imply that he was a “jackass?” Seriously, “doctor”, that label fits perfectly on your commentary and observations more often than you may realize…

    • Will Durant says:

      I can’t speak for Cobb & Gwinnett but the initial votes against MARTA from Clayton were NOT “racial pure and simple”. While race was certainly a factor and cited frequently in a lot of revisionist history today as the only factor there were many other elements involved. I would point out the 1968 Bond Referendum to build the initial rail lines was rejected by Gov. Lester Maddox AND Atlanta’s Black community. The sales tax referendum in 1971 only had a dotted line extending to Jonesboro AND the airport for some nebulous promise of you will get yours sometime down the road, possibly within another decade or two. Board memberships were also a factor as were objections to there not being solid lines on the map from jump to the stadium and the airport. And yes, just like the recent TSPLOST failure there was the reluctance to vote a tax upon themselves where theotherguy was getting a piece of the action.

      I won’t deny race being a factor of course but for Clayton it was more about being treated like a red-headed stepchild.

  2. Jon Lester says:

    When the Clayton County transit system shut down, I felt for those low-wage workers who needed it most, and the loss would be no help at all to the local economy. This could bring some relief, at least for a time. Everyone’s better off if more people have a dependable way to go to their jobs and run their errands.

  3. gt7348b says:

    Nice post. One correction – the current MARTA Board of Directors has:
    * 3 appointees from the City of Atlanta
    * 3 appointees from Fulton County (one must be from North Fulton)
    * 4 appointees from DeKalb County (one must live south of I-20)
    * GDOT Commissioner
    * GRTA Executive Director (non-voting)

    Any of the three remaining counties who can join, including Clayton, will receive 2 appointees to the Board.

  4. debbie0040 says:

    I hope Clayton county voters approve MARTA. The residents really need it and would take advantage of it..

  5. Ed says:

    Other than the fact our current development/transportation infrastructure “strategy” is unsustainable, bad, puts us at a competitive disadvantage and makes the metro area less attractive to employers and people potentially moving to Atlanta… there’s no reason to not vote for MARTA expansion.

    Unfortunately for us, it’s probably a bit too late to truly make a dent in our sprawling mess but every little bit helps, I guess.

    • Harry says:

      Ask yourself, if you’re a moderate-income Clayton voter who doesn’t personally need Marta, would you be willing to add $150 to $300 per year to your household expenses?

      • George Chidi says:

        You might … if MARTA adds most of the amortized value of that $300 back to your property values, with the remainder being a kind of social insurance against future personal circumstances where you might actually need it.

        If MARTA costs you $20 a month in taxes, but your house goes up $3000 in value because it’s nearer to a bus route or a train station, I’d call it a wash.

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