Expansion for MARTA? Not just yet

[private]Two top officials of MARTA were asked by a legislative study committee if they’re making any active attempts to persuade Gwinnett and Cobb counties to come in under the transit agency’s umbrella.

“There’s a lot of people, myself included, who think we ought to expand,” said Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody).

The answer was no, not at this time.

“We have exactly zero interest in a shotgun wedding to bring Cobb, Gwinnett, or anybody else in,” said MARTA Board Chairman Robert Ashe.MARTAC5Oct2016

“We would like to expand further, but we don’t need to expand,” Ashe said at another point.  “That’s really our focus — on shining the diamond, on making the MARTA system the best it can be for its current constituencies.”

Other counties can look at how the system is operating and then decide if they want to join it, as Clayton did in 2014 when it voted to join Fulton, DeKalb, and the City of Atlanta, Ashe said.

Ashe and MARTA General Manager Keith Parker appeared Wednesday before a Senate study committee that is looking for ways to develop a regional transit system for the metro Atlanta area.

One option would be to bring in other counties to become a part of MARTA, but Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) said there might have to be a rebranding of the MARTA name to make that happen.

“How open are you to rebranding?” Beach asked.  “The major obstacle with Cobb and Gwinnett is, quite frankly, the name MARTA.”

Beach said a single identity for transit services in the metro area would be less confusing for people who have to deal with MARTA, GRTA, Cobb County Transit, Gwinnett Transit, and other agencies.

The committee meeting provided another example of how MARTA, which for years was derided and criticized by conservative white legislators, has now burnished its image with lawmakers due to improvements in its administration under Parker.

“These reports, they get better every time we see them,” said Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega).  “You’re in better shape than you ever have been before.”

“You all righted the ship at MARTA, you have done a great job,” Beach said.  “We’ve got to get all five counties playing in the same sandbox on a transit system — I will continue to push that.”

© 2016 by The Georgia Report



Tags: Brandon Beach , expansion , Fran Millar , MARTA , regional transit system , Robert Ashe , Steve Gooch