Speaker Ralston Wants to Help Atlanta-Area Transit Agencies

In the aftermath of the I-85 bridge collapse, Speaker David Ralston is, once again, speaking on the need to devote more state resources to transit. In a letter sent to Governor Deal on Monday morning, Speaker Ralston wrote that MARTA and the Georgia Regional Transit Authority’s Xpress bus service are already seeing extraordinary increases in rider demand. More transit users will lead to more transit costs, something that agencies are not prepared for at the moment (which is not surprising considering that the Xpress bus is the only transit operation that receives dedicated state subsidies).

According to MARTA CEO Keith Parker, there was a 25 percent increase in riders on Friday. The AJC also reported that the stations were rather packed on Monday morning. Noting that these increases will affect the budgets of transit agencies, Ralston is calling for the agencies to “be made whole” by shifting state funds and leveraging federal dollars to pay for the rising costs. He has already assigned House Transportation Chair Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) and House Appropriations Chair Terry England (R-Auburn) to serve as liaisons to the governor’s office and is considering what the House can do in the 2018 legislative session to help.

Speaker Ralston puts in this teaser at the end of the letter:

The House of Representatives has a long and proud record of working to move our state forward. While this incident will have a short-term negative impact, it is possible we will find new ways forward, working in partnership with other stakeholders, to make long-term improvements to our transportation infrastructure.

It’s no secret that the Speaker wants more state involvement in solving Georgia’s systemic transit problems, not just ad-hoc funding for particular disasters like the I-85 collapse. SB 6 and HB 160 were two bills introduced in 2017 that would have created a regional transit commission to focus on long-term issues. Both were caught up in the squabbling between the House and the Senate, leading Ralston to push through HR 848, which establishes the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, on Day 40.  According to his letter, the Commission will “soon” begin working toward its goal of improving transit in the long term.

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in_atl
in_atl

I find Kyle Wingfield to be tiresome 99% of the time, but he does manage to be onto something every now and then, though it is a good bit less than the frequency of a stopped clock. (For example, I remember his claiming that the money dedicated towards keeping the Atlanta Falcons from leaving downtown for Cobb County should have been instead redirected to property tax rebates.) But giving credit where it is due, here is one of his few and far between columns that not only hit the nail on the head, but actually went against the prevailing “wisdom”:… Read more »

in_atl
in_atl

Sorry. That should have been “not only does the Atlanta area badly need a bunch of new highways, but it needs them for any transit plan to actually be effective.” That is, if the goal of the transit plan is to actually reduce congestion. It seems as if the goal of transit advocates is to force as many people off the road as possible, and not to meet the needs of a huge 28 county area with 5.3 million people in it … with 500,000 of that 5.3 million living in the Atlanta city limits. (Of course, the “transit advocates”… Read more »

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

So destroying in town established neighborhoods like VA Highlands and Morningside are somehow in your mind an equal trade off to running lines north to serve a market that wants them (contrary to what you said)…I think you need to put a little more thought into that equivalency.
Robert Moses died long ago…time to let his ideas go with him

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

“There should have been horse trading on this decades ago: fully funding MARTA (whatever that means) in return for as many freeways as the suburbs want. ” That not only is bad policy, but it is a proven fact that adding more freeway capacity does not reduce congestion. The more you build, the more people will chose to use them, thus making them just as congested as if you did nothing. Freeways have a cost beyond dollars. They destroy neighborhoods, reduce property values around them for residents, increase smog and ozone. There has to be an approach that gives people… Read more »

in_atl
in_atl

It is funny … when progressives increasingly say “choice” the options are limited to the ones that they approve of and would personally take advantage of. What Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Minneapolis offer are choice. They offer BOTH a fully funded (with state and local dollars) and fully constructed transit system AND a robust highway system. The anti-urbanites want ONLY the highway system and wish to starve/eliminate the transit system because the transit system is controlled by urban politicians that they did not elect and cannot influence. (It is true … MARTA would enjoy a lot more political… Read more »

in_atl
in_atl