Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua has overturned an arbitrator’s ruling that MARTA’s 2015 decision to privatize paratransit services to the elderly and disabled. Under the direction of MARTA’s board and former CEO Keith Parker, MARTA concluded that it was preferable to privatize some non-core functions in order to streamline costs and/or improve service. This decision was part of MARTA’s recent drive to be self-critical in order to improve both operational and financial performance, and make changes where it was clear change was needed.
MARTA’s unions, however, balked at the move and claimed it violated their contract. Judge LaGrua, however, disagreed. In her order, she concludes:
“In light of the overwhelming evidence that MARTA was unsuccessful in improving its on-time performance, despite substantial efforts and costs, and despite the federal court’s mandate that MARTA provide the best possible service to the disabled community, the court finds that MARTA needed and was authorized to subcontract its services to MV.
Paratransit services are services essential to the ‘least of us’, and an obligation exists to ensure that those for whom life already presents many challenges do not find themselves with the odds stacked even further higher against them. The ability to timely, safely, and ably travel around the metro-Area when the need arises is of significant importance, particularly to those whose options are few.”
MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe is pleased with the decision affirming MARTA’s improvement plan, saying “We are gratified that Judge LaGrua upheld MARTA’s right to competitively source our paratransit service, as well as our methodology of doing so. As she recognized, MARTA’s focus was on improving our customer experience. We are far from perfect, but committed to trying to improve every day while responsibly managing the tax and fare dollars we are entrusted with.”