The Georgia General Assembly has cleared out. Their acts of commission and omission are still being interpreted. One major omission has MARTA threatening to shut down on Fridays.
MARTA depends on income from riders and sales tax in Fulton and Dekalb counties. The sales tax income has dropped, leaving the agency $24 million short in the upcoming fiscal year and $40 million short the next. MARTA managers think they can ride out the storm using $65 million they’ve got in a capital reserve account. State law requires MARTA to put half its income into capital reserve for equipment and construction.
I’m sure there are arguments for keeping the $65 million reserved for rails and rolling stock. On the other hand, these are times that require reconsideration. And MARTA’s not asking for additional funds, just to use money it already has.
Various half-hearted attempts were made to free the money, but the effort got lost in wrangling between the house and senate. MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott is calling it politics, not policy opposition.
I’d put it more to the state’s lack of focus on mass transit. Apathy, if not downright antipathy, to passenger rail, runs deep in Georgia’s political class.