MARTA to Improve Bus and Rail Service With New Savings
For the first time in years, MARTA finished a fiscal year with a budget surplus. The announcement was made Friday at a breakfast forum hosted by the transit agency.
MARTA chief Keith Parker, who took over the agency last December, knows where he wants to put the $9 million in surplus dollars.
“We’re taking the savings that we were able to realize and invest it back in our customers...in a smart way... we’re not restoring all the service, but we are going to be selectively targeting several areas for improvements,” said Parker.
This weekend, station restrooms will re-open for the first time in years, and Monday, rail service on the North Springs red line will extend to the airport for two more hours during evening hours.
Over the next several months, Parker is shooting to lower wait times on all rail lines and at least a dozen bus lines. He wants to win customers back after years of service cuts and higher fares.
“MARTA has been losing ridership very steadily for at least six or seven years. For the first time, the first quarter of this fiscal year (2014), we’re seeing a slight uptick. We want to build on that so we want to give people who‘ve abandoned us a reason to come back and we want to give our existing customers a more pleasant ride,” said Parker.
*For the complete list of service enhancements beginning this month, click here.
MARTA Chief Operating Officer Richard Krisak said the agency was able to turn a $33 million projected deficit in fiscal year 2013 into a surplus through a variety of measures including cutting vacant staff positions.
“We’ve identified some key savings by really going through and scrubbing positions within the agency so it’s not like we got a big new influx of funds, we’re just being smarter with what we have.”
Other cost-saving measures include reorganizing top management, refinancing bonds, IT improvements, and continuing to convert MARTA buses to run on compressed natural gas.
Beyond service improvements, MARTA officials say there’s more reason for optimism. Earlier this year MARTA’s board authorized the agency to begin taking bids to develop the area around King Memorial station in East Atlanta. Parker says a significant announcement is coming within weeks regarding a deal similar to the one that helped build the mixed-use development surrounding the Lindberg Center station in Buckhead.