Measure Seeking to Restructure MARTA Clears House

Feb 21, 2013

A measure seeking to significantly restructure the way MARTA does business cleared the Georgia House Thursday.

The chamber overwhelmingly passed House Bill 264, 113-57.

If approved by the Senate and governor, the measure would force the transit agency to privatize many key operations, including billing, cleaning, and paratransit services.

On the House floor, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven), said MARTA needs fundamental change.

"MARTA needs to have a more frequent, more regular schedule and needs to have a more robust transit system.  And again, if we do not fix things, if we remain mired in these tired old arguments of the past, we are not going to get there."

In addition to outsourcing, the bill changes who appoints MARTA’s board. The measure switches much of the responsibility from Fulton and DeKalb county commissions to a group of mayors from the northern parts of those counties.
The bill also requires a reduction in employee pension and health benefits.
House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta) said the changes would put the agency on a more sustainable financial path.

"This will save MARTA fifty million dollars a year.  Fifty million dollars a year.  That's a lot of train service, that's a lot of bus service, that's a lot of money that can go to help reduce debt."

House Democrats strongly opposed the measure.

Representative Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) said since the state contributes no funding to MARTA, it had no right to tell the transit agency what to do.

"The state doesn't contribute any money whatsoever to MARTA, yet it has its hands in the decision-making powers. I think these decisions need to be left to the individuals that fund MARTA, specifically DeKalb County, Fulton County, and the city of Atlanta."

Another key element of the bill frees MARTA for three more years from a state-imposed spending requirement. The bill’s opponents, however, say the requirement should be lifted permanently.

Before lawmakers voted on the measure, Representative Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) offered a motion to table the vote, but House Republicans easily defeated it.