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January 14, 2016

Keith Parker's Case for Redefining MARTA

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At its annual State of MARTA breakfast, CEO Keith Parker built a strong case for expansion of the transit system.  Under Parker's leadership, MARTA has substantially improved its fiscal health.  Prior to Parker's arrival, MARTA was projected to amass a $126 million deficit by 2016, today the agency has recorded three straight years of budget surpluses and has more than $200 million in cash reserves.  Ridership has also substantially increased, raising from 129 million to 136 million over the the last fiscal year.  Keith Parker believes the agency's commitment to fiscal discipline and increased ridership demonstrates that the agency is well positioned to expand its footprint.

MARTA's push for expansion will ultimately be decided by the Georgia Legislature which has just convened for the 2016 legislative session.  Legislative language in HB 170, the Transportation Funding Act, must be modified to give Fulton and DeKalb more flexibility on how they could spend future sales tax revenue.  A proposed referendum allowing an extra half-penny sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties would generate $4 billion in transit funding, which when added to federal matching funds, would allow MARTA to nearly double the size of the current system.

MARTA's push for expansion was not lost on several legislators who attended the breakfast.  Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, Representatives Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta; Taylor Bennett, D-Brookhaven; and Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody all shared Parker's sentiment for expansion.  Representative Taylor's support is particularly notable as he serves at Chairman of MARTOC, the committee with oversight jurisdiction over MARTA.

Read more about the State of MARTA here on the AJC.