Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., General Manager/Chief Executive Officer
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
The Atlanta region has been one of the fastest growing areas in the nation over the last decade with its population doubling over the last 20 years. Not surprisingly, this rapid growth has created significant traffic congestion and a strain on existing infrastructure in our region. While we’ve grown exponentially, investments in transportation planning and infrastructure have not kept pace.
Georgia ranks fourth-lowest in the country in infrastructure investment — two-thirds the national average. As a result, the region has experienced the largest increase in traffic congestion in the nation — a 76 percent increase in travel delay. Congestion is having a severe impact on the quality of life and economic development in the region and has challenged us to come together as a state and region to look for solutions.
Regional planning has become an important issue among the various transit agencies that serve the Metro Atlanta area. MARTA is the largest and most experienced transit agency providing combined rail, bus and paratransit service. In addition, there are a number of local bus services as well as one state-run commuter service. As congestion has grown, it has become abundantly clear that we need to take a more comprehensive and integrated approach to transit service throughout our region.
Through the regional Transit Planning Board, state and local elected officials and representatives from the various transportation agencies are currently working together to develop a regional transit plan as well as options for funding and governing a comprehensive, regional system in the future.
In addition, the Georgia legislature is looking at new ways to fund transportation programs throughout the state. A legislative study committee recently released a report advocating for new sources of transportation funding, new approaches to building projects and an increased focus by state government to ensure that we are meeting Georgia’s transportation needs. This is a huge step in the right direction!
In order to have a world-class city and state, we need a world-class transportation system that is built on a vision that is bold, comprehensive and well-balanced. State and local leaders from throughout Georgia are clearly committed to this effort and work is underway. As we work together and support our leaders as they make the tough decisions, I truly believe we will find solutions needed to break the gridlock and keep our region strong.
In 2007, Metro Transit in Madison, Wis., recorded its second highest ridership count in more than 35 years and is on pace to break its all-time ridership number in the next couple of years.
With successful unlimited ride pass programs in place, an increasing number of contracting partners in neighboring communities and a riding public reacting to the sting of high gas prices, ridership has increased by more than 25.9 percent since 2000. Paratransit ridership has increased by 12.1 percent in that same time period.
Coinciding with this success, Metro has also found itself hit with the rise of fuel costs as well as a decrease in state operational funding. In 2008, Metro will receive about 34 percent of its operating expenses funded by the state compared to 42 percent about 10 years ago. As a result, the city of Madison’s share of transit funding increased 35 percent between 2003 and 2007, more than any other increase for other city departments.
With Wisconsin transit systems being typically property-tax funded, Metro Transit is an example of the shortfall of this revenue source. It is no longer able to support the community investments needed to sustain the growing popularity of mass transit now and into the future.