Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
A public authority operated under Georgia law, MARTA is governed by an eighteen-member board of directors with representation from Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, and Gwinnett counties and the city of Atlanta. MARTA has more than 4,500 employees. Fares and a sales tax provide the bulk of MARTA's operating revenues.
History and Administration
When the referendum to create MARTA finally appeared on ballots in the city of Atlanta and in Fulton and DeKalb counties in the fall of 1968, MARTA's proponents touted the system as a transportation cure-all that would ease the metropolitan area's congestion and establish Atlanta as a "national city." Despite enjoying wide support in the city's business community, the measure failed in all three jurisdictions. MARTA encountered stiffest opposition from Atlanta's black community; black voters objected to the proposed system's marked service inequality (routes would provide greater service to white neighborhoods than to black ones), limited African American representation on the MARTA board, and the board's refusal to honor requests for minority employment guarantees.
This time MARTA encountered opposition from conservative suburban residents in Clayton and Gwinnett counties, where metropolitan expansion and white flight from Atlanta had recently contributed to dramatic population growth. The system's suburban critics, many of whom left Atlanta following the integration of the city's public spaces, predicted that MARTA would expedite the racial integration of predominantly white suburbs, would lower home values, and would make suburban communities vulnerable to federal busing programs and the dispersal of public housing. As a consequence, voters in the two counties defeated the measure by a four-to-one margin. In so doing, the system's suburban opponents limited MARTA's effectiveness as a solution to the area's
Despite MARTA's suburban defeat, however, its progress continued apace. After its establishment, MARTA purchased assets of the old Atlanta Transit System, a privately owned company that had operated bus routes in the city. With generous federal assistance and a 1 percent special sales tax collected in Fulton and DeKalb counties and the city of Atlanta, rail construction began in 1975. Service on the east line began in June 1979, and the system has grown steadily since then. Stations at North Springs and Sandy Springs opened in December 2000 to serve Atlanta's growing north side.
Rapid Rail System
The rapid rail system operates two main lines. The north-south line runs from the North Springs Station and the Doraville Station, both outside the Interstate 285 perimeter highway in the north metropolitan area, to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the south. The Doraville Station is the northern terminus of the northeast line, which branches from the north line and roughly follows the path of Interstate 85 through Atlanta. The north line, with the North Springs Station as its terminus, parallels the Georgia 400 toll way. The east-west line connects the Hamilton E. Holmes Station near the western interchange of Interstate 285 and Interstate 20 with the Indian Creek Station, the eastern terminus of the line.
Several of MARTA's train stations are noteworthy for architectural and civil engineering reasons. The Peachtree Center Station, part of the north-south line, is ten stories underground and uses the longest and steepest escalators in the Southeast to transport passengers from the station to exit points on Peachtree Street, Atlanta's main thoroughfare. Exposed rock in the station's ceiling bears testimony to how the station was blasted from solid rock beneath the city's skyscrapers.
MARTA's Five Points Station, the interchange of the north-south and east-west lines, is the system's busiest station, with more than 57,000 riders a day. It features two levels of track, allowing riders to transfer between lines.
To serve local residents, MARTA provides about 28,000 parking spaces at its rail stations.
MARTA operates more than 700 buses on 125 routes. The system uses nearly 120 buses that operate on compressed natural gas, a clean-burning fuel chosen to support the city's effort to improve air quality. Trains and rail stations are accessible to the disabled, and three-quarters of the buses include wheelchair lifts.
In recent years the suburban counties of Clayton, Cobb, and Gwinnett have launched their own mass transit systems using buses that tie into MARTA. Cobb Community Transit began operating in 1989 on routes within the county, located northwest of Atlanta. The Cobb system operates 102 buses on 13 local and 7 express routes that connect to MARTA. Clayton County's C-TRAN system opened in October 2001 with support from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and operates 4 routes. The Gwinnett County Transit system began operation in November 2001 with 16 buses, and has 5 local routes and 8 express routes.
Lyn Thaxton, The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) as a Case Study in Urban Mass Transit: A Selected Bibliography (Chicago: CPL Bibliographies, 1982).
John D. Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology
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