Maria Saporta: State of Georgia MIA regarding transit funding

One reason I’m so pessimistic about the likelihood of a robust recovery for the state of Georgia is the lack of state will to nurture the economy of Atlanta. The Atlanta metro area has more than half the population of the entire state, but our statewide elected officials frequently seem to embrace policies that will hurt Atlanta more than help.

At the SaportaReport, Maria Saporta posted last week about the lack of vision and funding for transit in Atlanta: When It Comes To Transit Funding, The State Of Georgia Is Missing In Action.

She notes:

The State of Georgia does not appear willing to step up to the plate to sustain and expand metro Atlanta’s transit infrastructure — despite the fact that the Atlanta region is the engine that drives the state’s economy.

For those who ask why should the state contribute to metro Atlanta transit systems, the answer is simple. Metro Atlanta contributes billions of dollars to the state’s coffers through the 4-cent sales tax and the 7.5-cent motor fuel tax.

The state has a vested interest in helping metro Atlanta thrive, and that means having a healthy regional transit system.

Unfortunately, the agonizing process of developing a $6.1 billion list of transit and road projects has made it painfully obvious that there’s just not enough money to pay for metro Atlanta’s near-term transportation needs.

One key way to bridge the gap between metro Atlanta’s needs and ability to pay for them is for the State of Georgia to become a full partner in supporting the region’s transit systems.

But the recent wrangling over the proposed TSPLOST has led her to the conclusion that the state will not step up to the plate. She adds:

MARTA is the largest transit agency in the country (the ninth largest) to receive no operating support from its state government.

As a result, MARTA (the backbone for all the region’s transit systems) has been operating on a starvation budget. It has had to cut back its rail and bus services, and it has had to approve a fare increase that will go into effect later this year.

To add insult to injury, the any money raised with regional transportation sales tax can not go towards supporting existing MARTA operations. Without a doubt, the most cost-effective use of transit dollars would go towards MARTA operations — to increase the frequency of its trains as well as its buses.

Now how egregious is this situation?

According to the most recent statistics (see Table 1-9) on the American Public Transportation Association website, the State of New York invests more than $3 billion a year in its transit systems — an average of $155 per person annually.

Massachusetts invests $1.2 billion in transit, or $181 per capita. California: $2.3 billion or $63 per person. Pennsylvania: $1.1 billion or $91 per capita. New Jersey: $1 billion or $120 per capita. Maryland: $844 million or $149 per capita.

By comparison, Georgia invests $6 million a year in transit — 63 cents per person. Only three other states on the list invest less per capita than Georgia — Idaho (20 cents); Montana (43 cents); and Wyoming (54 cents).