New MARTA budget to restore pre-pandemic operations

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Board of Directors announced on June 8 that their $1.6 billion fiscal year 2024 operating and capital budgets include $712.4 million in gross operating funds and $854.5 million for capital programming.

A news release states that the 2024 “budget supports the resumption of pre-pandemic levels of bus and rail service, and the advancement of large capital projects, including beginning construction on the region’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line.”

Several projects in DeKalb are slated to receive portions of the 2024 budget. MARTA officials will continue work on the South DeKalb Transit Center in Stonecrest project and the Brookhaven paver station rehabilitation projects in 2024, according to the budget.

MARTA will also begin work on the I-285 top end BRT project that Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and other north-metro Atlanta city officials campaigned for. BRT is intended to increase bus efficiency in high traffic areas.

Additionally, the budget states that it has money allocated for the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative – which is MARTA’s proposed high-capacity transit line that would connect two existing heavy rail lines through a major employment and institutional corridor in DeKalb. Key activity centers in the corridor are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University, Emory University Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston, Lindbergh Center, and Atlanta VA Medical Center.

The budget states that it includes State of Good Repair projects focused on improving customer experience with $50 million for the multi-year Station Rehabilitation Program and nearly $60 million for the procurement of new railcars. $20 million was allocated to elevator and escalator rehabilitation, $7 million for deep cleaning of rail stations, and $3.4 million for new bus shelter amenities across metro Atlanta.

“MARTA’s priorities are clearly reflected in the FY24 budget,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “We are investing in our employees and our customer experience, and that means restoring service to pre-COVID levels, continuing to add bus shelters throughout the system, getting our first Bus Rapid Transit and Arterial Rapid Transit lines under construction and getting ready for our new rail cars. As riders return to MARTA, we are committed to providing an experience and service level they can enjoy and rely on.”

MARTA officials balanced the budget without instituting a fare increase for the 12th consecutive year.

MARTA’s funding comes via federal and state funding, fares, a one-cent sales tax collected in Clayton, DeKalb, and Fulton counties, an ad valorem tax, and a 1.5 cents levy in the city of Atlanta.

The budget was balanced amid scrutiny from city of Atlanta officials.

On March 20, Atlanta City Council approved a resolution to audit a multi-billion-dollar MARTA plan that includes the Clifton Corridor project in DeKalb County.

In 2016, voters approved a half-penny local sales tax that “set in motion plans More MARTA, the largest investment in transit enhancements and expansion in four decades,” according to MARTA officials.

The audit would determine if MARTA has properly spent the money from the half-penny local sales tax.

“MARTA’s fiscal health and responsibility has been recognized by top credit and bonding agencies in the country, earning two AAA bond ratings,” said MARTA Board Chair Thomas Worthy. “My fellow board members and I are committed to ensuring MARTA remains a good steward of public money and continues providing safe, equitable service with a focus on expansion.”

To view MARTA’s 2024 Operating and Capital Budgets in detail, visit www.itsmarta.com/reports-and-publications.

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