Despite the icy roads and lack of fully restored bus service, the region’s local elected leaders and transportation officials met on Thursday to discuss transportation policy issues. At the monthly Transportation and Air Quality Committee of the Atlanta Regional Commission local elected officials received updates on the Regional Transportation Planning process (Plan 2040).
This meeting was followed by a hastily arranged meeting of the Atlanta Regional Roundtable. Apparently after the last Roundtable meeting members of the business community and the Georgia legislature were upset at the political maneuvering. They feared that the lack of representation from Atlanta or Fulton county on the executive committee would threaten the ability of the sales tax referendum to pass the majority of voters. So over the holidays Georgia House Speaker David Ralston called the executive committee and Mayor Kasim Reed to his office to broker a compromise deal. The compromise consisted of a three part deal in which Mayor Bucky Johnson of Norcross would resign from the executive committee to be replaced by Mayor Kasim Reed and in exchange Mayor Johnson would be made a non-voting chair of the Roundtable and the executive committee.
This compromise was presented to the full Regional Roundtable membership for approval. At first members of the full Roundtable balked at the lack of transparency in the deal making. In addition, DeKalb CEO Ellis, and the Commission Chairs of Clayton, Fulton, and Rockdale stated they didn’t feel that adding Mayor Reed went far enough to fixing the lack of balance/diversity on the executive committee. After some discussion the resolution was adopted by a majority vote.
This meeting was followed by a meeting of the Regional Transit Committee of the Atlanta Regional Commission. The committee is working on drafting legislation to create a Metropolitan Transit Authority for the Atlanta region. The bill is being drafted at the direction of Mayor Reed in part to create an entity to receive any transit funding from the regional sales tax. The bill is still being revised so has not been released to the public. The committee plans to vote on a final version on January 26th and find a legislative sponsor for the bill in the Georgia House and Senate. The committee is hoping the bill will pass this legislative session.
Highlights of the Proposed Bill
- The bill would set up a structure for a regional transit authority in Metro Atlanta and a structure for other parts of the state to create their own.
- The Atlanta MTA would include the 10 ARC counties and the option for the first ring of surrounding counties to join at a later date.
- The new entity would be able to operate new service, but would not take over any existing service unless at the request of the existing provider. It would have competitive bidding between public and private to operate new service.
-The new entity would control any new sources of funds, including regional sales tax funds, but have no control over the existing MARTA tax funds.
- The legislation would permanently end the 50/50 restriction on MARTA’s budget and allow MARTA to receive new regional sales tax funds for its existing operations. It would also allow MARTA to operate rail outside Fulton and DeKalb.
- The MTA Board would include a county commissioner and mayor from each county, the mayor of Atlanta, and 3 state representatives. A weighted voting system by population and/or funding would be set up by the agency’s by-laws.