Commuters underwhelmed by MARTA’s $2.5 billion expansion

Photo by Chris Young | The Signal Archives

The More MARTA Atlanta Program, a partnership between Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and the City of Atlanta, slated a $2.5 billion transit investment over the next 40 years, the largest transit investment in four decades, though, their expansion blueprint has underwhelmed commuters.

The More MARTA Atlanta program expansion includes Light Rail Transit expansion (LRT), Bus Rapid Transit options (BRT), Arterial Rapid Transit (ART), frequent bus service and the addition of new transit centers and station upgrades.
Commuting Georgia State students may want to provide feedback in More MARTA’s survey, available on MARTA’s website, if they’re concerned about how the program will implement their tax dollars over the next four decades.


Georgia State commuters may deal with more traffic depending on a vote on MARTA expansion in Gwinnett County on March 19, 2019.

Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners held a Special Called Meeting on August 1, 2018, at the Gwinnett County Justice & Administration Center.

Roughly 60 people attended, not including Republican county commission.

Gwinnett’s Republican county commission voted 4-1 (Tommy Hunter voted against it), approving a contract with MARTA for transit service.

The contract proposes expansion of MARTA Gold Line to Jimmy Carter Boulevard, installing dedicated bus lanes to county roads. MARTA’s long-term objective will provide rail service to Gwinnett Place Mall. The contract spans 30 years and taxpayers will possibly fund the project.

If Gwinnett voters approve the contract in March, officials will enact a 1 percent sales tax on July 1, 2019.
Many Gwinnett voters were satisfied with the approval for Gwinnett citizens to vote on the ballot but uproarious at having the issue on the March election ballot instead of the upcoming November ballot.

Jim Taylor, Buford resident in Gwinnett County, said, “For us to not have the referendum on the November ballot would be a de facto form of voter suppression.”

March is in an off-cycle year and voting period, suggesting low voter turnout.

“It is a travesty that just a week ago, you allowed a question over alcohol sales to be added to the November ballot, but not this?” County commission candidate Marlene Fosque said. “This is far more important.”

Penny Poole, Gwinnett NAACP president, said, “We are constantly told about the budget and how additional elections are costly. I’m not understanding, this morning, why this referendum is not attached to the Midterm elections and then placed in March 2019.”

Gabe Okoye, chairman of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, further elaborated on commissioners’ ambiguous motives.

“We cannot stay rural anymore. We are losing businesses and we need to attract businesses. Frankly, this is politics. We have an election this November. There’s still enough time to get it on the ballot, so we can vote on it,” Okoye said.

Deanne Cox, a Lawrenceville resident in Gwinnett County, said, “I’m very concerned that [Gwinnett’s] success is being thwarted by our lack of options around transportation.”

“You have agreed to create a $900 million dome at Infinite Energy Center,” Cox said. “You are going to congest my neighborhood even more.”

Gwinnett county officials and North American Properties recently green-lit Revel, a $900 million entertainment complex around Infinite Energy Center.

“I need [MARTA] to be at Infinite Energy Center when you build [Revel],” Cox said.

If MARTA expansion in Gwinnett County falls-out due to low turnout, commuting Georgia State students could encounter more traffic due to increasing entertainment construction.


The first forum was hosted by Atlanta City Councilmembers Joyce M. Sheperd (District 12), Marci Collier Overstreet (District 11) and Cleta Winslow (District 4) at Fort McPherson August 2, 2018.

The crowd estimated 50 people, including nearly 20 seniors from senior living communities, despite heavy rain.
Keahey planned a breakout session, but the council prompted a Q & A, which provoked heated discussion, focusing on MARTA’s priorities instead of the project’s technicalities.

Sherry Williams, native Atlanta resident and MARTA rider, said, “[route] 83 is a high-volume bus route in the MARTA system… If we can’t get at the top of the list [for development], something’s wrong with that picture.”

More MARTA’s proposed program map rendered northwest and southeast regions vacant.

More MARTA hosted a second forum at MARTA headquarters August 9, 2018.

Around 30 people attended.

Attendees partook in break-out sessions, dividing the community forum into four stations: program overview, modes of transportation, general MARTA information and public input.

Kyle Keahey, the More MARTA program manager, said, “beltline connectivity and investments on Hamilton road” were the major themes germane to District 12, 11 and 4 at the Fort McPherson forum.

More MARTA utilized their online survey for project feedback.

Keahey said district consensus prioritizes BRT because it’s lower cost, but “the problem is you got to tear everything up again” with impending development.

Some attendees clashed altogether with More MARTA’s logistics.

Loren Heynes, PhD student in civil and environmental engineering at Georgia Tech, said, “[Auburn Avenue] has this great opportunity to take National Park and make it bikeable space.” Heynes, said, “But what we’re currently focused on is making Edgewood avenue the light rail route. We’d be combining rail with traffic.”

The clunky $98 million Atlanta streetcar clogs traffic and cycles less than 1,000 trips.

Free Drive, an emerging mobile technology, guts superfluous overhead wires.

“Free Drive allows you to replace the existing street car with either a lithium battery system or ultracapacitors,” Heynes said. “An ultracapacitor can charge a train in twenty seconds. It was created in Spain and used in Germany, Australia, and England very successfully.”

Greentech Freedrive, developed by CAF Power & Automation, pump out 6 miles between charges.

Other than streetcar reform, Heynes foresees current Beltline structure as a looming issue amid growing e-bike and e-scooter use.

“The Beltline trail is the only multi-use trail where e-bikes and e-scooters are forbidden. Every other multi-use trail allows e-bikes and new bird-type e-scooters,” Heynes said.

Inefficient Beltline structure bullies e-bike and e-scooter riders into Atlanta traffic gridlock. Heynes suggests Beltline planners could provide an individual path for bikes and scooters.

“Southside of the beltline hasn’t cement board yet, so it’s a crucial time to separate the bike path,” Heynes said.

More MARTA forums continue until the end of August while commuters remain unmoved.