The sad tale of metro Atlanta’s failure to embrace MARTA

There’s a must-read article in the new Atlanta magazine by Doug Monroe called Where It All Went Wrong : If only we could undo the MARTA Compromise of 1971.

It explores the damage done to MARTA by the 50/50 compromise from 1971 which established that no more than 50 percent of MARTA’s sales tax revenue (from City of Atlanta and Fulton/Dekalb counties) could go to operating costs.

As the article states:

That has meant that whenever MARTA needed more money for operating expenses, it had to cut elsewhere or raise fares. As a result, MARTA has raised the fare over the years to today’s $2.50, making it one of the priciest transit systems in the country.

My favorite part of the article is one that examines the way the metro embraced car-dependent sprawl while shunning transportation alternatives and a walkable built environment.

It reads like a case study of what happens when a metro focuses on short-term money making instead of long-term place making.

Georgia started “building highways expressly to enrich developers,” [former AJC reporter David Goldberg] says. “A whole lot of land owners and developers who knew how to do suburban development had the ear of state government and the money to buy influence…A lot of what was new suburban development back then is now underused, decaying, and part of an eroding tax base in the older suburban areas.”

“The sick joke of it all is that we built the place to be auto-oriented and designed it about as bad as we could to function for auto use,” Goldberg says. “The highway network we did build was designed in a way almost guaranteed to produce congestion—the land use around all that development put the nail in the coffin.”

Read the full article here.