We have major traffic congestion problems in metropolitan Atlanta. Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of the proposed projects funded by the TSPLOST directly addresses roads.
More than 50 percent of the TSPLOST funding is directed to mass transit, including MARTA, which has reflected reduced ridership, high subsidy costs and annual losses since 2002. On top of this, another $600 million is added to TSPLOST for a new trolley system, which does nothing to relieve road congestion.
Let’s take a look at the facts regarding MARTA which came from their “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, year ended June 30, 2010”. (Editor's Note: See attached PDF)
MARTA FACT SHEET
TSPLOST allocates approximately $2.5 billion for MARTA Rail and Bus Systems of which approximately $1.1 billion is for current operation and maintenance, upgrading various systems, rehabilitation of infrastructure and various improvements. This is a bailout of all of their deferred maintenance.
MARTA’s long-range plan provided for the planning, construction, financing, and operation of a rapid transit system in multiple phases, consisting of approximately 60 miles of double track and 45 stations, of which 47.6 miles and 38 stations were in service June 30, 2010. The additional 13 plus miles of track and seven stations will be financed by federal money and through sales and use tax revenues, Sales Tax Revenue Bonds and investment income.
MARTA Ridership Between 2006 and 2010: While population served across Atlanta’s 10 counties increased 20 percent since 2002, MARTA ridership declined for rail and bus, six percent and 17 percent respectively.
The MARTA System:
The rail system consists of 47.6 miles of operational double track and 38 fully functioning stations. The rail transit system consists of 318 air-conditioned vehicles.
Bus system consists of 582 diesel and compressed natural gas buses and 15 small buses; a heavy maintenance facility and four operating garages; several park-and-ride lots and an extensive system of patron bus shelters and stops. MARTA operates 131 different bus routes.
User Charges for MARTA Rail and Bus Transit System:
User charges are intended to finance only a portion of the cost of providing services.
An existing 1 percent sales tax is in place until June 30, 2047 after which it will be reduced to .5 percent. Funds go to support transit.
The MARTA Act provides that up to 50 percent of the sales tax collections in a fiscal year can be used to subsidize the operating expenses of the system. Transit related revenues for the years ended June 30, 2010 and 2009 were 61 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of operating costs.
A 25-cent base fare increase and $1 parking fee hike went into effect on October 1, 2009. This was the first time MARTA had raised its fares in eight years.
The approved 2010 Budget was $787.5 million with $399 million allocated to operating expenses and $388.5 million allocated to the capital improvement program and debt service expenses.
Debt included a total of $1,647,575,000 bonds outstanding and issued under three debt indentures. They also had $225,000,000 in commercial paper. In the past, debt service was limited to 45 percent of the corresponding year’s estimated sales tax receipts but this limit was lifted.
The fiscal Shortfall at the outset of the FY 2010-12 a total multi-year (2009-2012) financial shortfall of $441.5 million was forecasted in the 2010 Report. The previous two years losses were between $500-$510 million each year
Do we really want more of this?
Georgia, we can do better than this.
(Editor's Note: For a rebuttal by MARTA, click here.)