Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, more commonly called MARTA, is the principal rapid-transit system in the Atlanta metropolitan area and the ninth-largest in the United States. MARTA operates a network of bus routes linked to a heavy rail rapid transit system consisting of 48 miles (77 kilometers) of track with 38 train stations. As of 2006, the system has an average weekday ridership of 451,064 passengers. The MARTA acronym is pronounced as a single word, not as individual letters.
MARTA is funded and operated by the City of Atlanta, Fulton County and DeKalb County. As a result the MARTA system only operates within the boundaries of Fulton County and DeKalb County, with additional limited bus service to Cobb County.
MARTA is the largest United States transit agency not to receive state operational funding. The other three largest counties in the metro Atlanta area, Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton, have refused to join or fund MARTA and as a result, all three have independent transit agencies which connect to MARTA. The continued refusal of neighboring counties to participate and the lack of state funding for operation has limited MARTA's ability to become a fully regional transportation system for Atlanta.

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority History
MARTA is comprised of both heavy rail transit and bus transit that operate within the boundaries of Fulton and DeKalb counties. A recent notable exception is that effective November 20, 2006, MARTA is offering bus service to Cobb County's Cumberland Boulevard Transfer Center on one bus route.

MARTA system

Main article: List of MARTA stations Heavy rail network
The MARTA rail car fleet is currently composed of three different classes of rail cars:

CQ310 class (118 active cars):

  • Rail car numbers 101-200; built by Franco-Belge, 1979-1982
    Rail car numbers 501-520; built by Franco-Belge, 1979-1982, originally single unit cars.
    CQ311 class (120 active cars):

    • Rail car numbers 201-320; built by Hitachi, 1984-1987
      CQ312 class (100 active cars):

      • Rail car numbers 601-702; built by Breda, 2001-2005 Rolling stock
        MARTA's bus system serves a wider area than the rail system, serving areas in Fulton and DeKalb counties such as the cities of Roswell and Alpharetta in North Fulton, along with South DeKalb. As of 2006, MARTA has 120 bus routes, including 5 blue flyer express shuttle routes.

        Windward Parkway
        Mansell Road
        Stone Mountain
        Barge Road
        South Fulton Bus
        In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, MARTA provides paratransit for those persons defined as disabled by the ADA. MARTA uses special lift equipped vehicles for this service and can either deliver passengers to their final destination (curb to curb service) or can deliver the passenger to the closest accessible bus stop or rail station (feeder service). In fiscal year 2006 MARTA provided 289,258 paratransit trips. This is much greater than the US$3.50 fare the paratransit rider is required to pay. The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids MARTA from changing a paratransit fare more than twice the normal fixed route fare.
        Paratransit is limited to existing rail and bus routes and cannot extend more than a 0.75 mile (1.2 kilometer) radius from any existing route. Paratransit service is only provided during the hours of the fixed route servicing the area. An application for acceptance into the paratransit service is required; reservations are required for all users for each trip.

        Fare structure and operation

        Main article: Breeze Card Breeze Card
        MARTA operates 365 days a year. Rail service is provided from approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on weekends and holidays, and during certain events (New Year's Eve) trains run 24 hours. Weekday train frequency is 10 minutes on branch lines and 5 minute frequencies on trunk lines. Late night (after 7:00 pm) and weekend frequency is reduced, with train frequencies of 15-20 minutes on all lines. Bus routes have varying frequencies depending on passenger demand.

        Hours of operation
        Through formal fare reciprocity agreements, MARTA riders are able to transfer for free to four other metro Atlanta transit systems: Gwinnett County Transit, Cobb Community Transit, Clayton County C-TRAN, and GRTA Xpress. Some of these agreements require that neither system have significantly more transfers than the other. MARTA has stated that this is the case, that inbound (to MARTA from another system) and outbound (from MARTA to another system) transfers are approximately equal (for second quarter 2006 8,888 daily passengers transferred inbound and 8,843 transferred outbound). These data suggest that more people from the other systems benefit from free transfers than those living in the MARTA service area.

        Fare reciprocity

        Perry Blvd Garage 239 Buses(Perry Blvd NW & Hortense St)
        Hamilton Garage 210 Buses(Hamilton Blvd SW & Browns Mill Rd SE)
        Laredo Garage 249 Buses(Laredo Dr & E Ponce De Leon Av)
        Browns Mill Maintenance Facility (Browns Mill Rd SE & Hamilton Blvd NW) Bus Garages
        In addition to fare collections, the MARTA budget is funded by a 1% sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties along with limited federal money. By law, funds from the 1% sales tax must be split evenly between MARTA's operational and capital expenditure budgets. This restriction does not apply to other sources of revenue, including passenger revenue.
        Two of Metro Atlanta's inner suburban counties, Gwinnett, and Clayton initially agreed to join MARTA but refused membership when voters in their respective counties voted against paying to help fund the system. These two counties along with Cobb County have instead created their own independent bus systems: Cobb Community Transit on July 10, 1989, Gwinnett County Transit on November 5, 2001 , and Clayton County C-TRAN on October 1, 2001. A separate regional bus transit service, Xpress, is operated by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in partnership with 11 metro Atlanta counties including Fulton and DeKalb, which began service on June 6, 2004.

        Bus rapid transit from H.E. Holmes station to Fulton Industrial Boulevard
        Bus rapid transit from Garnett station to Stonecrest Mall
        Transit for the Beltline
        Direct transit link from Lindbergh Center to Emory University MARTA funding
        MARTA is governed by a Board of directors consisting of the following members:
        Positions on the MARTA Board of Directors are directly appointed by the organizations they represent. Although the state of Georgia does not contribute to MARTA's operational fuding, it still has voting members on the MARTA board. A similar situation exists for both Clayton and Gwinnett counties; as a consequence of passing the authorization referendum but not the funding referendum, Clayton and Gwinnett Counties have representation on the MARTA Board of Directors without paying into the system. This situation became controversial in 2004 when Gwinnett's representative Mychal Walker was found to have accepted US$20,000 from a lobbyist trying to secure a US$100,000,000 contract with MARTA. Despite the controversy, as well as a MARTA board ruling that Walker violated the MARTA ethics policy, the Gwinnett County Commission initially failed to remove Mr. Walker from his position on the MARTA Board.
        The Georgia General Assembly has a standing MARTA Oversight Committee, which is frequently abbreviated MARTOC. This committee is charged with financial oversight of the MARTA organization. State legislation concerning MARTA must pass through this committee. The current chairperson of the committee is Representative Jill Chambers.

        Four members representing the City of Atlanta

        • Juanita Jones Abernathy
          Clara H. Axam
          Gloria Leonard
          Michael Walls
          Five members representing DeKalb County

          • Harold Buckley, Sr.
            J. Thomas Kilpatrick
            Mukesh "Mike" Patel
            Pat Upshaw-Monteith
            Edmund J. Wall
            Three members representing Fulton County

            • Barbara Babbit Kaufman
              Walter L. Kimbrough, L.H.D.
              Marie R. Metze, Ph.D.
              One member representing Clayton County

              • George E. Glaze
                One member representing Gwinnett County

                • Bruce E. Le'Vell
                  Four ex officio members from different State of Georgia committees:

                  • State Properties Commission & Georgia Building Authority - Gena Abraham
                    Georgia Department of Revenue - Bart L. Graham
                    Georgia Department of Transportation - Harold E. Linnenkohl
                    Georgia Regional Transportation Authority - Steve Stancil MARTA governance
                    All performance data are for the 2005 fiscal year:

                    Customer Satisfaction: 79%
                    Rail Mean Distance Between Service Interruptions: 9,493 miles (15,274 kilometers)
                    Rail On Time Performance: 91.64%
                    Bus Mean Distance Between Failures: 3,301 miles (5,311 kilometers) Performance
                    MARTA has had two fatal accidents which resulted in a formal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board:
                    In addition to these accidents MARTA trains have derailed four times in recent years. The most recent incident occurred at the Medical Center station on December 4, 2006 when a train carrying passengers was moved over a switched portion of the track. No injuries were reported. Safety
                    Currently MARTA has one expansion project in the design phase:
                    Additionally, several traffic corridors are currently being studied by MARTA for possible system expansion:

                    • Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell

                    • North Point Mall, Alpharetta

                    • Old Milton Parkway, Alpharetta

                    • Windward Parkway, Alpharetta

                    Additional expansion plans for MARTA and other metro Atlanta transportation agencies are detailed in Mobility 2030 a timeline by the Atlanta Regional Commission for improving transit through the year 2030.

                    Memorial Bus Rapid Transit: Implementation of bus rapid transit from the former Avondale Mall to the MARTA Park and Ride Lot in Stone Mountain. This project has cleared the environmental study stage (the Federal Transit Administration issued the project a Finding of No Significant Impact in December 2006). The project is now in the engineering design and right of acquisition phase, with an implementation of revenue service in early 2009. Future expansion plans

                    Criticism and concern
                    Since the formation of MARTA, the Georgia state government has never contributed to MARTA operational funding. Currently, MARTA is the largest mass transportation system in the United States not to receive state funding.

                    Financial support
                    It is often argued that racial politics also play a role in the operation and future service planning for MARTA. The MARTA acronym is sometimes referred to as "Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta," a replacement backronym, due to the relatively low number of White, Hispanic, or other Non-African American riders in general, particularly after peak commuting hours.

                    Racial concern
                    As is typical of rail transit in the United States, MARTA's rail lines have two parallel tracks. Any train failure or track work results in shared use of the other track by trains going opposite direction, a situation known as single-tracking. There are no plans at this time to expand the number of tracks. MARTA is currently nearing the end of a complete replacement of tracks on all rail lines. Over the past few years, this replacement work has caused the agency to implement single-tracking on the weekends, which in turn has caused weekend patrons to experience less frequent service.
                    In the Summer of 2006, as a result of high summertime temperatures, many MARTA rail cars became overheated, damaging onboard propulsion equipment. As a result many trains broke down and had to be taken out of service for repair. This was further compounded by the fact that at any given time up to 50 older rail cars are out of service as part of MARTA's rail car rehabilitation project. To compensate for fewer cars MARTA shortened trains from 6 cars to 4 cars in length. Sometimes this resulted in almost half of the trains being shortened, resulting in crowded conditions for passengers.

                    Reliability of Service
                    The composition of the MARTA Board of Directors is also criticized. The State of Georgia, Gwinnett and Clayton Counties do not support MARTA financially, but still have positions on the MARTA Board of Directors. Additional criticisms of the MARTA Board is that they are not elected, and thus not accountable to the citizens whom they represent. Furthermore, the Board members are also criticized for not being regular users of MARTA and thus are not actually aware of the concerns of MARTA commuters.
                    As the metropolitan area grows the Georgia Department of Transportation has looked to greater road infrastructure to manage traffic problems. Most notably, a proposal for the widening of I-75 will put up to 23 lanes of traffic into the city. The city of Atlanta, however, has started a push for new mass transportation systems, such as a proposed Belt Line and a streetcar line up Peachtree Street. The Georgia Department of Transportation even plans to build a commuter rail line from Lovejoy, Georgia to Atlanta, and there is considerable support for an Athens-Atlanta line dubbed the Brain Train because it will connect the University of Georgia, Emory University, Georgia State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Several people have called for a new metropolitan planning committee to manage transportation, but for the time being transportation planning is split among different county and state agencies.

                    Misuse of MARTA funds by employees for personal expenses

                    Clayton County C-TRAN
                    Cobb Community Transit
                    Gwinnett County Transit
                    List of rapid transit systems
                    List of United States rapid transit systems by ridership
                    National Narrowcasting Network
                    The Rail Network
                    Royal Bus Lines

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