Watkins to AJC: MARTA expansion vote will have huge effect on Atlanta

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
A MARTA train in the Edgewood-Candler Park transit station.
A MARTA train in the Edgewood-Candler Park transit station. Atlanta voters will decide this fall whether expand the transit agency’s service by paying another half-penny sales tax within the city. The proposed expansion would include more rapid transit, light rail, and extending the Blue Line MARTA train westward to Interstate 285. (Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr)

The Atlanta City Council voted June 20 to ask residents whether they want to pay an additional half-penny sales tax starting in 2017 to fund transit expansion in the city.

The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Kari Watkins told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution what residents decide will play a significant role in how the city evolves and the kinds of people who will want to live in Atlanta.

“A lot of the problems we’ve had in Atlanta are because you only have one choice and when that option fails there are no other options,” Watkins said.

She said what other cities offer and what Atlanta lacks is variety. If someone can’t use the train, the alternatives are to either sit in traffic in a car or in a bus as there are currently no priority lanes.

With this expansion, not only will people have more options but those options will get them where they want to go faster and to more places than ever before, Watkins said.

She added that MARTA’s limited transit systems turns off rising generations looking for a place to live and work because unlike their parents, they’d rather spend the commute on their phone than behind the wheel.

City voters will decide on the tax in November. If passed, it would be the largest expansion of the city’s transit agency, MARTA, in decades.

The proposed sales tax is expected to raise $2.5 billion over 40 years to pay for light rail, more bus routes and bus rapid transit, new transit stations, and expanded heavy-rail train service — altogether 200 miles of new transit options.

Read more on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s subscription site, myajc.com.