Clark Atlanta University


Fact Sheet


Why is Transportation Important?

Other than housing, Americans spend more on transportation than any other household expense. The average American household spends one fifth of its income on transportation.

What Counties Support MARTA?

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) serves just two counties, Fulton and DeKalb, in the ten-county Atlanta region. In the 1960s, MARTA was hailed as the solution to the region's growing traffic and pollution problems. The first referendum to create a five-county rapid rail system failed in 1968. However, in 1971, the City of Atlanta, Fulton County and DeKalb County approved a referendum for a one percent sales tax to support a rapid rail and feeder bus system. Cobb County and Gwinnett County voters rejected the MARTA system.

Who Pays for MARTA?

MARTA's operating budget comes from sales tax (46%), fares (34%), the Federal Transit Administration and other sources (20%). Only Fulton and DeKalb County residents pay for the up keep and expansion of the system with a one-cent MARTA sales tax. Revenues from bus fares generated $5 million more revenue than taken in by rail in 1997. In 1999, the regular one-way fare on MARTA is $1.50, up from $1.00 in 1992.

Who Rides MARTA?

A recent rider survey revealed that 78 percent of MARTA's rail and bus riders are African American and other people of color. Whites make up 22 percent of MARTA riders.

Where Do MARTA Riders Live?

Over 45 percent of MARTA riders live in the city of Atlanta, 14 percent live in the remainder of Fulton County, 25 percent live in DeKalb County, and 16 percent of MARTA riders live outside MARTA's service area.

Where are Weekday MARTA Riders Headed?

The majority (58%) of MARTA's weekday riders are on their way to work. The second highest use of MARTA was for getting to medical centers and other services (21%). Other MARTA riders use the system for attending special events (8%), shopping (7%), and school.

How Much is MARTA's Proposed Fare Increase?

MARTA proposes raising one-way fares from $1.50 to $1.75, a 17 percent increase. The increase is proposed to offset a $10 million shortfall associated with the openings of the Sandy Springs and North Springs stations. The proposal also calls for increasing the weekly transit pass from $12 to $13 and the monthly pass from $45 to $52.50.

Who Would Be Most Impacted by the Proposed MARTA Fare Increase?

While the increase of $7.50 a month may not seem like a lot at first glance, it could do irreparable harm to a $5.25 per hour minimum-wage transit user. These fare increases would fall heaviest on the transit dependent, low-income households, and people of color who make up the lion's share of MARTA users.

How Can the Public Comment on the Proposed MARTA Fare Increase?

Because MARTA receives federal transportation dollars, it is required to hold public hearings before any fare increase takes effect.

How has MARTA Grown?

MARTA has grown from 13 rail stations in 1979 to 36 rail stations in 2000. Two additional stations (Sandy Springs and North Springs) along the north line are under construction. These two new northern stations are expected to open in December 2000. With its $270.4 million annual budget, MARTA operates 700 buses and 240 rail cars. The system handles over 534,000 passengers on an average weekday. MARTA operates 154 bus routes that cover 1,531 miles and carry 275,000 passengers on an average weekday. MARTA's rail lines cover 46 miles with rail cars carrying 259,000 passengers on an average weekday.

Who Uses MARTA's Parking Spaces?

MARTA provides nearly 21,000 parking spaces at 23 of its 36 transit stations. Parking at MARTA lots is free except for the overnight lots that cost $3 per day. MARTA provides 1,342 spaces in four overnight lots. All of the overnight lots are MARTA's North Line. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a parking space in some MARTA lots. A recent license tag survey, "Who Parks-and-Rides," covering the period 1988-1997, revealed that 44 percent of the cars parked at MARTA lots were from outside the MARTA Fulton/DeKalb County service area.

What are the Similarities between Atlanta and Los Angeles?

A similar transit proposal in Los Angles sparked a grassroots movement. In 1996, the Labor Community Strategy Center and the Bus Riders Union (a grassroots group of transit users) sued the Los Angeles MTA over its plan to raise bus fares and build an expensive rail system at the expense of bus riders, who made up 95 percent of transit users. The MTA bus system, comprised largely of low-income persons and people of color, only received 30 percent of the MTA's transit dollars. Grassroots organizing and the Bus Riders Union's legal victory resulted in $1.5 billion for new clean-fuel buses, service improvements, lower fares, a landmark Civil Rights Consent Decree, and a vibrant multiracial grassroots organization of over 2,000 dues-paying members.

Where Can I Get More Information on Transportation Equity?

Contact the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, 223 James P. Brawley Drive, Atlanta, GA 30314, (404) 880-6911 (ph), (404) 880-6909 (fx), Email: Website: http\\

Prepared by the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University under its Atlanta Transportation Equity Project (ATEP). The ATEP is made possible by grants from the Turner Foundation and Ford Foundation.