Atlanta transit expansion overwhelmingly approved

Atlanta transit expansion overwhelmingly approved
© Wikimedia Commons

Voters in suburban Atlanta’s Clayton County voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to join the city’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) system in the first jurisdictional expansion in the agency’s more than 40 year history. 

The referendum, which was approved on a 74-26 percent margin according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calls for Clayton County to implement a one-cent sales tax that would pay for MARTA buses and eventually trains. 

The vote reverses a 1971 rejection of participating in the Atlanta MARTA by Clayton County voters in an election that limited transit service in the city to just two of five initially planned counties. 

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MARTA is the eighth-busiest transit system in the U.S., and the largest that does not receive funding from the state it operates in. The system is funded entirely by sales tax revenue in counties that have opted to join it, making the Clayton County vote a bellwether of the viability of transit expansion in the Atlanta area. 

The MARTA campaign drew attention from national figures such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who both visited Georgia earlier this month to urge voters to approve the referendum to join MARTA.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) also campaigned hard for the expansion of transit in an area of Georgia’s capital city, although any new service that is operated in Clayton will operate well outside of his jurisdiction. 

Initial plans call for MARTA to begin offering bus service in Clayton as early as March 2015, with commuter rail or bus rapid transit to potentially follow in later years.