Last week, Atlanta’s notoriously dysfunctional mass transportation authority, MARTA, released a $2.7-billion expansion plan that will extend its services from the city center via light rail, bus rapid transit, and arterial roadways. The announcement marks the largest development strategy made by the organization in decades.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the 40-year plan, “More MARTA,” was approved by the authority’s board of directors in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Officials have agreed to dole out money to 17 projects across the city, allocating large sums to the Beltline and the Clifton Corridor, the latter of which will include four miles of light rail service from the Lindbergh Station to a new station at Emory University.
In total, 29 miles of light rail will be built throughout the city, as well as 13 miles of new bus lines. Three arterial rapid transit routes serving both the north and south sides of Atlanta will be built out as well, making 20-to-30 minute trips much faster. Station improvements along the MARTA rail line will also be made over the next few years.
Initial plans for the major expansion were announced in May, but significant adjustments were made leading up to the final decision after Beltline advocates pushed for more money for public transit along the 22-mile loop. The light rail addition has long been in the works for the famed urban park and trial. Further tweaks were also made to extend train and bus lines more effectively into some of Atlanta’s 10 outlying counties. In recent years, several have voted to join MARTA, further incentivizing the transportation organization to provide high-capacity services to the outer regions.
Atlanta is the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and it has suffered from poor public transportation.
A report put out by the U.S. Census Bureau in March revealed that nearly 90,000 people moved to the city from 2016 to 2017, bringing the total population to approximately 5.8 million people. It’s the largest single-year growth gain since the Great Recession. These scores of people are moving to Atlanta largely for jobs—77,300 were added last year—but not everyone is living in the areas where mass transit is already available for their daily commutes.