MARTA Accused of Transit Inequity on Campbellton Road Bait-and-Switch
(APN ) ATLANTA – Atlanta City Councilmembers, community leaders, and residents of southwest Atlanta have accused the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) of transit inequity and of a bait-and-switch in the agency’s proposal to use MORE MARTA funds for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead of Light-Rail Transit (LRT) on Campbellton Road.
On Tuesday, February 08, 2022, Councilmembers Andrea Boone (District 10), Antonio Lewis (District 1), Marci Collier Overstreet (District 11), and Keisha Waites (Post 3-at-large) hosted a Town Hall Meeting at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church to discuss what they call a “missing investment” of some two hundred million dollars with respect to Southwest Atlanta.
MARTA recently announced its recommendation of BRT instead of LRT for Campbellton Road.
“Emory [University] is getting a train. The Beltline is getting the train. And some folk on social media say, ‘Take the BRT.’ And then I told them, I said, hold it now, why don’t we put a BRT on the Beltline? Why don’t we put a BRT out to Emory, as opposed to taking it from a… working class Black community?” Fort said.
“If the truth matters, we have to say it… I’ma tell the truth and shame the Devil. Emory is a large, White institution… And the Beltline don’t go nowhere near to Campbellton Road,” Fort said.
“For people to come along, get us to vote for something, and then pull it back, bait and switch, that’s a shame before God,” Fort said.
“If they lied to us on this, if they don’t keep their promises on this, somebody gonna have to start a campaign to beat that penny tax in March. Why should we believe them in March when we can’t believe them now?” Fort said.
“Taking money out of your pocket because you thought there was gonna be light rail,” Fort said.
“According to the presentation recently shared publicly by MARTA, $200 million of promised investment is missing from the More MARTA Campbellton Road transit project,” Councilwoman Overstreet said in a statement.
“This is alarming to me, Southwest Atlanta residents, and all taxpayers in Atlanta. We need to be very efficient and deliberate in this process to make sure that the voices of our constituents are heard… so we can build equitable transit in our community,” Councilwoman Overstreet said.
“MARTA is extremely disappointed with how the situation regarding the Campbellton Corridor project has unfolded and the negative and inflammatory tone of the conversation surrounding the proposed transit mode,” MARTA stated.
“Councilmember Overstreet has been closely involved with this project since its inception and is fully aware that light rail was never promised in this corridor,” MARTA stated.
“In fact, she has stated publicly that her constituents aren’t interested in light rail. She has also been publicly supportive of BRT and its benefits,” MARTA said.
MARTA referenced an April 25, 2018 Transportation Committee Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta in which Overstreet stated, “Well let me just share that Cascade/Campbellton that whole area is not a fan of light rail. But I do understand that everyone is interested in bus rapid transit.”
MARTA also included a video of Overstreet visiting Los Angeles, California, to learn about their BRT system, which she praised at the time.
“I have never seen MARTA act like this,” Fort said. “I’ve never seen them disrespect a Councilmember like this… It’s out of character for them to be so vicious, to issue statements attacking the Councilmember. Shame on them!”
The statement was remarkable given the intergovernmental nature of MARTA and the need for ongoing cooperation between the transit authority and the city and county governments who choose to pay into the system.
“What we’re talking about, you guys, it’s not hearsay, we’re talking about facts,” Overstreet said at the Town Hall Meeting.
“There’s a video out with me talking about how much I love BRT, and guess what? We were in L.A., I loved BRT, I thought it was absolutely beautiful,” Overstreet said.
“But what I did not say, not once, was that I did not want the full 317 million dollars of investment on Campbellton Road. As a matter of fact I made it clear over and over and over and over again,” Overstreet said.
“Two weeks ago when I saw that presentation, and I only saw 120 million dollars of investment in the form of a BRT… I knew right then I no longer like BRT, not for Campbellton Road. If that’s the best you can do for us, we can’t have BRT,” she said.
“It says that I said they were stealing. Not one time did I say they were stealing,” Overstreet said, referring to MARTA’s press release.
“We need to know, where is the two hundred million to go along with this 120 million that we have been talking about for four full years?” Overstreet said.
“I don’t claim to know everything, but I know a lot, and I definitely don’t get money confused,” Overstreet said.
“I don’t care about the names they come up with for me, because I know me well,” she said.
In 2016, Atlanta voters approved the “MORE MARTA” referendum, a half-penny sales tax to last forty years, to support, as it were, more MARTA projects to build out the transit system in Atlanta. This half penny is expected to generate an estimated 2.7 billion dollars in revenue for MARTA projects.
A MORE MARTA Fact Sheet on MARTA’s website shows the projects that MARTA had been planning to develop with the sales tax money, including several light rail and street car lines, along with several rapid bus projects.
The light rail and street car projects are: Beltline Northwest LRT, Beltline Southwest LRT, Beltline West LRT, Beltline Southwest LRT, Campbellton Road LRT, the Clifton Corridor LRT (line to Emory University); and the Streetcar East extension and Streetcar West extension, both of which would extend the Auburn Avenue streetcar in Downtown Atlanta.
The rapid bus projects include Capitol Avenue BRT, North Avenue – Hollowell BRT, and Northside Drive BRT.
The investment in light rail on Campbellton Road was specifically referenced in at least two additional documents, including a May 2018 presentation on the final project plan; and a 2018 letter from the now-former MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker to then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, both obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
At the Monday, February 07, 2022 Full Council Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta, the Council requested an accounting from MARTA regarding how MARTA plans to provide Southwest Atlanta with a total 317 million dollars in transit spending; and what portions of those promised funds, if any, have been diverted to another neighborhood.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2022)