Because of the I85 bridge collapse, residents of Atlanta are learning more about the necessary role that MARTA plays in this city. Already ATU members are spending countless hours of work to help new riders use the service and ensure that the MARTA system of buses and trains stays up and running. Union workers are putting in an average of 10 hours a day to keep up with the increased demand. This stress on both workers and the system will be hard to sustain.
Since passenger fares only cover about a third of the cost of the system, MARTA will be asking for emergency help from the federal government. In an interview with WSB TV, MARTA CEO Keith Parker stated that MARTA “will be seeking a level of reimbursement for the services we’ve provided.” Parker added that it is too early to estimate how much financial help will be needed but MARTA has already reached out to Georgia’s congressional delegation and the Federal Transit Administration for assistance.
This money will be needed especially because the state of Georgia currently gives no operating assistance to MARTA. This is an issue that must be addressed because this crisis demonstrates why public transportation needs to be fully funded and remain publicly controlled by the communities it serves.
There is an opportunity here for MARTA. There is a reported spike in ridership of 25% which will likely increase. New passengers are giving the system a try and are liking it. Management should reward everyone who is stepping up to bridge the gap. Money that is eventually received from the federal government in reimbursement should be fairly distributed to the front line workers who are making the difference every day!
Executive Board ATU 732