The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Board of Directors recently adopted the Authority’s fiscal year 2020 Operating and Capital Budget. The nearly $1.1 billion budget includes $523.9 million in operating funds and $579.7 million for capital programming, with a projected reserve balance of $203.5 million.
MARTA’s FY 20 budget aligns with aintaining current levels bus, rail, and paratransit service, while providing for capital projects aimed at transit expansion, enhancing connectivity and spurring economic growth, officials said.
“Our budget reflects MARTA’s priorities and its commitment to its customers, employees and fiscal responsibility,” said MARTA General Manager & CEO Jeffrey Parker. “Along with bus and railcar acquisitions and facilities improvements, we’re also making system-wide changes to impact our customers’ user experience and making investments in our employees in a very tangible way.”
In the coming months, MARTA will solicit applicants for a Riders’ Advisory Council. Comprised of representatives from each member jurisdiction, the council will meet regularly to discuss customer concerns, advise MARTA on actionable service improvements, and serve as a sounding board for transit initiatives.
MARTA also plans to launch a customer experience program to help identify and resolve issues that impact ridership or rider satisfaction. A Chief of Customer Experience will be hired in the fiscal year to coordinate and manage rider-related programs and activities.
To reduce air pollution and minimize delays, MARTA will spend $25 million on compressed natural gas buses in the FY 20 budget as it begins replacing much of its aging fleet with vehicles equipped with state-of-the-art features and customer amenities. MARTA also anticipates spending $40 million to begin replacing its railcar fleet, a major procurement that will cost $630 million during the next 10 years.
Before the new vehicles are placed into service, MARTA has also earmarked more than $16 million to rehabilitate its rail stations. In addition, MARTA will spend $6.6 million on the installation of its audio/visual information system (AVIS) with upgraded digital signage and speakers that will enable staff to communicate more clearly and effectively with rail station customers.
“The board’s responsibility for the organizational budget is two-fold: ensuring that we are good stewards of our finances and making sure that we accomplish the projects that are necessary to maintain the system and accomplish the expansion needed to support connectivity and economic development opportunities and improve our riders’ experience,” said MARTA Board Chair Freda Hardage. “With this budget, we’re doing both.”
To bolster its largest and most extensive transit mode, MARTA is allocating funding for “The Year of the Bus,” a long-term initiative aimed at ensuring high-quality service on all 110 bus routes that traverse nearly 33 million vehicle miles annually.
Also aimed at enhancing our bus riders’ user experience – and the most immediately impactful – is the addition of 1,000 bus shelters and other amenities in the next five years. So far in DeKalb County, 20 shelters have been completed, with another 70 scheduled for completion in 2019. Bus shelters and amenities are forthcoming in Atlanta, Fulton County, and Clayton County, as well.
MARTA is pursuing ongoing plans to transform real estate at its rail stations into “community hubs” that are centers of art, commerce, and recreation. Leveraging the success of its increasingly popular transit-oriented developments at rail stations, MARTA is working with Soccer in the Streets to add more playing fields in addition to those already at Five Points and West End. Artbound, MARTA’s award-winning, creative placemaking program, will be unveiling a slate of inspiring new performances, concerts, and exhibits.