By Joel Hall
Five weeks into her position, Beverly Scott, the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority's new general manager and CEO, discussed plans for expanding MARTA's services throughout the region, particularly in Clayton County, where she believes light-rail service may solve some of the area's growing congestion problems.
"The region has been tremendously transformed by outstanding growth over the last 20 to 25 years," said Scott. "Part of the things that are helping us grow are actually choking us, if we don't get our arms around the congestion issues."
Scott comes to MARTA with over 30 years experience working for regional transit systems, having served five years as the general manager of the Sacramento (Calif.) Regional Transit District, and six years with the same title at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, which is one of just four statewide transit programs in the country.
Drawing experience from working for transit agencies in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., Scott said metro Atlanta governments need to shift to a more regional transportation focus in order to keep up with the region's exponential growth.
"This is not the MARTA that it was 20 or 30 years ago," said Scott. The new general manager suggested that insular thinking, as well as racial tensions may have played a part in slowing down MARTA's regional expansion. She urged metro governments to maximize "on what has become a tremendous public asset," and to "appreciate the regional value that MARTA has. If you never put the elephant on the table, you can never address it."
MARTA, which operated C-TRAN, the county's public transportation system, from its inception in 2001 until 2004, regained control of C-TRAN from the First Transit company in October. Scott spoke of the "great potential" for light-rail service in the county, and said that MARTA is "absolutely focused" on improving C-TRAN's services and making sure buses run on time.
Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said he has high hopes for MARTA's operation of C-TRAN.
"I want to see them go from a good service to an excellent service," said Bell. "There were previously a lot of complaints with our routing, bus maintenance, and para-transit buses. I expect to see MARTA streamline those services, and I am very pleased, so far, with what I am seeing."
"There is a need for MARTA to come beyond the airport," Bell said, expressing a desire the see the agency expand is rail service southward to the Atlanta Motor Speedway. "I am one of those people who would like to see MARTA take on a more regional responsibility. If you are in the Atlanta Motor Speedway, you are only a short distance from Fayette County ... Spalding County ... it allows you an opportunity to provide services for those folks."
Scott said MARTA doesn't have any current plans to expand rail service into the Southern Crescent, but given the region's projected growth, it may be a future possibility.
"It's tremendously cost effective, if you have the density and the growth," she said.