State lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled an ambitious proposal to revitalize greater Atlanta’s transit infrastructure by improving coordination and efficiency between transit systems in the metro area.
The proposal was unveiled by a bipartisan group of lawmakers including House Speaker David Ralston and Rep. Kevin Tanner, chairman of the House Transit Commission. It would create a new regional transit governing body called the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority, or the ATL.
Tanner said traffic congestion in the Atlanta area has become an economic-development and quality-of-life issue. “We cannot continue to grow in this region when we have companies telling us that they will not locate in an area that does not have mobility services offered to their employees,” Tanner said. He pointed to a new generation of employees looking for alternative ways to get around that do not require a car.
Under the proposal, the ATL would be responsible for creating a plan to tackle the area’s mounting transit concerns. Access to new sources of funding for transit projects would be linked to that plan and would need to be approved by the ATL.
While existing providers — including MARTA — will maintain some operational autonomy, the entire system would be rebranded ATL by 2023.
The proposal outlines several new funding sources for transit projects coming from state and local governments, including a statewide fee of 50 cents for all rides in a taxi or car-hailing service such as Uber and a 1 percent tax on services at the Atlanta and Savannah airports.
Ralston, who on Monday attended a ceremony at the White House where President Trump unveiled his infrastructure plan, said the current climate at the federal level makes now a good time to address Georgia’s infrastructure issues.
“The president stressed his desire to give decision-making authority back to state and local governments when it comes to infrastructure needs,” Ralston said. “He wants to give states an unprecedented level of flexibility.”