ATLANTA – It’s a budget shortfall to the tune of $6 million.
In response, MARTA officials are turning to the public, holding a series of hearing to gather input as the next budget year approaches.
“We’ve reduced our costs, but the economic recession has left us with no choice but to propose service modifications,” MARTA General Manager/CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. said in a statement posted online. “And unfortunately, MARTA could see more changes in the heart of its service next year and the year after if new sources of revenue aren’t identified.”
MARTA says it will have to reduce its overall bus cost by about 15 percent in the upcoming fiscal year. That means, some bus routes will likely be eliminated.
“But more service adjustments may be needed next year for MARTA to break even,” MARTA Board Chairman Michael Walls said.
No adjustments are planned to MARTA’s rail service.
Officials point to a slow economy, which has resulted in reduced tax collections. Also, fewer riders have compounded the budget crisis.
“For a region where the number one obstacle to growth is traffic congestion, cutting rapid transit is clearly moving in the wrong direction,” Ford said. “We need to begin to seriously discuss ways metro Atlanta can coordinate a regional transit system with regional funding. I hope this first round of service modifications will spark such a discussion.”
What Has MARTA Done to Offset the Budget Gap?
Over the past three years MARTA says it has significantly cut these costs:
- 700 positions have been eliminated
- 2001 service adjustments cut costs and enhanced efficiency
- Early retirements helped eliminate positions
- Unpaid furloughs required sacrifices of MARTA employees
- Merit pay increases have been curtailed
- MARTA sought wage and benefit concessions from unions
Cost reduction programs have produced the following benefits:
- $8 million saved in FY ‘02
- $8 million saved in FY ‘03
- $20 million saved in FY ‘04
- $36 million in total budget savings over three years
— Railfanning.org News Wire Editor Todd DeFeo contributed to this report.