Wednesday, April 21, 2010

transit cuts protested in atlanta

NYTimes | When Danielle White boarded her bus to go to work on Tuesday morning, it was emblazoned from top to bottom with a giant, painted red X. Ms. White knew what that meant.

“This is one of the buses that’s getting cut,” said Ms. White, a security guard at the Georgia Aquarium. “I’m going to have to figure out how to get there.”

On Monday night, workers and officials at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority volunteered to paint the X’s on a third of the system’s buses and trains to symbolize the 30 percent cut in service the agency is facing because of a decline in sales tax revenue and a Republican-dominated Statehouse that has been slow to help.

On Tuesday morning, with a parade of X’d-out buses stopping on the street behind them, more than 200 public transit workers and riders gathered at the system’s main hub, Five Points. They were kicking off a week of rallies, telephone campaigns and other events in 11 cities across the country coordinated by the Transportation Equity Network, an advocacy group based in St. Louis, to protest transportation cuts and fare increases.

“We are just crawling out of a recession,” said Sam Massell, a former mayor of Atlanta, “but we will be knocked back into another one if the salespersons are not behind the store counters, if the restaurant workers are not in the kitchens, if the office staff are not behind their desks.”

About 46 percent of the more than 100,000 people who use Marta to get to work each day say they do not have access to other forms of transportation.

More than 80 percent of the nation’s transit systems are considering or have recently enacted fare increases or service cuts, including those in Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., according to a survey released this month by the American Public Transportation Association.

But Marta, the ninth-largest system in the country, faces a particular difficulty because it is the only major system that does not receive any dedicated money from the state. Instead, it depends on fares and a one-cent sales tax in only two of metro Atlanta’s 28 counties, Fulton and DeKalb. While Atlanta chokes on traffic, Georgia ranks 49th in per capita government spending on transportation, according to a report commissioned by Gov. Sonny Perdue.