March 29, 2010
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MARTA Board Members Emphasize Importance of Transit at 30th-Anniversary Transportation Summit
BY GLORIA LEONARD, Board Member, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Atlanta, GA
On Dec. 18, 2009, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) recognized its 30th anniversary of providing bus and rail service to the region by hosting a Transportation Summit with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) serving as honorary event chair. The event offered MARTA board members the opportunity to honor and thank the visionary leaders, loyal customers, and dedicated employees who have made the system successful for three decades.
MARTA began its first rail operations on the East Line from Avondale Station to Georgia State Station on June 30, 1979. The rail line joined MARTA’s pre-existing bus system.
Additionally, the summit provided a great forum for MARTA board members to “Tell Our Story” to elected officials and community leaders. I had an opportunity to speak with Lewis, the honorary chair, regarding the critical issues facing transit in the Atlanta region and how much we continue to appreciate his support for increased state and federal transit investment.
Lewis has served as a strong advocate for MARTA and transit in our region and continues to work tirelessly at the federal level to secure additional funding for our transit systems. At the Transportation Summit, he spoke about how MARTA contributes significantly to the success of our region and state and how a comprehensive regional system is greatly needed to continue moving us forward. He stated how it is important that the state step up in support of MARTA to send a strong message to the federal government that we are committed to transit. (Currently, MARTA is the only system of its size that does not receive any state funding for operations.)
The evening also featured a roundtable discussion focused on “Realizing the Regional Transit Vision,” which included state Sen. Doug Stoner; Fulton County Commission Chair John H. Eaves; Tad Leithead, current chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) Transportation and Air Quality Committee and incoming chair of the ARC; Georgia DOT Commission Board Member Dana L. Lemon; former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell; and outgoing MARTA Board Chairman Michael Walls.
The discussion highlighted why MARTA and transit matter significantly to the region and state, as well as how to address the serious challenges and opportunities facing transit today, including the critical need for additional funding for transit and transportation. Maria Saporta, Atlanta Business Chronicle columnist and creator and editor of the “SaportaReport,” served as moderator.
The event recognized MARTA’s board members from inception to present; MARTA retirees and employees with 30 years of service; and the tremendous federal support and investment that made transit in the Atlanta region possible. In addition, MARTA unveiled a commemorative quilt and offered a sneak preview of MARTA Moments, a documentary short chronicling the authority’s history and its impact on metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia.