MARTA and its local union kicked off a publicity campaign Tuesday, holding rallies and putting red X’s on a third of their buses and trains, to denote the ones that won’t be running after budget cuts go into effect later this year. In addition, starting probably Wednesday, the national branch of the union is planning a radio ad campaign.
It’s all to publicize MARTA's plight as it draws up cuts for up to 30 percent of its service, to fill a $120 million gap for operations. MARTA hopes to drive home the effect the cuts will have on Atlanta commuters, both the ones in the buses and the ones on streets who may have to deal with extra traffic if the riders switch to driving.
MARTA's union has its own motive for caring: MARTA could lay off up to 1,000 workers in the cuts.
They want the state to chip in with stopgap funding and longer term measures. State leaders have said they don’t have the money.
MARTA and the union are splitting the $6200 cost of the “X” campaign, said MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris. Workers putting on the X’s can’t do it on the clock, but may volunteer their free time, he added.
“Atlanta is one of those places that has terrible traffic,” said Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman in Washington, D.C. for the Amalgamated Transit Union. “The last thing it needs is more people thrown on the highways.” He said the cost of the radio ads was being paid by the national union, not the local, because it views MARTA as a “crisis” and the canary in the coal mine for a national problem.