The jockeying for $100M in transit funding has already begun

Georgia lawmakers still haven't figured out how they're going to raise at least $1 billion in new revenue for transportation. But jockeying at the Capitol is in full swing for the $100 million in bond money for transit systems that is all but certain to be included in the state budget.

Our AJC colleague Andria Simmons explains:

Exactly which state agency would be in charge of doling out the money between 128 transit systems remains a mystery, as is the amount each agency will get. But the Chatham Area Transit wants to be sure that the Savannah region receives its fair share. Especially since rumors circulating at the Capitol indicate MARTA could get as much as three-quarters of the pot.

Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

State Sen. Vincent Fort, for one, said he heard that "commitments had been made to MARTA that they would get 75 percent of the $100 million in transit bonds.”

Under proposal put forth by CAT, MARTA would get far less -- $34 million. Other metro Atlanta transit agencies would get an additional $11 million.

The Savannah area would get $14 million. The remainder would be divided among other transit providers.

The proposed distribution formula is based on four critieria: population, ridership, revenue miles and revenue hours. It does not take into account rail miles, which if included would give MARTA a larger slice of the pie, said Mike Vaquer, a lobbyist for CAT.

Not counting rail miles “puts you on a more equitable footing in terms of running buses, which is what most of the other transit systems run,” Vaquer said.

There’s a shroud of mystery around what MARTA believes it’s entitled to from the $100 million bond package. Any conversations about that have taken place quietly among lobbyists and individual lawmakers.

A proposal prepared by the Atlanta Regional Commission has an allocation formula that is far more generous to MARTA. It uses three different criteria to determine how much funding each transit provider would get: unlinked trips, vehicle revenue miles or vehicle revenue hours.

ARC’s formula would direct 85 percent of the money toward urban transit providers, with the remaining 15 percent going to rural areas. MARTA would get by far the most -- anywhere from $59 million to $70 million.

All the transit agencies in the metro Atlanta area (which includes MARTA, Atlanta Streetcar, Douglas County Rideshare, Gwinnett County Transit, Cobb Community Transit, Cherokee Area Transit, Hall Area Transit, Henry County Transit) would get anywhere from two-thirds to more than three-quarters of the $100 million.

ARC spokesman Jim Jaquish said if the funding ends up being distributed through a grant program instead of proportionally according to the size of the system or ridership of the transit provider, then the funding formulas it used would no longer be relevant. Money would instead be awarded on a project-by-project basis.

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