Proposed MARTA budget would restore bus and rail service

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

MARTA is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic with money in the bank and plans to restore service.

The regional transit agency has proposed a $631.4 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s a 7.5% increase over this year’s budget and reflects plans to restore bus and rail service to pre-pandemic levels and to grant raises to employees.

The proposal comes as federal COVID relief funds are winding down – MARTA received hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to balance its budget in recent years. But MARTA’s primary source of revenue – sales taxes – remain strong. And though the agency serves far fewer passengers than it did before the pandemic, fare revenue is rising as ridership gradually increases.

MARTA hasn’t raised fares since 2011 and does not plan to do so in 2024. The agency expects ridership to rebound to about two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels in the coming year.

“I don’t think it’s wise to (raise fares) until ridership picks up,” Chief Financial Officer Raj Srinath told the MARTA Board at a budget retreat Tuesday.

The pandemic took a major toll on transit service in metro Atlanta and across the country. At first, MARTA suspended most of its bus routes so it could provide more frequent service on its busiest routes and those serving hospitals and other key destinations.

Later, MARTA restored all its routes. But staffing shortages later forced the agency to reduce the frequency of service on many routes. It has gradually restored service as it hires more bus drivers.

Rail service has also been affected, with trains running every 15 minutes instead of every 10 minutes at peak commuting times.

The proposed budget includes money to restore service to pre-pandemic levels. MARTA officials say it also includes a substantial raise for employees, though negotiations for a new union contract are not yet complete.

MARTA also has proposed a $854.5 million capital budget for fiscal 2024. Most of that will be devoted to maintaining or improving the existing system across Atlanta and Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties. Major projects include replacing rail cars, renovating stations and replacing track.

MARTA also plans to spend $218 million for its Atlanta transit expansion, plus $28.7 million to expand service in Clayton County. Those expansion programs include new rapid bus lines, an Atlanta streetcar extension and other projects.

MARTA will seek public feedback on the proposed budget at hearings next week. A board committee will take up the budget on May 25, with a vote by the full board scheduled for June 8.

MARTA budget hearings

MARTA will provide information and solicit comments on its proposed 2024 budget at two public meetings:

*6 p.m. Tuesday at the DeKalb County Public Library Decatur Branch. 215 Sycamore St. A formal hearing will begin at 7 p.m.

* 6 p.m. Thursday at MARTA Headquarters, 2424 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta. A formal hearing will begin at 7 p.m.

For more information on the budget, visit