Response to recent conversation

Atlanta Forward readers responded on our blog about the winter storm and the the merits of a wider public transportation system. Here are some select comments, edited for space and clarity.

Janet: As a proponent and user of MARTA (and yes, I have a car), we do need a comprehensive transit system that is interconnected. We don't need another layer of government. I am not sure why GRTA gets state funding but MARTA does not. MARTA is the only mass transit system in a major metropolitan city in the U.S. that receives zero funding from the state within which it operates. But the outlying counties, which pay no additional sales tax, get a "free ride" on GRTA. I have asked several politicians in Roswell, why? The answer is always the same: "It's politics." Let's make everyone contribute to MARTA in the metro area, or let's charge those not in Fulton and DeKalb a higher price for their rides. They take advantage of everything we MARTA subsidizers pay for and don't think twice.

Chip: Here we go again. … The control freaks just can't pass up an opportunity to rant about how we should all be forced out of our cars, have our freedom taken away, and forced onto trains. Let's see … it snowed. And thanks to a combination of bone-headed lack of awareness by certain officials, and an irresponsible lack of situational awareness by some citizens, the metro area gridlocked. Naturally, the solution is more government! Yes, let's jack taxes through the roof and borrow borrow borrow for deficit spending, to build a big, expensive, over-budget rail system so we can force people into the collective! Let's waste untold amounts of money on a system that will never make enough money to support itself, all so the control freaks can create another regional layer of government.

Gerald: Chip, people like you who get all of their information from ideological echo chambers (whether far left or far right) are part of the problem. Public transportation systems are a government agency. They are not designed to turn a profit but to provide a public service that everyone — including the private sector — benefits from. So saying that they do not pay for themselves directly is a straw man argument. The reality is that virtually no government agency pays for itself, and this includes schools, foster care agencies, defense, police departments, fire departments, hospitals, you name it. It also includes roads, as technically only toll roads directly pay for themselves. In addition, most airports don't directly pay for themselves, either. Hartsfield is one of the few that does, yet people like you insist that it is mismanaged. No one is trying to force you or anyone else to take MARTA. Building a transit system does not remove anyone's freedom. People who still want to drive certainly can and will. The key is to provide options to those who want them. But it is funny, you are perfectly willing to force people who do take (public) transportation to pay for roads that they will never use.

ND: Until they dramatically expand rail service, ridership will not significantly rise. It is that simple.