Bill passes seeking MARTA referendum for Clayton

Residents of the only county in metro Atlanta without local public transportation could soon vote to remedy their transit deficit, thanks to legislation headed to the governor’s desk for signature.

House Bill 1009 would allow Clayton County to hold a referendum in November on whether to join MARTA by levying a 1-cent sales tax.

The county lost its bus service, C-Tran, four years ago because of cost.

Currently, the city of Atlanta and DeKalb and Fulton counties are the only local governments that fund MARTA with a penny sales tax.

The referendum appears to have a good chance of passage – 67 percent of Clayton voters approved of joining MARTA in a nonbinding referendum in 2010.

Brionte McCorkle, chapter program assistant for the Sierra Club’s Regional Action to Improve Livability campaign, said that a penny sales tax could result in $49 million a year for Clayton transit.

“That is more than enough to restore bus service and possibly even expand MARTA rail into the county,” McCorkle told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in September.

Since Clayton officials halted C-Tran service in March 2010, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Xpress bus service is the only public transit in the county. But it only carries people from park-and-ride spots in Jonesboro and Riverdale to downtown and Midtown Atlanta. It doesn’t run within the county or take people to the airport, where many residents have jobs.

It’s unclear what form a revived transit system would take.

“I don’t know if we ever got down the road, or down the track as it were, in terms of figuring out what service would look like in Clayton,” MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris said.

The measure introduced by Rep. Mike Glanton, D-Jonesboro, passed the Senate on Thursday with only two dissenting votes.