Clayton residents will be able to vote on MARTA

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.

HB 1009 allows Clayton County, which four years ago lost its bus service (C-Tran) because of cost, to hold a referendum in November on whether to join MARTA by levying a 1-cent sales tax. Currently the city of Atlanta, DeKalb and Fulton 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 (or RAIL) 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,” said MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris.

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