RAIL TRANSIT: Study suggests that MARTA expansion could mean $5 billion boost to Atlanta metropolitan area

Surrounding counties would likewise benefit from economic development associated with rail transit expansion

February 03, 2016

According to a study released by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, expansion of the Atlanta, Ga., area’s MARTA rail system, tagged at $8 billion, could provide new access to transit for nearly 600,000 workers and simultaneously inject $5.2 billion into the region’s economy.

The study, conducted by transportation consulting firm HNTB, found that for each dollar invested in transit, economic returns quadruple. Moreover, MARTA growth could generate 45,000 new jobs and $116 million in additional annual wages by 2040, according to the report, titled Economic Benefits of Investing in Transit.

Ehren T. Bingaman, HNTB Director of Transportation Planning, told the state Senate Transportation Committee that Atlanta was falling behind other peer cities, such as Dallas and Denver, with regard to transit investment.

“What we have seen in our evaluation is that there are tremendous benefits to the region (from investing in transit), therefore there are tremendous benefits to the state,” Bingaman said.

The report comes amid discussions at the state Capitol over House Bill 213, which would let voters in DeKalb and Fulton counties choose to pay an additional ½% sales tax to support a near doubling of MARTA’s footprint in a referendum that could occur in association with either the November 2016 or November 2017 elections.

An estimated $4 billion in sales tax generation, along with a further $4 billion in federal matching funds, could enable MARTA to complete three major expansion projects: extending heavy rail north along Ga. 400 to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta, and east along I-20 to the Mall at Stonecrest in Lithonia, as well as installing a light-rail line connecting the Lindbergh and Avondale MARTA stations.