Transit governance legislation being mulled

Funding equity issue to be addressed later

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ATLANTA, Ga. — Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said draft legislation for a unified metro Atlanta transit agency should be available by the end of January.

Bodker, who participates in Gov. Nathan Deal’s Transit Governance Task Force, said meetings of the governor’s task force handling the legislation are private and the completed first draft is not yet available for the public. At the Jan. 19 meeting of the North Fulton Municipal Association, Bodker said he fought hard to get city and county officials sitting at the table because the transit infrastructure will be in their communities. At this point, Bodker said, there was a good balance of county, city and state representation that would act as the transit governance board if the drafted legislation becomes law.

In response to a comment from Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, Bodker said it is true that the proposed legislation does not merge the existing transit agencies. However, new money from the federal government that has a state match and direct federal grants will go to the new umbrella agency, rather than the existing transit agencies.

Galambos asked what happened in regards to merging the entities, which was supposed to bring about economies of scale. Bodker said it is still possible to create economies of scale by such means as using standardized equipment and unifying the fares, things the umbrella agency could accomplish.

Galambos said this was timid. Bodker said the process had to be done in stages. There is a legal ability to “wind down” MARTA — the legislature can transfer MARTA functions to a new agency. Only the bond debt is an obstacle to this, and that will fade over time.

Bodker went on to say that although the legislation will address governance, equity in transit funding will be addressed over time. The next step in the process will be to dissolve the existing transit agencies.

People will be able to get input when the bill is introduced in the legislature. In a later interview, he said the bill will be available for public view by the end of January.

“I hope the governor is more bold than the committee,” said Roswell Mayor Jere Wood.

He did not see relief for Fulton and DeKalb counties in the long run and said the task force has missed an opportunity.

“It sounds like a cop-out,” added Galambos.

Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle asked how far they can push. Bodker said he told the governor’s staff and the task force that the legislation is a step in the right direction but that the mayors have said without governance and equity, there would be serious concerns. If equity is not dealt with, the mayors will receive the legislation coldly.

“I don’t see the possibility of getting all the way there,” he said.

Despite the lack of dealing with the equity issue, he said the new bill is a big step forward in transit governance.

Atlanta