Atlanta City Council voted unanimously to put a referendum on the November ballot to allow voters to decide whether MARTA will get an extra half-cent in sales tax for expansion projects. The approved project list includes major light rail and bus plans for Buckhead.

In Buckhead, the approved list includes:

  • A new Armour Yard rail station on the Gold and Red Lines. Armour Yard, at Piedmont Road and I-85, currently has a MARTA maintenance facility.
  • BeltLine light rail. Buckhead’s segment of the BeltLine would run between Armour Yard and I-75 along Peachtree Creek, the Shepherd Center and Piedmont Hospital.
  • Clifton Corridor light rail. This new line would run from Buckhead’s Lindbergh Center Gold/Red Line station to the Blue Line’s Avondale station through the Emory University area.
  • Arterial rapid transit bus on Peachtree Street and Peachtree Road. “Arterial rapid transit” means a bus that runs especially frequently and with priority at signals and in lines. The Peachtree route would run through Buckhead between Five Points station in Downtown to the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe Gold/Red Line station in Brookhaven. MARTA proposes pedestrian improvements on that corridor as well.
  • Bus rapid transit on Northside Drive. “Bus rapid transit” means the bus would travel mostly in a dedicated lane. The Northside route would run between southwest Atlanta and I-75 on the Buckhead border.
  • Councilmember Kwanza Hall’s “S Concept” light rail plan, which includes linking the BeltLine light rail to the new Armour Yard station, the Downtown streetcar and other Intown transit facilities.
  • Improved signage, pedestrian access and other amenities at all existing rail stations; additional cars on rail lines; and better bus timing on some routes.

In July, the council will take up a potential second referendum for a transportation sales tax – or TSPLOST – to fund bike trails, sidewalk and road projects for five years. If voters approve another half-penny for the TSPLOST along with approving the MARTA tax, that would increase the city’s sales tax to 9 percent – the highest in the state.

Councilmember Felicia Moore said she voted for the MARTA tax referendum, but said “sales tax is regressive.” She said many of her constituents depend on MARTA to get to work and shopping, so she said expanding the system would help, while the sales tax will hurt.

“The poorest among as the ones being the most hurt by it,” Moore said. “The new way of funding projects is to ratchet up sales tax. People who are dependent on MARTA don’t have option to go somewhere else with a lower sales tax to buy goods and services.”

–John Ruch contributed

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.