Maintain MARTA through Virginia-Highland and Morningside (Buses 36 and 16)

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On behalf of the people who commute on buses 36 and 16 to make a living everyday, the researchers at Emory University and Georgia Tech who use the bus service to collaborate and engage in transformative science, and the casual rider who chooses MARTA over a car to enjoy what Atlanta has to offer, we ask Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms, and Atlanta’s City Council to:

a) Maintain or increase the frequency of transit on N. Highland Rd, Rock Springs Rd, Johnson Rd, and North Decatur Rd.

b) Maintain direct MARTA service between Emory University and Midtown (Georgia Tech).

c) Maintain direct service between Downtown and the Morningside, north Virginia-Highland, and northwestern Druid Hills neighborhoods.

d) Maintain direct service between the Midtown and the Morningside, north Virginia-Highland, and northwestern Druid Hills neighborhoods.

The demands listed above find support in MARTA’s mission statement, which indicates that the transit agency exists to "advocate and provide safe, multi-modal transit services that advance prosperity, connectivity, and equity for a more livable region." 

Looking at a map of Atlanta in the early 20th century, one can see a dense fabric of interwoven streetcar lines binding the heart of the city to its surrounding neighborhoods. Indeed, a number of communities, such as Virginia-Highland or Inman Park, were founded as streetcar suburbs. In the 1940s, city folk could escape to these places of "countryside" living using public streetcar transit. Lines like the 2B (Oxford Rd/Briarcliff Rd), the 5A (North Highland Ave), or the 15 (Johnson Rd) efficiently connected the Virginia-Highland, Morningside, and Druid Hills neighborhoods with intown Atlanta. However, as the automobile established itself as a defining pillar in the American psyche, asphalt progressively interred streetcar tracks to accommodate rubber tires. The last streetcar made its final round in 1949. Transit shifted to the use of buses, but many routes were eventually retired.

Today, service to northern Virginia-Highland, Morningside, and northwestern Druid Hills from Midtown and Downtown is limited to two MARTA-operated bus routes, 16 and 36. Bus 36 runs from Midtown Station along North Highland Rd and Rock Springs Rd, passing by Emory University, to end at Decatur Station. Bus 16 runs from Five Points Station in Downtown along Johnson Rd up to Lenox Station. Buses 16 and 36 operate on 30 and 40 minute-intervals, respectively, on weekdays. Although MARTA has sought to increase its budget through a special purpose local option sales tax for transportation (T-SPLOST) with the objective of "purchasing new buses, adding more frequent service, and introducing new bus routes," the agency has proposed to completely eliminate service through northern Virginia-Highland and Morningside neighborhoods starting August 18, 2018. According to maps released by the agency, 16 will now run from Five Points to Midtown station, while 36 will parallel Rt 6 until reaching North Decatur (east of Emory University).

We maintain that these changes are diametrically opposed to MARTA's mission statement and will negatively impact the lives of people throughout Morningside, Virginia-Highland, Druid Hills, and surrounding communities. By rerouting buses 16 and 36, MARTA is proposing to create a transit desert bounded by Briarcliff Rd to the east, Monroe Dr to the west, La Vista Rd to the north, and Virginia Ave to the south. The proposed changes would: 1) eliminate the only publicly available connection between Georgia Tech and Emory University (two of the most important research institutions in the Southeast); 2) remove direct connections between Downtown/Midtown and Morningside commercial districts; and 3) eliminate all transit within most of the Morningside neighborhood as well as northern Virginia-Highland and northwestern Druid Hills. Indeed, some users will now have to walk more than 1.5 miles to catch a bus. Furthermore, such changes would double transit times from Emory University and Druid Hills to Midtown or Downtown (20 to 40 minutes). Removing MARTA from these regions will leave residents with no options but to drive, exacerbating traffic in the city, air pollution, and reducing the region's overall livability.  These cuts in transit are being considered despite the fact that residents of the affected neighborhoods will continue to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund MARTA each year through the 1.5% sales tax. In other words, our communities are paying for services we will no longer be able to use.

Please consider signing this petition to keep our neighborhoods effectively connected with the rest of the city and to increase multimodal transportation in Atlanta.

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