Atlanta-area transit system 14 days from shutting down, 2 million rides disappearingMarch 17, 2010
By Stephen Lee Davis
|Flyer from the Clayton County C-Tran website, which advertises their service as “Tomorrow’s Transportation Today.”|
Clayton County, one of metro Atlanta’s five core counties — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport is partially in Clayton — will terminate all transit service in 14 days. The transit service, which provides over 2 million rides each year on buses “full to bursting” with riders, according to MARTA CEO Beverly Scott, will shut down service entirely, leaving the 50% or more of C-Tran riders with no regular access to a car stranded.
Public transportation (or anything that provides people with mobility) is really about access. It gives people access to opportunity, access to daily needs, access to a job, access to life — and maybe even the means to improve the quality of that life.
One story highlighted in October in this piece from the Atlanta Journal Constitution shows the vital connection that C-Tran makes for one Clayton County resident:
Twenty-year-old Bridget Milam takes Clayton County’s bus system, C-Tran, wherever she goes. She takes it to Brown Mackie College in Atlanta, where she’s getting an associate’s degree in early childhood education. She rides it to her job at a day care center. She has never had a car and can’t afford one now. C-Tran is her lifesaver. Not for long.
…[she] may have to put school and her day care job on hold. “It means I have to find a job closer to home, in walking distance,” she said. “It would probably be fast food.” …Milam expressed frustration that she will “have to settle rather than doing something that could further my career.”
Access to the opportunity that public transit provides can mean the difference between becoming a teacher one day — or a future of asking customers if “they’d like fries with that?”
Despite a proposal to raise fares dramatically, the deficit was still at $1.3 million, and the 5 county commissioners voted 4-1 last year to shut the service down completely, asserting in a statement that “paving roads is a primary duty of the county. Public transit isn’t.”
The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority disagreed strongly with that view. “In Georgia, local roads are a local responsibility, and local transit is a local responsibility,” GRTA Deputy Director Jim Ritchey told the AJC.
Unfortunately for Bridget Milam and thousands of others in Clayton County who depend on C-Tran each day to get to work, class, the doctor or pretty much anything else, Clayton County leaders don’t see it that way — leaving them stranded at the station come April 1.
UPDATED: Like this touching story that Carmen, a now former C-Tran rider, shared with us on that page:
Hello. My name is Carmen and I’ve been a passenger on CTRAN’s paratransit service for as long as they have been in service. I work for Delta Air Lines and use the service to get back and forth to work. At this time, I have to move closer to my job in the Fulton County area. This is a hardship because now I have to cancel my lease agreement with my current apartment complex in order to move. They have been very helpful but I really did not want to move because of the negligence of Clayton County managing the taxpayers’ funds. Not everyone can afford to move at the last minute. I truly hope that Clayton County uses the funds they do have in reserve, as mentioned by Eldrin Bell, to keep CTRAN running. If the Commisioners or their family members were in our position maybe they would look at the situation differently. But of course those that are not affected are not concerned at all and that is a shame they are not here for the people.
Update 2: Read this superb and touching story from the LA Times on the last day of service.