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Atlanta-area transit system 14 days from shutting down, 2 million rides disappearing

C-Tran Clayton County Transit Service Eliminated
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.

If you’ve been affected by cuts in transit service or fare increases — especially if you’re in Clayton County, Georgia — tell us your story and we’ll help share it with Congress.

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.

No Comments

  1. Warren Rempel

    14 years ago

    It’s time to realize that the Public Transit System and the Public Street System are essentially the same kind of thing and they should receive the same treatment:

    The Public Street System is seen as an essential means of transportation and every effort is made to keep the system operating
    The Public Transit System is also an essential means of transportation and every effort should be made to keep the system operating
    Anyone has access to the Public Street System (but you must be able to afford to operate a vehicle)
    Anyone has access to the Public Transit System (but no vehicle is required!)
    The Public Street System does not charge users (riders) for the service
    The Public Transit System should also not charge users
    The Public Street System is not expected to generate revenue in order to cover the costs of operating the system.
    The Public Transit System should also not be expected to generate revenue in order to cover the costs of operating the system.
    The Public Street System is built and maintained at the expense of the public – repairs, cleaning, striping, modifications, rebuilding, patching, additions, expansion
    The Public Transit System should also be built and maintained at the expense of the public
    The Public Street System is paid for, to a large extent, by fuel taxes
    The Public Transit System should also be paid for by fuel taxes!. This would encourage ridership on the Public Transportation System and reduce the load carried by the Public Street System – a win-win!

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  3. Chris

    14 years ago

    “paving roads is a primary duty of the county. Public transit isn’t.”

    This statement just makes me sick to my stomach. I guess some of these guys would rather you sit at home collecting unemployment or welfare rather than pay for a transit system to get these people to work. I guess public transit is a form of socialism but being forced to own a car is not.

  4. Eli

    14 years ago

    A shame they can’t afford public transit…can we say ‘cycle tracks & bike boulevards’?

  5. David

    14 years ago

    Being forced to own a car is facism.

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  7. Doug Lass

    14 years ago

    I feel sorry for the riders that are losing their transportation choices. I live in a mid sized community that would not be able to afford a bus system for the residents, but we do have a regional bus system that will take you to the local doctors office for a fee. And they also provide service to a doctor’s office in a different town or to shopping at a mall in a different town, which is good for people that can not or would prefer not to drive to another town for these things. There is a group of cities just south of me that are in Iowa an one side and Illinois on the other, although they each operate their own bus systems, they do have connecting services to the other cities at certain stops so a person can get from one side of the river to the other without a great deal of hassle. These buses also carry advertising on the sides of each bus, there is a charge for the advertising which helps with the operational costs of the system. I know that some people are glad that the transportation in Atlanta because they believe that having a bus system paid for by the city is socialism, but would they want to put a septic system on their property so the city doesn’t have to spend money on sewer systems? Or how about no street repair, no public water system, no libraries, fire fighters, police or any other city services they feel are wasteful? I bet they sing a different tune then! Thank you, Doug Lass