ATLANTA - Get ready to ride on The ATL.
That's the name of a new, umbrella organization that will govern all of metro Atlanta's transit, including MARTA, thanks to a bill passed in the final minutes of the 2018 General Assembly, which adjourned late Thursday night.
Voters in 13 metro counties will also have the chance to vote on a 1-cent sales tax which would fund new transit projects in their area, and allocates $100 million to expand transit through the area.
State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) sponsored the bill in the Senate, while state Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), who chairs the House Transportation committee, co-sponsored the bill on the aisle's other side.
“This creates a seamless, unified transit governance and funding structure across metro Atlanta, and I’m proud that after years of work on this measure, it passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Tanner.
Tanner said the bill improves transit coordination, integration and efficiency in Cherokee, Clayton, Coweta, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale counties.
The bill would create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL), that would coordinate transit planning, funding and oversee all metro transit. The ATL would be governed by a 16-member board of directors and would develop an official regional transit plan for metro Atlanta.
Tanner called the bill's passage "monumental."
“The I-85 bridge collapse had people realizing how important public transportation is,” said 11Alive’s Jerry Carnes.
"When we talk about the big three Atlanta highways – I-75, I-85 and Georgia 400 – we absolutely need more rail service,” said 11Alive’s Crash Clark, “especially up in Cherokee and Gwinnett counties. Buses, though, will just get stuck in traffic.”
In a joint statement from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, the legislative leaders said, “the House and Senate enacted a comprehensive infrastructure package that will significantly expand transit throughout metro Atlanta.
“This transformative transit plan – establishing the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority (ATL) – will streamline and serve the needs of hardworking Georgians, respond to the demands of our employers and workforce, and reduce traffic congestion,” the statement said.
“This bill will allow us to plan effectively for future transit needs in Metro Atlanta while maintaining local control,” Ralston added.
Beach's goal was to rebrand transit efforts across Atlanta into a single, seamless system.