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.