(The Center Square) — The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority board has approved a $1.3 billion fiscal 2023 budget.
The budget’s $587.6 million for operations includes $458.3 million for labor expenses as the agency works to return service to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
MARTA’s budget anticipates $652.7 million in operating revenues, including $321.4 million in sales tax, $140.4 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, $73.5 million in federal operating assistance and $67 million in passenger revenue. The spending plan does not call for a fare increase.
“The biggest problem facing the transit industry right now, and frankly, most industries, is a shortage of workers,” MARTA interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood said in an announcement. “We are using every hiring platform and tool at our disposal to hire and train operators as ridership recovers. We are aggressively recruiting employees, holding frequent job fairs, and offering signing bonuses in order to stay competitive. As people return to MARTA, we must be able to meet the service demand.”
The agency’s $717 million for capital expenses includes $512 million for “State of Good Repair” initiatives. Its list of capital projects in fiscal 2023 includes $72 million for the multi-year Station Rehabilitation Program, $56.5 million for new CQ400 railcars, $38.5 million for the fourth phase of track repairs and $10.7 million to extend the life of its CQ311 fleet of railcars.
MARTA has tapped Stadler to deliver the new CQ400 railcars. The deal is for 127 married pair units and includes two options, each for an additional 25 married pairs.
MARTA officials say the new CQ400 railcars represent the largest single capital investment in the agency’s history and will cost nearly $610 million over 10 years. The first of the new railcars is set to arrive in 2025.
Meanwhile, the federal government has allocated $33 million for the new Clayton Operations & Maintenance Facility. Additionally, the Federal Transit Administration has advanced the $338 million Clayton Southlake bus rapid transit project to its next round of its Capital Investment Grant Program as a Small Starts Project.
The new BRT, connecting several Clayton County destinations with the College Park rail station, is expected to start operating in 2026.
MARTA’s fiscal 2023 budget is effective July 1.
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor