Atlanta - MARTA
MARTA station, photo by Charles Fred

75% is the share of construction costs for Forward Thrust the Federal Government would have paid. King County taxpayers would have had to come up with just 25%.

In late 1975, construction started on Atlanta’s first MARTA line, the East-West line. The Urban Mass Transportation Administration – the Federal Agency that become the FTA – gave MARTA the $600 million it had set aside for our area’s failed Forward Thrust that year. Operations on the West line began in June of 1979, and began on the West Line in December of 1979.

Update from Ben:

Amusingly enough, while looking for light rail related ’75s’, I found another countdown from a year ago – here’s a post made when Phoenix’s light rail had 75 days left as well. I think everyone gets excited about having a new transit system!

Also, New Jersey Transit’s SEPTA’s (thanks) light rail system has 75 stations.

32 Replies to “75 Days”

  1. I was just looking at the Forward Thrust maps in the Seattle Room at the Central Library. I would recommend people go there; it’s on the tenth floor. There’s a ton of awesome old maps, documents, records, and books about Seattle.

    1. Yeah it’s awesome, not just for this, but for looking into old building records as well

  2. 1975…I think big inflation didn’t really hit until ’77 or so, right? In any case, I wonder how much that $600mn would amount to in 2009 dollars. I imagine the difference is very substantial…

      1. Part of it’s problem was that many people who lived here didn’t want a large system thinking that it would encourage a large city to grow here. Unfortunately for that mode of thinking, we got the city but not the transit. It works better if you build it the other way around.

  3. And that’s not NJ Transit’s light rail that has 75 stations, it’s SEPTA’s

    1. *sigh* I need to be forced to write a hundred times on the blackboard: “I will not add something to a post based on the google search excerpt”.

  4. The irony is that the Forward Thrust system was planning to benefit from what was learned in constructing and operating the BART system.

    Of course, if Forward Thrust’s rail component had passed and been built, Metro Transit would have been a fraction of its current size today, and would have only covered about 50% of the service area that it does.

    So when are we going to hear about Metro’s honeycomb zone fare structure?

  5. Andrew:

    Your enthusiasm is awesome. I think I’ll have to visit Seattle in the spring to try out your guys new system!! Always wanted to visit there. Huge Fan of Ichiro!

    Here in Dallas we got DART. It’s not that great compared to anything else I’ve been on, it’s better than nothing though. This is Texas so anything thats not a Car/Truck/SUV gets frowned upon by most. Sprawl is the enemy.

  6. That must have been a bargain. That’s like a 75% discount. Is that really true?

    1. Well, money does not grow on trees, but many of us who voted for Forward Thrust certainly thought it was a terrific deal – especially true in the 1670 election. RMN had been elected President in 1968 so many of us felt that the LBJ “Great Society” levels of support for these kinds of programs would decline, and of course they did in the 1970s as RMN pursued his Southern Strategy and Kissinger his foreign policies in SE Asia.

      1. I just can’t believe it… that people of Seattle would have contributed only 25% of the cost and still turned it down. Now with Link they got barely 20% of the total costs from the fed. That was really smart!

      2. Two reasons:
        1) LBJ put a lot of money into transit.
        2) Warren Magnuson was a big deal in the senate at the time, and had a hand in getting seattle the money. Back then the feds gave the money at all once, not like now with yearly installments. $600mn all at once is worth a lot more than $600mn spread over ten years or whatever.

      3. And feeling my age more every day (only kidding) – silly me: 1970 election!

    2. Forward Thrust passed the majority vote, but barely. It required a 60% super majority which it didn’t make.

      This was all during the Boeing bust, which would have been Seattle’s little version of our current national economic crisis. It was just a bad time politically.

  7. What I find interesting is that even with MARTA, Atlanta ranked with some of the worst traffic congested city it appears to have been 10th in 2007, and 12th in 2008. So just building a rail system without doing decent land use planning doesn’t make for a good system or city.

  8. Atlanta was so bad for a while the Feds were threatening to pull highway dollars because they weren’t meeting their air quality standards. But Metro Atlanta is enormous…and all sprawl. MARTA strikes me as a pretty challenged system historically, but did experience a huge ridership increase in 2008 when gas prices spiked.

  9. As a former Atlantan, I appreciate the extra federal money that was given to MARTA. It allowed the Northeast and Northwest lines to be consolidated into the Central Subway through the northern part of Downtown, Midtown, and Uptown. Without this segment, the rapid transit system would not have likely been as successful.

    Part of Atlanta’s traffic problems stem from its status as a sunbelt city with small jurisdictions and no regional land-use planning. Partially because of Metro Atlanta’s size and partially because of the smallness of Georgia counties, the Metropolitan area has 28 counties. That means dealing with 28 county commissions and many, many more cities. MARTA was originally passed by voters in 5 counties & the City of Atlanta as a planning agency. However, only 2 counties (Fulton & DeKalb) and the City of Atlanta ever approved the construction and operation of the transit system.

    Anyway, I regard it as a shame that Seattle was unable to build a real heavy rail system. Even without rapid transit, however, Seattle seems to have remained more urban than Atlanta.

    1. Link will be rapid through the north end. It’s really only not “rapid” through the rainier valley and that usually superfluous stadium station.

      1. A trip from Capital Hill to Redmond Overlake in less than 40 minutes, in 2030 will seem pretty rapid to Link riders. Unless we’re issue our jetpacks before then.

      2. Heh! Indeed it will. It’s really the consistency that matters, though. Even if it’s the same travel time as driving on average, you don’t have to pad.

      3. Right. That’s almost geographic constraint more than a technology constraint. Think about how far Flushing Queens is from Manhattan and how long the NYC subway takes to get there.

    2. Atlanta is also really just a series of farm roads, once you leave the actual city of Atlanta

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