Purpose of This Study
In November 2014, HNTB Corporation, in partnership with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, completed and submitted a study of the “Economic Benefits of Investing in Transportation.” The document served as a resource to the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding leading to the Georgia State General Assembly enacting HB 170. The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 is estimated to generate just under $1B per year in new transportation funding for road and bridge projects. With Georgia’s road funding needs largely addressed, it is prudent to study other elements of the state’s transportation ecosystem, including public transportation in Metro Atlanta.
This study looks at best practices in transit investment and provides perspective of investing in transportation options like transit in Metro Atlanta, the hub of the state of Georgia. The report intends to answer the following questions:
- Why is transit investment important and what is the economic return on investment?
- How much has been invested in transit historically?
- Who benefits from increased transit funding?
- How does transit funding work and who are the providers?
- How much additional transit funding is needed?
- What happens if we do not increase transit investment?
This report compiles publicly available information, approximate funding ranges, and a high-level evaluation of outcomes to understand job growth and investment related to transit.
What is the impact of transit on the state’s economy?
MARTA is the largest transit agency in the state of Georgia and the 9th largest transit agency in the U.S. As Atlanta’s population and employment have grown, the importance of MARTA to the metro area’s economy has increased dramatically over time.
As businesses look to attract millennials to their work force and create economic mobility for under-and-unemployed, they are specifically looking for proximity to transit as a key feature in location decisions. Within the last two years, recent corporate relocations are bringing jobs and investment to the metro area. Proximity to MARTA is a key factor for these corporate location decisions, for example:
- State Farm’s new corporate headquarters will add 3,000 jobs;
- Mercedes Benz’ relocation of its headquarters will add 1,000 jobs and will invest approximately $100 million in the new headquarters location; and
- Kaiser Permanente’s relocation will add 900 jobs.
All three locations were chosen in part because of their proximity to a MARTA station. This job growth and investment has occurred without significant investment in MARTA expansion in over a decade.
According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), for every $1 invested in public transportation, there is a $4 economic return to a community. In order to further the region’s economic growth, MARTA has three proposed expansion projects – Clifton Corridor, I-20 East, and GA 400. All three projects would provide connectivity with two other major transit endeavors, the Atlanta BeltLine and Atlanta Streetcar, which are in their initial phases of implementation.
How does Georgia’s transit investment compare to peers?
MARTA has not expanded since 2000. Since that time, peer cities have expanded their systems significantly. Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles have spent close to $10B respectively with continued expansion on the horizon. Alongside Richmond, metro Atlanta ranks LAST among all its peer regions in (rail) transit expansion since 2000. According to APTA, out of 58 local transit initiatives put to voters in 2012, 46 were approved (79%).6 From these examples, Georgia can rest assured that there is a rising public interest with increasing transit funding and building more transit projects. Georgia needs to keep pace with its competitors by investing more in transit.
About HNTB Corporation
Founded in 1914, HNTB has built a reputation for excellence and innovation in the transportation industry by designing movable bridges, the first modern turnpike and a significant portion of the U.S. interstate system. HNTB is a multidisciplinary firm known and respected for our work in transportation, bridges, aviation, architecture, urban design and planning, environmental engineering, water and construction services.