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Should MARTA raise fare prices?

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MARTA signs Five Points April 9, 2015

MARTA should raise fare prices and use the extra revenue to decrease the wait between trains, a Libertarian policy analyst argues in the AJC’s Monday Opinions page.

Baruch Feigenbaum, a transportation policy analyst at the conservative thinktank Reason Foundation, takes a sharp look at transit systems like the New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) subway and MARTA, and the comparatively low prices they charge compared to the cost to own and operate a car in those cities.

In particular, he says:

MARTA continues to undercharge for its rail service. Based on IRS figures, the cost to drive the one-way 16.0-mile distance from the North Springs MARTA station to the Georgia Capital is $9.20. The average cost to drive one-way from Decatur to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport is $10.18, yet MARTA customers can make either trip for $2.50.

Charging higher fares, while retaining discounts for low-income riders, will do more than improve MARTA’s budget. It will also allow the agency to decrease its headways, the time between buses or trains on the same route, to appeal to its target demographic — choice riders, customers not dependent on transit. One of the reasons these commuters choose to drive is speed. The waits between trains, which can be up to 20 minutes, are too long. The agency should use is financial health to add more trains to its lines.

Everybody complains that MARTA is too slow or doesn’t go to all the places they need to reach. Would you pay more to get more trains and service lines?

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