On June 30, 1979, after four years of construction and over a decade of work, MARTA’s rail service was born. MARTA was originally proposed to serve Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties. In 1965 the Georgia General Assembly voted to create MARTA as part of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act.
However, not all of metro-Atlanta supported the initiative when Cobb, Clayton, and Gwinnett counties voted against a 1% sales tax increase to pay for the rail system. To this day, this refusal has limited the ability for a true metro-transit system to be formed in Atlanta. MARTA also continues to be the largest US transit agency that does not receive state operational funds.
It is difficult to talk about the history of MARTA without talk of segregation and racism. The Atlanta Mayor at the time, Sam Massell, fought unsavory politicians like Lester Maddox the entire way. Massell came up with genius marketing tactics such as sending a group of young ladies in pink hot pants to the Capitol to express the city’s gratitude. After another campaign from politicians against the initiative, Massell hovered in a helicopter over the downtown connector with a bullhorn yelling, “If you want out of this mess, vote yes!” Something any Atlanta commuter can sympathize with – even today.
Since 1979, MARTA has made more than 5 billion trips carrying passengers by bus and rail. Today, it serves 1.7 million residents of Metro Atlanta with it’s 338 rail cars delivering passengers to 38 MARTA stations around Atlanta. MARTA bus fleet, updated in 2014 and 2015, has successfully reduced emissions by 95% in 347 buses by using compressed natural gas.