Friday Five

5 Oct

Things I’ve Declined to Buy on the Street

29 Sep

1. A rubber-banded bundle of MAC lip glosses (Not in the boxes)

2. A reduced-fare Breeze card

3. Several brands of baby formula

4. Newports

5. Mini-bottles of liquor

6. “Socks! DVDs! Socks! DVDs!”

7. A “gold” chain wadded up in a paper napkin

8. A plastic bag of costume jewelry and a “leather” jacket

9. A mix CD: $5, unless you only have $2, in which case he’ll take that

10. A copy of Creative Loafing

MARTA: Audit results in, Scott shipping out

25 Sep

Five Points Station, Forsyth Street side

 

  • The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported today that MARTA CEO Beverly Scott is headed to Boston to become MBTA’s general manager when her contract with MARTA expires in December.

Scott spent five years as MARTA CEO and will take a significant salary cut in the new position, which Boston’s WBUR said will pay $220,000 per year for three years. MARTOC’s annual report for fiscal year 2011 lists Scotts salary as $315,000 per year.

She was chosen unanimously by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s board, which was also considering MARTA COO Dwight Ferrell for the job.

“She’ll take the helm of an agency teetering from fiscal problems rooted in heavy debt and coping with expansion demands as well as a backlog of maintenance needs that have gone unaddressed due to insufficient funds,” the Boston radio station said. Sounds like she’ll feel right at home.

Scott, who is scheduled to take up the new post Dec. 15., plans to finish her transportation career at MBTA, telling WBUR that “This is the one where I’m going to end up.”

The auditing firm projects that, although MARTA has addressed a steep fall-off in revenue through layoffs, furloughs, position eliminations, increases in employee insurance premiums and copays, a five-year pay freeze and service cuts galore, the agency’s spending will continue to surpass revenue through 2021 . According to that forecast the revenue shortfall created by the end of fiscal year 2021 would be $248 million. The audit also projected that MARTA will exhaust its financial reserves by the end of fiscal year 2018 and the agency’s reserve fund will fall below its mandated 10 percent level by the end of fiscal year 2016.

“MARTA’s current economic model is unsustainable,” the auditors concluded.

Two revenue leaks that the agency has failed to plug, Creative Loafing reported, are almost $11 million spent to cover employee absenteeism, and retirement costs that exceed the national average by about $22 million annually. The audit report said that collective bargaining agreements with union-represented employees “do not assist MARTA in controlling absenteeism.”

Suggestions to help MARTA save money included contracting out some services like cleaning, payroll, records and data management and customer service. To increase its income, the auditors suggested that MARTA look into selling advertising space on its Web site, on fare cards and fare gates along with increasing the number of ad-wrapped buses and rail cars. They also recommended that MARTA implement daily or monthly parking fees, rent secure bicycle storage at stations and consider “renaming stations for corporate sponsors.”

Monday Salmagundi

27 Aug
  • Good news/bad news from MARTA: A new round of bus service changes – mostly to align published arrival times more closely with when the buses are really showing up – went into effect Saturday for 27 routes. But the southwest entrance to Peachtree Center Station is open again, after being closed for two years for renovation and repairs. Peachtree Center Station, southwest entrance
    • From BuckheadView: Representatives of the ownership at Lenox Square mall presented proposed changes to the mall’s facade to the neighborhood’s design review committee. One of the new features to the entrance will be pedestrian access directly from Peachtree Road. That will be a big improvement on this:Pedestrians at Lenox Square
    • From Curbed Atlanta: Stanley Beaman Sears was selected in the City of Atlanta’s design competition as the firm to convert the first floor lobby of 72 Marietta Street into a gallery space. The building was formerly The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s headquarters building. The newspaper’s parent company donated the building to the city after the AJC’s move to Dunwoody in 2010.
  • The latest “regional snapshot”from the Atlanta Regional Commission focuses on the dramatic slowdown in the Atlanta metro area’s population growth in the last few years. The region’s population increased by about 37,200 people between April 1, 2011 and April 1, 2012 and by about 72,000 in the last two years, according to ARC’s research. In comparison, the region’s population increased by about 100,000 people each year during the decade between 1990 and 2000.

The root of the change, unsurprisingly, is in the wobbly economy. “The Atlanta region’s slowdown is directly attributable to the national economy. During weak economic periods, people don’t move as much because, firstly, job opportunities are slim, thus people aren’t moving to take new jobs. Secondly, with the housing market in such disarray, it is hard to sell a house, which tends to keep people in the same place,” ARC concluded.

Mitchell Street bridge to re-open Thursday

22 Aug
Mitchell Street bridge: South side, looking west

The woman in the photo insisted on being “your helper for the day.” She immediately resigned from the position upon discovering that I had no money.

Mitchell Street bridge bike laneMitchell Street bridge: facing west, north side

The Mitchell Street bridge in Castleberry Hill will officially re-open Thursday morning after a two-year reconstruction by the Georgia DOT. The bridge was closed in 2008 after transportation officials found it inadequate for the type and volume of traffic it was carrying, and construction began in 2010.

More than $8 million in federal stimulus funds were used to reconstruct the 88-year-old bridge, which now has bike lanes on both sides and parking along the south side.

Four Things for Wednesday

15 Aug

Terminus Plaza from the Piedmont Road side

  • Via Creative Loafing: A photo of one of the new vehicles for the downtown streetcar popped up on the Atlanta subreddit
  • Via Buckhead View: NPU-B residents who oppose the new Lindbergh-area development planned for the east side of Piedmont Avenue are digging in for a long fight and have a new website
  • Atlanta is among the top 20 tweeting-est cities in the world – one of only six American cities to make the list – according to a study by a French research and consulting firm
  • I’d planned to write something about how rare it is in Atlanta to come across public places like the plaza behind Terminus at Peachtree and Piedmont. It’s breezy in the summer, protected from rain and has plenty of seating and a view in both directions. But nearly as soon as this photo was taken, a member of the Terminus security staff appeared and apologetically said that the building’s management doesn’t allow photography there. So much for public.

Things to do for 20 minutes on a single-tracking Sunday

13 Aug
  1.  Count the tiny mice scampering around the track bed
  2. Try to remember when the information displays in the station last worked
  3. Try to figure out whether you could walk to the next station in 20 minutes
  4. Move out of the way so that guy can use the outlet behind you to charge his phone
  5. Think about just going back outside to catch the bus to where you’re going, but then remember that that bus route was eliminated last year
  6. Decline to buy socks/DVDs/a half-fare card/incense/a 9-volt battery
  7. Wonder what the life span of a transit station-dwelling pigeon is
  8. Be glad you’re not sitting next to the guy holding forth on what’s really in the Bible/the Constitution/the tax code/the water
  9. Wonder how anyone gets up to the ceiling to change the light bulbs over the tracks
  10. Check your phone to see how long you’ve been waiting now (See Item 2)
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