Since 1961, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has planned to expand its rail lines to service Emory University. The Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority (ATL), formed in March 2018 by the Georgia General Assembly to streamline transit connectivity in the region, will vote on Friday whether to provide state and city funding for several of 76 potential transportation projects, including the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative (CCTI) . 

The CCTI is a two-step transit project that would continue the MARTA light rail line to the University and beyond into the greater DeKalb County area. According to Emory’s Senior Associate Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Betty Willis, the CCTI will likely be one of the initiatives selected for funding.

The first extension of the CCTI would begin at the Lindbergh Center Transit Station, stretch four miles to Emory and include seven or eight stations. The second expansion would continue into unincorporated DeKalb County. The termination of the line is still under discussion. 

In an interview with the Wheel, Willis affirmed the University’s confidence in the program.

“[The CCTI] is at a really good place finally. We are feeling really good about it being one of the first transit extensions that MARTA will undertake in 20 years,” Willis said. “This project stands to be one of the strongest competitors for federal funding. It’s looked at by both MARTA and other transit planners as a top priority project.”

Willis explained that the CCTI would be a prime candidate for federal funding, without which it cannot be built, because of the large population of students and employees who commute to the area. Together, the University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Atlanta VA Medical Center employ an estimated 30,000 people, and approximately 15,500 students attend the University.

Willis admitted that the second extension of the CCTI into DeKalb County does not merit federal funding, however, and may instead seek local funding from DeKalb County taxpayers. A referendum will be held next year to decide whether to put local funding in motion, but Willis noted that the second extension is less likely to receive funding than its counterpart.

Should the CCTI pass the Friday vote, officials working on the project will meet in Washington D.C., beginning in 2020 to discuss future steps and allocation of the funding. 

Willis hopes that the first extension of the CCTI will be completed within five or six years. Students can urge an earlier completion date by expressing interest through the ATL website, she said.

“It may not benefit them right now, but students in the future will be grateful for [current students’] advocacy,” Willis said.

Project Coordinator of the Emory Climate Analysis and Solutions Team (ECAST) Aaron Klingensmith (22C) voiced his own anticipation regarding the completion of the CCTI. Klingensmith and ECAST help organize and host the annual MARTA Dump the Pump scavenger hunt, which sends interested students through a set of clues that teach them about MARTA. The 2020 hunt will take place in either late March or early April.

Klingensmith encouraged fellow students to use existing MARTA rail lines, which are often less time-consuming and expensive than rideshare apps. He echoed the belief that the CCTI will make MARTA substantially more accessible for Emory students, as well as expressed his hopes for its completion in the near future.