By Ben Smith

Anne Marie Toland has been taking the bus to work ever since her ex-husband left Georgia in the family car.

Budget cuts could soon take her bus away as well.

“It’s the only form of transportation I have,” Toland said. “I’m a single parent. I’m literally scrounging to keep what I have.”

Toland was among scores of worried public transit riders attending public hearings in Sandy Springs and north DeKalb County to find out whether their daily bus rides will soon come to a screeching halt.

MARTA’s proposals include closing the 105 bus route that cuts a long loop through Sandy Springs on Barfield Road, Greenlake Parkway and Glenridge Drive. Also in jeopardy is the 151 bus route, which connects the Sandy Springs and Chamblee MARTA stations via Ashford-Dunwoody Road.

The transit system also proposed changes that would extend the wait times for MARTA trains from 4 to 10 minutes, depending on the time of day.

MARTA officials say they must plug a $120 million hole in the agency’s budget. To do that, they proposed cutting the number of daily rail trips the transit service provides and eliminating half of its 131 bus routes.

MARTA proposed a number of system cuts. If approved, at least five bus routes running in and out of Brookhaven MARTA station would either be discontinued or directed elsewhere. That means Oglethorpe University students would no longer be able to reach the campus by bus.

Currently the 25, 341 and 329 routes run near the Oglethorpe campus. Without them, it would be about a one mile walk from the Brookhaven station.

MARTA riders who live along the route could no longer reach Perimeter Mall by bus. That includes Toland who takes the number 151 bus in the opposite direction to her job on Cliff Valley Way.

“It already takes an hour,” said Toland of her commute.

Other proposed cuts include:

• Eliminating direct bus service to the Atlanta History Center and Chastain Park by shutting down the number 38 bus, which now runs out of Lindbergh station.

• Discontinuing MARTA bus service through the Peachtree Hills and Peachtree Battle neighborhoods by shutting down route 44. It currently connects Lindbergh station with Howell Mill Road and Moore’s Mill Road.

• Cutting all bus service along North Druid Hills Road from Briarcliff Road to Briarwood Road in Brookhaven.

Those attending the hearings seemed more anxious than angry, though in a couple of instances the talk almost turned into shouting. At the Chamblee meeting, a woman exclaimed that the root of MARTA’s problems was a lack of devotion to the Almighty.

A man raised his voice when MARTA officials wouldn’t let him speak longer.

“I am a citizen. I want to speak,” said Paul Hayes, a Decatur resident. “I pay my taxes to MARTA. I want to speak!

MARTA officials attending the hearings insisted that none of these plans are final. They told members of the audience to voice their complaints if they wanted to see changes to the plan.

However MARTA officials repeatedly reminded audience members that steep cuts in service are inevitable.

They blamed declining sales tax revenues as well the state government’s unwillingness to provide more financial aid for the transit agency as key reasons for MARTA’s predicament.

“Some of you are saying it doesn’t make sense what MARTA’s doing,” said MARTA transit system planner Johnny Dunning Jr. at the Sandy Springs meeting. “It doesn’t make sense for us to have to be here.”