MARTA is moving forward with its estimated $230 million expansion of the Atlanta Streetcar from downtown to the Atlanta Beltline and Ponce City Market as one of its top priorities. Credit: MARTA

UPDATED: The Atlanta City Council wants to conduct an audit of how MARTA is spending taxpayer dollars to expand transit after the agency recently announced it could only prioritize some of the capital projects approved by voters seven years ago.

The council on March 20 approved a resolution requesting MARTA submit to its request for a financial audit of the More MARTA program and provide an answer by March 29. The city’s Finance Department would conduct the audit.

In response, MARTA said the audit request was “disappointing and disingenuous” and accused the council of “playing politics.” MARTA also said the audit would only slow down projects.

“The best thing the politicians on council can do for their constituents in the city of Atlanta is to get out of the way and let MARTA deliver the projects,” the statement said.

Does this response mean MARTA is refusing to allow the city audit its books?

“No, it does not,” said Stephany Fisher, spokesperson for MARTA, in an email. “The city is free to conduct an audit.” She added that MARTA will work with the city to determine how to proceed with the audit.

The More MARTA program is funded by a half-penny sales tax approved by Atlanta voters in 2016 specifically to build new rail, streetcar extensions, new bus lines and new stations. The sales tax is expected to generate $2.7 billion over 40 years; more money for the More MARTA program is coming from public and private dollars.

The audit’s scope would include all revenue and expenditures tied to More MARTA and local revenue and expenditures that support operations and capital projects in Atlanta, according to the resolution. The audit would also review federal funds received and spent by More MARTA to date, including federal COVID-19 relief funds.


In 2018, the MARTA board of directors approved 17 capital projects to be paid for with More MARTA funds. MARTA CEO Collie Greenwood told the council’s transportation committee three weeks ago, however, that rising costs and inflation have forced the agency to prioritize only nine projects.

City Council members have raised questions for months about transparency from MARTA on the spending of More MARTA money and how it prioritizes projects. The audit is a way to get real answers to their questions, said Council President Doug Shipman.

“I think that we have all been incredibly frustrated over the last several months with the lack of understanding of finances, timeframes, decision making — and it continues to go on in the planning and execution of the More MARTA project,” said Shipman, who as council president typically does not speak about proposed legislation before a vote.

Of the 17 projects approved, MARTA is set to break ground this summer on the first project, the Summerhill bus rapid transit line along Hank Aaron Drive and Capitol Avenue in Downtown.

“Six years later, we do not have those projects, and I still don’t believe we have a clear understanding of what money has been spent, what money plans to be spent and what money we will have for projects in the future,” Shipman said.

“I believe that an audit is one that is not burdensome, but instead will both allow us to have greater understanding and will repair the trust and the transparency that is needed between MARTA and the city, and between MARTA, the city and our residents, who are the ultimate taxpayers and the ones whose money we’re asking to be used,” Shipman said.

This story has been updated with a comment from MARTA.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.