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MARTA audit caveat: Low wages counterbalance costly benefits

On Monday, MARTA released an independent audit that cited employee benefits as one major drain on the cash-strapped transit authority. On Tuesday, this appeared on the front page of the AJC print edition:

Apologies for the poorly scanned image, but I wanted to include the small chart shown above, which didn't make it into the online article. Compare it with the chart on page 33 of the audit (PDF), conducted by KPMG:

What’s missing from the AJC chart? The line item showing that MARTA wages and salaries are significantly lower than state and local counterparts. When total compensation is considered, MARTA ranks about even with its transit peers. Wrote KPMG, "MARTA’s labor costs (wages and salaries, paid time off, and overtime) as a percentage of Total Personnel Costs are approximately 3.5% lower than peers" while "MARTA’s fringe costs (Medical, Pension, and Other Retirement … ) are approximately 3.5% higher than peers."

That's not to say better benefits for less pay is a good business strategy, and in fact KPMG recommends "shifting the balance of benefits to salary" to attract "a workforce representative of the average national labor force" (aka younger). But lest you think MARTA workers are living large off the public dollar, it's an important qualification.

More Audit Coverage
Jay Bookman
Kyle Wingfield
Thomas Wheatley
And In Other Transportation News  . . .

BeltLine transit moves ahead
The BeltLine has received confirmation from the FTA to advance to Tier 2 of an environmental study, putting them on track to receive federal grants, said Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. CEO Lisa Gordon at a packed community briefing Monday. The Tier 1 study, a product of four years’ work by MARTA and the ABI, wrapped earlier this month. Tier 2 is expected to take one to two years, after which preliminary engineering may begin.

Cobb transit to be discussed tomorrow
The findings of a $1.8 million Cobb DOT study will be presented tomorrow at a community meeting at the Atlanta Community Food Bank (732 Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard) from 6 to 8 p.m. The study has identified bus rapid transit— including a fixed guideway in the median of Cobb Parkway—as well as express bus service as the preferred transit modes.