This means that MARTA could cut one rail line, or they could cut a ton of bus routes, which might actually serve more people. For example, you can see on this map I posted a while back that much of southeast Atlanta has pretty good MARTA access despite the fact that there isn't a rail line serving the area:
Back to the MARTA issue - what I found most interesting about the article was the history lesson from former Mayor Sam Massell. The short of it is that the current cap on operations spending was the result of Lester Maddox wanting to keep "winos" off the system, so he advocated for the cap on spending to force MARTA to charge for tickets. It wasn't about trying to force MARTA to be 'wise' in its spending or anything, but about the state wanting to control who had access to the system - not entirely dissimilar from how Cobb and Gwinnett wanted to keep out "that element".
This is also a good chance to link to Pecanne Log's absolutely awesome post on an old GQ magazine featuring Atlanta. Some of the money quotes Christa picks out:
If you want to sell something to Atlanta, just convince a handful of the right people that Atlanta can’t be a Big League City without it, and the proposition is as good as taken....Atlantans may not have changed that much, but the difference is that we used to have a state government that worked with the city a lot more. Sure, some folks ran against "those liberals in Atlanta," but when they got in office they understood the importance of the city to the entire southeast region. The business community is going into sonic-death-scream mode when it comes to the regional transportation, but the GOP is too busy fighting with each other to hear. Pehaps they'll pass something, but I'm not optimistic.
Civic-minded Atlantans are sensitive about their city’s progressive reputation. It’s not a chip that they carry on their shoulders, but an earnest sweat on their brows. Criticize Atlanta for what it lacks and the response is less likely to be “Whaddaya mean?” than “Okay, we’ll get one.”