Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

Moody's upgrades MARTA bond ratings

MARTA's ever rosier financial outlook has prompted Moody's Investors Service to give its bond rating a bump.

Moody's announced Tuesday that it has upgraded the rating on about $2 billion worth of MARTA sales tax revenue bonds.

The upgrade reflects MARTA's improved governance and operating performance over the past few years, according to the credit rating agency.  The upgrade also reflects a recent infusion of Clayton County sales tax revenues and title ad valorem taxes, which will increase revenues for bondholders.

A press release issued by Moody's said MARTA has a "stable outlook," which "reflects our expectation of continued efforts by MARTA's management team to improve the transit system's finances and operations, as well as our expectation of solid debt service coverage given the recovering service area economy and use of excess sales tax revenues to fund operations."

MARTA CEO Keith Parker sent the following statement in response to news of the Moody's bond rating upgrade:

“This is a great affirmation of the work our entire team is doing and is the culmination of a very positive fiscal year for MARTA,” said Keith Parker, GM/CEO of MARTA. “Our ridership is up, our customers are telling us we’re doing a better job and the fiscal reforms we’ve put in place have helped us to end the fiscal year in the black for the third year in a row. We’re very pleased that the financial markets recognize MARTA is making solid progress to get our fiscal house in order.”

Further details:

  • The rating on MARTA's $1.7 billion of outstanding third indenture sales tax revenue bonds was raised to Aa2 from Aa3.
  • The ratings on MARTA's $63.4 million and $188.0 million first and second indenture sales tax revenue bonds, respectively, were raised to Aa1 from Aa2.
  • MARTA's $88.3 million third indenture sales tax revenue bonds Series 2015B and $95.2 million sales tax refunding revenue bonds Series 2015C were assigned a Aa2 rating.

Bond obligations that fall into the Aa category are considered high quality and a very low credit risk.

Moody's said MARTA's rating could climb even higher if it gets a new state commitment of financial support.

MARTA operates bus and heavy rail in the city of Atlanta, Fulton County, DeKalb County and Clayton County, and has limited bus service in Gwinnett and Cobb counties.

It is the ninth-largest rapid transit system in the United States. In fiscal 2015, MARTA transported about 136 million passengers.

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