Advertise with The Signal!

“State of MARTA” address announces sweeping changes to Atlanta transit

A Marta train pulls into a station in Atlanta. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

On Jan. 5, press gathered for the 2018 “State of MARTA” address, where changes and updates were announced. These changes are the beginning of expansions to the MARTA network Atlanta residents voted for in November 2016.

The tech crowd was delighted to learn about mobile ticketing and expanded wifi access. The biggest announcement, however, was of the complete replacement of all of MARTA’s existing train cars.

Details on the contract will be released within the coming six months, according to MARTA board chairman Robbie Ashe, but he said the project is expected to be worth nearly $1 billion. New cars are expected to improve the quality of heating and air, seating, and intercom systems.

“They will be better designed to be more comfortable for folks and move more people quicker,” Ashe said.

Not that capacity was ever an issue for MARTA rail service. According to a report by the Atlanta regional commission, MARTA saw up to a 67 percent increase in ridership after the I-85 bridge collapse with virtually no changes in service times.

Renovating train cars can be important to encourage new riders, said former Georgia congressman and Georgia State associate professor James Martin. He served on the MARTA overview committee while in the House, and said MARTA took an important lesson from the Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco.

“You had to have modern transit cars to encourage people to ride transit as opposed to driving their car,” Martin said. “It needed to be a system that was attractive.”

More deeply integrating smart technology into our transit systems also has a practical benefit.

“With smartphones, students can know how long they’re going to have to wait for a bus or for a train, so I think predictability is encouraged,” Martin said.

Predictable transit is essential to Professor Joseph Hacker. He served as the manager of Transportation Planning for the greater Philadelphia region before becoming a professor. He believes transit systems that perform reliably and frequently is a draw. One way to make transit more reliable is to increase the rate of circulation and reduce wait times.

“The number one thing that transit systems need to make themselves attractive is increasing their frequency,” Hacker said. “If we don’t need a schedule, we’re more likely to just hop on the bus.”

From speaking to his classes, Hacker got a glimpse of students’ daily decisions.

“One of the reasons they won’t take transit is, if they miss a bus, they have to wait 30 minutes,” Hacker said.

Hacker’s recommendation is more frequent bus lines. He said he admires the decision to feed bus lines into the train stops, saying that increases the convenience and efficiency of a commute.

“The SPLOST money [is] not going to be able to get some of these big ticket items,” Hacker said. “They should invest in increasing frequency on some of the bus lines.”

But apparently there is money for at least one big ticket item this year, but Atlanta residents will have to wait to find out the details.

Be the first to comment

Join the Discussion