Shelters, Shelters and More (Branded) Shelters!

By Andrew Babb, Georgia Tech Student

Every day, I walk to the corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Ponce de Leon Place and wait for either the 2 or 102 to whisk me into town. Some may know this location better as the light next to Chipotle. Every day I listen to Chipotle’s smooth, relaxing, commercially tex-mex soundtrack flowing down from their raised porch immediately behind the stop. And almost every day, I either stand three feet from forty mile-an-hour traffic, or I stand on the hill that leads up to Chipotle, which is made of mud more than grass. I’ve often wondered why there’s no shelter there, not even a bench. The space (though somewhat hilly) is open and unused, and the stop is arguably one of the best for providing access between MARTA and the Beltline, which can be reached across the street, through the Kroger parking lot.

However, I know that there are probably a few reasons: there’s a shelter one stop down, just across from Ponce City Market; this stop doesn’t see very many boardings compared to some neighboring stops; and Chipotle probably owns the land, and Chipotle doesn’t see any point in having a bus shelter.

But what if they did? What if Chipotle saw this bus stop as a way to reach out to a different market? Chipotle could put up a shelter, add a real-time arrival screen and put up signs that say “The next bus isn’t coming for twenty-five minutes, come inside and grab dinner while you wait.” Just like that Chipotle has a new stream of customers, and customers who don’t need to take up one of their precious few parking spaces. Even if Chipotle isn’t the perfect sponsor for something like this, Starbucks might be. If their wait time is shorter than the bus, they could try to pull you in the door for an iced chai latte while you wait.

This might seem like a terrifying intrusion of big-business commercialism into a humble public service, or one way that riders could be penalized for riding the bus, but it could be properly controlled to avoid such a dystopian fate. MARTA could require that sponsored stops be provided with a shelter that at least meets the requirements of their shelters elsewhere. Sponsors would have to be within walking distance of the stop, and provide trash pickup. If the sponsor wanted to add screens for advertising, they could also be required to provide lighting and schedule information. By requiring that sponsors be physically nearby, this form of advertising would be more relevant and accessible. We could replace screaming traffic lawyers with smiling neighborhood vendors.

These shelters wouldn’t just be a way to escape the summer heat, they would become a way to know what’s nearby. If you’re riding home and realize you’re out of laundry detergent, just pull the chain when you see the Target shelter coming up, and grab some on the way home. These shelters could also be sponsored by local businesses or neighborhood groups. Imagine telling friends that you get off the 27 at the Hobnob stop, or that they should pull the chain when they pass the shelter made to look like an album cover from Criminal Records. In this way, these shelters could become extensions of storefronts onto the street, not just providing advertising for retailers, but adding a new way for neighborhood culture to express itself, and to better integrate transportation and daily life. And it’s a great way to get riders out of the rain.

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Art on Track: Seeing MARTA Through a Different Lens

By Lyle Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

By Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

While a picture is worth a thousand words, the stirring photographic exhibit recently staged aboard a MARTA train left some customers speechless.

The October 18 exhibit entitled “Art on Track,” transformed a pair of workaday railcars into kinetic photo galleries that surprised and delighted unsuspecting riders. It also offered another real-life example of MARTA’s vision to nurture successful relationships with metro Atlanta’s burgeoning “creative class,” to help reflect the rich culture, poignant history and soulful humanity of the community we serve.

The exhibit was sponsored by Atlanta Celebrates Photography(ACP), a non-profit arts organization dedicated to the cultivation of the photographic arts and the enrichment of the Atlanta art community. Led by executive directorAmy Miller, ACP has the distinction of producing the nation’s largest annual, community-oriented photo festival that engages and educates diverse audiences through lens-based media.

ACP’s fall festival this year focused on two public art projects. In addition to Art on Track, the organization collaborated with the Atlanta BeltLine for the second year in a row on another transportation-oriented exhibit called“The Fence.” Running through Oct. 31, the project showcased 50 photographers whose work appeared on a continuous background attached to the chain link fence along the Eastside Side Trail. The project also appeared simultaneously in prominent public spaces in Houston, New York and Boston.

In its maiden voyage on MARTA, Art on Track featured original images by Atlanta-based photographers Kelly Kristin Jones and Laura Noel and was conceived and curated by Jennifer Schwartz, the Creator and Executive Director of Crusade for Art. Jones, Noel and Schwartz worked for months with MARTA staff from numerous departments to temporarily remove the advertising panels on a Red Line train and turn the rail vehicles into what ACP described as a unique, sensory art experience for riders… that will take them to new cultural horizons.”

And so it did.

Jones’ work, titled “No Vacancy” was a visual and text-driven exploration of our man-made and natural environments. She employed the shapes of vacant lots located in the neighborhoods the MARTA line runs through to represent the way Atlanta continues to refill and reinvent herself. The floor of the railcar was paved with a photo-realistic image of verdant grass and the advertising panels were replaced with shots of cloud-filled skies and intriguing quotes such as, “The Grass Ain’t Always Greener” and “ATL Is What You Make It.”

On the floor and walls of the adjoining rail car, Noel’s psychedelic work, aptly titled, “Kaleidoscope,” included digitally transformed photographs of Atlanta landmarks and signature events which she rendered in mesmerizing patterns. As customers boarded the train, Noel handed them a small, plastic kaleidoscope through which they were able to view the hidden world she had created with her camera to add an unexpected, unforgettable dimension to their journeys.

Mounting such exhibits isn’t easy, and this experience has been instructive for MARTA as it works to revive its once-vibrant arts program for transit customers. We hope to partner with ACP again and appreciate their patience, diligence and guidance to make Art on Track a reality.

Most recently, MARTA has been working with the arts advocacy group WonderRoot, the Transportation Alliance and internationally known visual artist Fahamu Pecou on a mural project at four rail stations. Last month, theDecatur Arts Alliance and the City of Decatur worked with MARTA to install “Ver Sacrum” a gleaming, gold sculpture at the Church Street entrance to the Decatur Station. Funded by a separate grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission, Decatur is also planning a mural on a MARTA overpass in the city limits.

Over the next several months, MARTA plans to announce exciting new, multi-faceted projects in conjunction with individual artists and arts organizations who share our commitment to enhance the public transit experience through the profound power of public art.

To see images of Art on Track, please visit this Dropbox.

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Redefining Public Transit Benefits for Future Generations

In addition to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) honoring MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker as its 2015 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager, the trade association also graduated a group of up-and-coming transit professionals from its year-long Leadership APTA class. LaShanda Dawkins, MARTA’s senior director of Human Resources, was among the graduates who submitted a research paper entitled “Redefining Public Transit Benefits for Future Generations: The CEO’s Vision for the Future.”  Below is an edited excerpt of their work that offers key insights about where the industry is headed culled from existing research and interviews with Parker and other top transit leaders.

LaShanda Dawkins, MARTA’s senior director of Human Resources

LaShanda Dawkins, MARTA’s senior director of Human Resources

The population of the United States is projected to grow 25 percent by 2050, with most of the growth happening in already congested urban areas. As we know, traffic congestion wastes a massive amount of time, fuel and money. The transit leaders we interviewed had a lot to say regarding how public transit changes lives, how to maximize the benefits of transit for future generations and how they see the transit industry changing in the next 5 to 15 years.  The leaders’ opinions converged into four consistent themes:

  • Population growth and congestion demand higher levels of transit
  • Transit is vital for a healthy city
  • Technology impacts transit
  • Transit is a choice for all

Our research and interviews found that everyone benefits from an effective transit system – whether they ride it or not. We concluded that the vision for transit defines a future in which public transit maximizes its contribution to the economy, environment and overall quality of life.

Transit is the best way, and often the only way, to increase transportation capacity along congested corridors in urban areas. Given limited space and funding, transit can move more people per mile and per dollar than new roadway expansion projects.

For example, in ideal conditions, an uncongested highway lane can move as many as 1,900 vehicles per hour. A congested highway lane may only see 700 vehicles per hour. In comparison, a light-rail train running four-car trains every four minutes at maximum capacity can move up to 12,000 riders per hour in each direction.

Even as roads and highways become more congested, two emerging demographic trends will impact the future of transit. First, the retiring Baby Boom generation is looking for more urban-oriented housing and transportation choices. Moreover, the emergent Millenial generation, ranging in age from 19 to 30, is a bigger population cohort than the Boomers and they travel in cars seven fewer miles per day than Gen X-ers, the generation that immediately preceded them. Researchers say this marks the first time in our history that car travel, or “automobility” has declined.

Transit CEOs are well aware of how these demographic changes would affect transit in the future. Keith Parker, GM/CEO of MARTA, explained it this way: “If Atlanta wants to continue to grow, Atlanta will have to make a major investment in mass transit.”

Steve Banta, CEO from Valley Metro in Phoenix echoed that opinion saying, “Millienials want to be more mobile. They are not investing in suburban homes. They have less need for a personal automobile and want to live work and play in the same geographic area. Seniors and empty nesters are also moving back to the urban core.”

As population trends shift and congestion levels increase, transit becomes more important for providing access to jobs. Currently, nearly 85 percent of U.S. workers commute by automobile; public transit is used by 5.2 percent. Households living in auto-dependent locations spend 25 percent of their income on transportation. With transit providing access to employment, shopping, restaurants and other amenities, household transportation costs can be reduced to 9 percent of household income.

While transit can help boost a family’s budget, there is growing evidence that it can also improve the bottom line for the private sector as well. Driven in part by convenient access to MARTA, corporate relocations are taking place in Atlanta with companies such as State Farm, Kaiser Permanente and Mercedes Benz. This trend is also underway in other cities.  In fact, there have been notable examples of public-private partnerships involving companies that provide increased transit access for their employees. In the years ahead, companies and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft may offer more transportation options that will complement public transit.

As part of the public-private collaboration many transit CEOs envision, a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled “Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will Transform Life, Business and the Global Economy” examined technologies that will have a direct impact on transit including the Mobile Internet, autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things.

In order to embrace and position his agency for these technological advances, Phil Washington, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has launched the Office of Extraordinary Innovation to “consult with some of the best and brightest minds in local, national and international academia, along with those in the nation’s transportation/policy think tanks and senior transportation veterans, to understand both new, and old mobility ideas and thought.”

Most important, the CEOs we interviewed supported the ideal that “Transit if For All.” That means transit should be a transportation mode available to everyone who needs it, or wants it. We must create environments of equity that connect all groups of people to opportunity and create viable housing, employment and recreation options. Our greatness lies in our ability to use our power to mitigate inequality, to improve the environment, to develop technologically and economically; and improve the overall lives of future generations.

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Join the MARTA Army!

By Simon Berrebi

Like you, I believe in a world-class transit system for the Atlanta region. That’s why I am recruiting you to join the MARTA Army.

MARTA Army recruits receive their first assignment: Operation TimelyTrip signs.

MARTA Army recruits receive their first assignment: Operation TimelyTrip signs.

We are truly gifted as a region to have the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). MARTA is the ninth largest transit agency in the nation, and also one of the safest and most sustainable. Each day, hundreds of thousands of people choose to board buses and trains over adding more congestion and pollution to a saturated urban network. Our transit system is what distinguishes Metro Atlanta from neighboring regions in the competition for fresh jobs and bright minds.

Yet, Metro Atlanta still lacks a world-class transit infrastructure: the rail coverage is limited to only two directions, and parts of the bus network run at low frequency. Due to the fragmented political structure in the Atlanta Region, no single governmental entity has the leverage to support major infrastructure improvements. To build the transit system of tomorrow, people from all over the Atlanta region must come together and help improve the system in their own communities.

The MARTA Army is a grassroots organization empowering communities to reclaim ownership over the system. We engage people from all backgrounds to join the ranks the MARTA Army. Soldiers can take part in local and highly scalable interventions aiming to enhance the ridership experience for both current and potential MARTA riders. Concrete improvements to the system performance allows to challenge preconceived opinions, which be crucial to obtain the support for high capacity route expansion.

Soldiers and supporters of the MARTA Army pose for a group selfie during TransportationCamp South 2015.

Soldiers and supporters of the MARTA Army pose for a group selfie during TransportationCamp South 2015.

The MARTA Army launched an adopt-a-bus-stop program (Operation TimelyTrip) as its first intervention. We engage soldiers to adopt bus stops by posting and updating eye-catching and weather resistant signs with route and schedule information, and a QR code linking to OneBusAway, a real-time information mobile website. Operation TimelyTrip provides information, branding, and recognition to transform bus stops in gateways into the transit system of tomorrow.

Interested volunteers can sign up online to adopt a bus stop of their choice. We will provide a laminated TimelyTrip signs and mounting supplies for volunteers to attach to the U-channel pole of each adopted bus stop.

We are partnering with local community organizations to co-host boot camps, where we train soldiers to join the army, make signs for bus stops and engage in discussions about the needs for action. In the army’s first week, we have organized events with Georgia Tech, the East Point Homeowners’ Association, the Latin American Association, and Las Nubes youth soccer tournament in Forrest Park. More than 70 soldiers have physically adopted bus stops, which have become dignified destinations.

Although we are completely independent from MARTA, we are thankful to have the support of MARTA officials from the board to the staff.

As a crowd-sourced and crowd-funded organization, the MARTA Army is capable of acting fast and cheaply to help MARTA in tasks that considerably affect the ridership experience but that require flexibility. We can test pilot programs, obtain feedback from our soldiers, and establish best practices.

For example, MARTA is planning to replace bus stops on its entire network in an operation that will take years and millions of dollars. We are studying how putting schedules at bus stops can affect ridership and overall satisfaction to support their effort. With a wide network of soldiers across the entire system, the MARTA Army will help MARTA survey and address the needs of its riders.

The MARTA Army is a unique concept that finds no precedents, even amongst the world’s most innovative transit systems. We want to provide an nation wide case study for scalable tactical urbanism efforts aimed at enhancing transit experience.

In addition to Operation TimelyTrip, the MARTA Army is exploring social, cultural and technological programs and events that will positively impact the rider’s experience. We wish to engage soldiers from all backgrounds to participate in the glorious march for better transit.

Join the MARTA Army, follow us on social media @MARTAarmy and reserve your bus stop online at We will let you know of upcoming boot camps where you can adopt a bus stop in your neighborhood, earn your stripes, and rise through the ranks of valorous soldiers!

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Gamification for Public Transit

By Alex Malokin, Georgia Tech Student

Gamification slowly but surely filters in many meaningful aspects of our lives. Transportation is not an outlier of this process. Public transit, as a part of transportation, should keep up with this trend to attract and retain riders, especially the elusive millennials.

Gamification is “the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users’ self-contributions,” according to Wikipedia. The game itself does not have to be complicated but it has to possess certain elements to become successful: rewards (tangible, think air miles; and intangible, think in-app points, currency, levels, unlocked achievements – a typical “candy crush”-like game), competition (think scoreboards, daily and weekly leaders), and immersion into the process, i.e. concentration on the task, which increases the level of satisfaction and takes mind of time spent on waiting or getting to a destination.

Below, there is a portfolio of interesting examples implemented around the world. It will give you sense of possible techniques and inspiration to get into this topic deeper.

  1. Waze social driving game: log your trips, report hazardous road conditions, get points and levels, and unlock achievements – a typical pattern for a location-based game. An additional perk is crowdsourcing information that could be used in system optimization. It could be implemented in conjunction with current MARTA apps or as a standalone feature.


  • It is not surprising that a similar idea was implemented for public transportation. Using a smart payment card will allow travelers to participate in a location-based game across the whole transit system.
  • chromaroma

    1. Games could be more inclusive and simple, that is do not require high-tech mediums for implementation. A sticker on a bus window in a shape of some alien monster that seems ready to eat tasty pedestrians could do a trick.
    1. Waiting for the next train or bus will be more fascinating with a simple ping-pong game that was introduced in at a German pedestrian crossing. There, you are paired with another player across the road, in MARTA settings it could be a passenger across the tracks, waiting for a train in the opposite direction.

  • Gamification has a potential to promote underused routes and increase off-peak ridership by providing money rewards. This approach was chosen by Singaporean transit agency. They allowed travelers to earn in-game credits for riding the system (more points if you take an off-peak vehicle), playing transit-themed mobile games, or introducing friends to the game. These credits were used to participate in raffle to win real money that could be spent for future transit trips.
    1. Bike-to-work challenges that happen across the country are a good way to incentivize riders and collect useful travel data at low costs. Similar challenges could be tried with MARTA users.

    There are only a handful of examples that will help to start thinking about how to make public transit trip more engaging and pleasant via tapping to our playful human nature.

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    Electric Buses Becoming a Reality

    By Adam Borsch

    New advances in battery and electric car technologies have made completely electric busses a reality. There are systems in the United Kingdom and Switzerland that have begun to run fully electric bus routes. These routes are revolutionary in and of themselves, however there are large untapped social and environmental benefits of running a fully electric bus line. The figure below shows some more detail on these busses.


    This past spring break I had the opportunity to spend it in Iceland learning about the renewable energy resources they use there.  Creating a world with cleaner and more efficient uses of energy is of the utmost important in generations moving forward. Through the use of solar and wind charging systems located at both the individual bus stops, shown below in figure 2, and the larger bus stations/transit hubs it would be possible to remove one of the aforementioned electric bus routes almost entirely from the grid. Aside from the environmental benefits of running a bus route completely off the grid and not reliant on any sort of fossil fuel for power, there are several social befits of this as well.

    Bus Stop Charging

    Bus Stop Charging

    Buses (using two Ss indicates kisses) drive all throughout the city and attract (ideally) riders of many different demographics. The vision of this system is that it could be an educational/research tool. The bus route itself could serve a school like Georgia tech as a research tool to investigate renewable energy generation on a small-medium scale. The bus route would also serve as an educational tool for the public to learn about the benefits of electric vehicles and green energy generation. In the major stations there could be something along the lines of a stationary charging bike where riders could pedal to generate some power for the system, while this may be largely symbolic it is a way for riders to feel like they are giving back to the system, and they could earn fare money for their time on the bikes. There could be a potential partnership with a museum or school to utilize space in the station for an exhibit on sustainability.

    The third pillar of sustainability is the economic side of things, and this one, for many, is the most important factor to consider. The standard diesel bus costs around $300,000 to purchase, whereas an electric bus from the company Proterra costs around $850,000. The operating and maintenance costs are far lower for the electric buses. Because they have a mechanically simpler construction, they will last longer than their diesel counterparts. Electric motors have a higher torque regardless of RPM, which makes them ideal for buses that do a lot of stopping and starting. Excluding capital costs at the stations to make up grades our research concluded that the buses could pay for themselves in 4-6 years. Table 1 below shows a side-by-side comparison of diesel and electric buses.


    The cost to add the alternative energy solutions at stations can be reduced if the upgrades are included as a part of a station upgrade as a whole. This is the same principle that applies to residential solar technologies, where installing solar panels is much more economically feasible if installed at the time of construction as opposed to retrofitting. Table 2 below shows the projected cost of this installation, if accompanied by a station upgrade. This would incentivize MARTA to make a large station overhaul during the process of adding this system which would allow for the exhibition and educations features to be added to the stations. Something that is much needed in many areas as it already stands.



    In conclusion, the installation of a fully electric, fully off-grid bus route into the MARTA bus network will revitalize the area that it is installed in. The project will satisfy all three pillars of sustainability, economic, social, and environmental, and work as an educational tool to the community about green technologies moving forward. Because of this unique position, funding will be available from new or unexplored sources. If incorporated with a large upgrade of a station, or another transit oriented development, this has the potential to revitalize an urban area and create a wonderful community space for future generations.

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    Friday Produce Market Opens at West End MARTA Station

    As part of its ongoing commitment to provide customer amenities, MARTA has opened a weekly pop-up produce market at its West End MARTA station.

    The Fresh MARTA Market will provide a convenient location to purchase fresh, affordable and locally grown produce in a community with many transit-reliant individuals.

    The pop-up market will operate outside the station each Friday from 2- 6 p.m. through October and will be managed in partnership with Food Oasis, Community Farmers Market and the Southwest Atlanta Growers Cooperative. These organizations work closely with West End residents to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable eating habits. Food Oasis is a program of the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

    A soft launch took place last week, with an official launch and ceremony scheduled Friday, July 17 at 2 p.m. and will include remarks from Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow; Rob Johnson, VP of Community Services at the Atlanta Community Food Bank; and, Jamila Norman, Owner/Operator of Patchwork City Farms.

    More than 75 percent of West End residents and MARTA customers surveyed indicated they would likely purchase fresh produce at the station, if it was available.

    Cash, credit and EBT payments will be accepted. Additionally, the Fresh MARTA Market will provide the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) two for one match, doubling the amount of fresh produce customers can purchase dollar for dollar.

    WestEndMarketFlier 071315

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    Atlanta…Get Out of Your Car!

    By William Woolery, Georgia Tech Student

    William Woolery, Georgia Tech Student

    William Woolery, Georgia Tech Student


    Growing up in San Francisco with BART,

    I already know riding MARTA is smart.

    Take a pledge, starting now to be green,

    The result? …a less congested Atlanta that has never been seen.


    Give up your car and join in,

    Get there faster, safer, less stress, and everyone wins.

    Get the cars off the road,

    Walk, take transit …be BOLD

    It is the right thing to do,

    Mother Earth thanks you too.


    Stand up, Stand up, for transportation, it’s National Infrastructure Day,

    Help change the business model for future growth to stay.

    Acknowledge, raise awareness, to transportation’s funding plight,

    Get the word out to Congress, the overdue investment is not slight.

    MARTA’s commitment to small business is key,

    “Join the efforts of the Strategic Alliance Memorandum!” said he.


    Transit oriented development… TODs are here to study,

    To increase service delivery and customer loyalty …tell your best buddy.

    Economy and service, MARTA strives to provide,

    With mix-use development, it will end that unnecessary drive.

    Mix-use living awaits you, so continue your pace,

    But take time to appreciate, you’ve saved valuable space.


    Buses and trains have your route covered, so don’t be nervous,

    They are working in tandem, to give you great service.

    Create the perfect ride for all,

    Be reliable, economic, safe, easy, without stalls.

    Buses and trains will be high tech,

    With mobile payment, Wi-Fi, and cellular connect.


    Hop on success, Clayton County signed on,

    Don’t delay the decision take a S.E.A.T. with the throngs.

    Buckhead Station bridge has debuted, so take a walk to the train,

    Customers agree, it was worth the small change.


    Be “smarta” go MARTA, we know the routine,

    Be popular again, take MARTA every day and join the MARTA team.

    Don’t drive drowsy or stressed, play it safe, leave the driving dread,

    Check out the new H.E. Holmes bus loop instead.


    MARTA is “HOT”, the ridership is high,

    This is the time to never say die!

    “Ride with Respect”, keep your eyes wide for safety,

    The effort by MARTA security has never been hasty.

    Apprehending bad behaving people quick as they can,

    For fare evading, initiating destructive deeds, or another evil plan.


    The thought for the day is toilets you say?

    Marta brought this necessity back to stay.

    The hope is long term,

    That toilets return.

    Safe, sanitary, hands free, self-cleaning, and loiter-proof, it’s the “piece de resistance”,

    The new washing unit/bathroom at Lindberg Center Station needs no assistance.


    Mix smart growth with smart transit, and what does that mean?

    It equals “routine excellence” and MARTA’s future is “green.”

    We all can do our part…so sit back, relax, and enjoy your ride,

    Support the ever evolving MARTA to be by your side.

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    Public Transport Survey Finds MARTA Safe, Reliable Alternative to Cars

    By Jennifer Jinadu-Wright

    Jennifer Jinadu-Wright, Director of Marketing, MARTA

    Jennifer Jinadu-Wright, Director of Marketing, MARTA

    The past few years have been transformative for MARTA. The agency is on a much stronger financial footing, rail and bus service is more frequent and more people are riding the system.

    Recently, MARTA used an independent research firm to conduct a market survey to better understand our customers and identify opportunities to grow our ridership.

    Our findings reaffirmed that we should continue to make the case that public transit is a safe, reliable and convenient alternative to the automobile. Research shows that MARTA has an opportunity to:

    • Increase awareness of where the system goes, both region-wide and at the local level. Many potential customers don’t know if there is a stop or station near where they live, work, or travel for personal business.
    • Use MARTA rail as an introductory point to the system; potential riders are far more likely to try rail first.
    • Increase awareness of the value of MARTA – which is a flat fare system that costs $2.50 to ride (and $1 for a Breeze card) with free transfers.
    • Increase participation among area employers in the Employer Partnership Program, targeting those with their workers who are the most likely to ride.
    • Promote MARTA’s safety and low-crime rate, particularly among non-riders.
    • Improve customer service through better employee training

    The population within MARTA’s service area has been segmented into four categories – primary riders, secondary riders, potential riders and no potentials. Millenials are especially keen on riding MARTA and find it a good value compared to driving.

    Of those surveyed, rail is the preferred public transit mode. Even so, MARTA is committed to making bus service a more attractive transportation option. MARTA’s Planning department is putting the final touches on the Comprehensive Operational Analysis, an in-depth reworking of our existing bus routes to make them more efficient, effective and customer friendly.

    Expect to see and hear more advertisements in the next few weeks encouraging you to give MARTA a try, especially for trips to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. A recent survey ranked Hartsfield-Jackson as the tops in the nation for transit accessibility because of the direct connection to the main terminal gates that MARTA provides.

    The Midtown Alliance has named June “Try Transit” month and is encouraging individuals who live or work in Midtown to put down the car keys and pick up a MARTA Breeze card or commute with one of our transit partners: Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Xpress buses, Cobb Community Transit or Gwinnett County Transit.

    Use MARTA’s MyCommute trip planner or check Google Maps to find the closest MARTA bus stop or rail station near you. Ensure you’ll have a stress-free trip by downloading our “On the Go” mobile app to get real-time train and bus arrivals. Also, don’t forget to check out our new video and let us know what you think MARTA should be doing to grow its ridership.

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    4 Takeaways from Development Day

    Conor Sen headshot

    Conor Sen is a portfolio manager with interests in demographics, media, technology and Atlanta’s urban development.

    By Conor Sen

    I spent most of this morning at the 3rd annual MARTA Development Day, a forum for MARTA officials to talk to real estate developers about the progress the system is making, and to facilitate the development of land around transit stations.

    4 Takeaways:

    1) A new boldness from MARTA CEO Keith Parker and MARTA Chairman Robert Ashe. An old boss liked to say when things were going well that he had the leverage to “play offense.” I attended the State of MARTA address a few months ago and at that meeting Parker/Ashe said that their goals were to remove all legitimate obstacles from the state or other higher government bodies investing in the expansion of MARTA and they believed they had done that. The tone at that meeting was one you might find from a team making a presentation on Shark Tank, where the presenters know that ultimately the individuals on the other side of the room were the ones in control. This morning the tone was different. They spoke with the boldness and the forcefulness of a team that knows it’s done its job and wants to act now. It was heartening to see.

    2) Walkable development will be the predominant form of real estate development in this country for the next 20-30 years. Well-known urbanist Chris Leinberger’s presentation was a highlight of the event. He compared Atlanta not to DC but to Boston, saying that the Boston built environment is a direction metro Atlanta appears to be headed towards. Over the past 30 years Boston has gone from a Route 128-focused development cycle to one focused on core Boston around the T and Boston’s universities. The region is still 90-95% suburban/car-centric, but most new real estate development is happening in walkable areas. Real estate in walkable areas carries roughly a 100% premium over non-walkable areas, which is the market saying “to build more of this stuff.” Even in a boom year the built environment only grows by around 2%. Even if the walkable share of metro Atlanta only grows to around 5-10% of the total built environment like in Boston, it will take many, many years of walkable growth to catch up with demand.

    3) Gross tax revenues of walkable areas are up to 12x those of non-walkable areas. I’ve mused on this on Twitter a bit in the past, saying that the economic efficiencies gained in walkable places should appeal to the fiscal desires of conservatives, but had never seen the data before. In metro Atlanta we’re seeing in areas as diverse as Cobb County with the new Braves stadium, in Alpharetta, in Johns Creek, in Duluth, in Roswell, in Sandy Springs, and in Dunwoody, hardly the bastion of progressive hipsters, that walkable places are important both because they attract Millennials and because their tax bases are too reliant on suburban residential and not enough on commercial. There’s a need to rebalance the tax base to support the needs of aging infrastructure and aging residents. Younger homeowners want walkability as an amenity and older city leaders need a more balanced tax base which can be brought about by incorporating walkability, so even though the values of the two constituencies may differ their incentives are surprisingly aligned.

    4) Financing new forms of walkable developments remains challenging. Everybody wants to build grocery-anchored mixed use developments capped with a ton of luxury apartments. But just because that’s what developers want to build and investors want to finance doesn’t mean that’s capturing all or even most of what needs to be built. But non-traditional walkable developments don’t fit into existing financing models very well, and as a result financing them has up to now been somewhat difficult. This will surely work itself out over time, but for now it’s holding back the creation of more walkable places.

    Conor Sen is a portfolio manager at New River Investments. 

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