Using the MARTA

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

As someone who has lived in Atlanta for approximately three years with no car, public transportation is something I heavily rely on. In my experience as a Tech student, MARTA has been fairly reliable and accessible, but the same cannot be said for all Atlanta residents. Like the vast majority of Atlantans, I do not live within walking distance of a MARTA train station. This is one of the most pressing challenges facing public transportation and it is referenced to by transit experts as the “First and Last Mile Problem.” 

As a major usability issue, this has been addressed by the MARTA Reach program, free shuttles and universities providing their own transportation to specific stations close to campus. 

Tech has been particularly involved in making public transportation more accessible to students, not only through the free shuttles but also in working towards making positive changes to the system like through MARTA Reach. MARTA Reach was a 6-month pilot program that served as an on-demand rideshare from Mar. 1, 2022 to Aug. 31, 2022. This program was meant to test how on-demand shuttles could be utilized to make transportation to MARTA services easier and faster. Since the pilot has concluded, the program is being evaluated and seeing if it will be established as a permanent MARTA service. 

Tech is also making MARTA accessible through their free shuttles with the Gold Line taking riders to the Midtown Station, one of two stations within reasonable walking distance from campus. The TransLoc app allows riders to track all the different buses in real-time and also see how much capacity is left. Another feature is that the app will let you know when the next bus is coming, which saves on time waiting. 

While MARTA is working on being more accessible and efficient, there are some major drawbacks to the current system; the main one being safety. Being that the MARTA is available for everyone to use with a small fee of $2.50 per ride, this also means that people from all walks of life use the system. 

Female presenting individuals and women have often had issues with harassment and stalking on trains, resulting in the need for the slogan “if you see something, say something” to be announced on the multiple times throughout the stations and trips. 

As a fairly androgynous-looking individual, I personally have never experienced any threat on the train, but there are hundreds of MARTA riders with stories and experiences. 

The lack of staff and security both within the stations and inside the trains makes riding feel like a dangerous game of roulette. 

As most MARTA riders will note, taking the train is an experience, to say the least. In my many years of riding, I’ve seen fights, live performances, cosplayers, breakups and a bunch of other interesting things.

In my opinion, taking the MARTA is a necessary part of the Atlanta experience, and that game of roulette is just a risk you have to take. 

My personal tips for a safe passage are to mind your business, stay alert, move if you sense trouble and relish in the fact that a trip across the city costs less than a McDonald’s Big Mac.