Will MARTA be savior from I-85 collapse chaos?
ATLANTA -- Hunker down, Atlanta. For the next several months, we will have to survive without one of our main interstates. Yes, this car-loving, single-person driving, mass transit-resistant city will get a kick in the pants from a massive hole in Interstate 85.
And, we will adjust. We've done it before.
"My advice to everyone in the city, really, is we need a flashback moment to when we had the Centennial Olympic Games and when we used MARTA," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said hours after the collapse.
Ah, how short our memories are. There were MARTA trains with no air conditioning, lost bus drivers and athletes stuck in traffic (all made their events, but at least two baseball games had to be delayed when their team buses were late). But still, for the most part, the traffic plan worked.
Atlanta workers telecommuted, carpooled, worked swing shifts. There was this feeling of community. We were in it together, and we survived.
And then, we went back to doing what we always do: drive. Everywhere. By ourselves.
So, here we are again. In our moments of greatest traffic need, we turn to MARTA.
MARTA will come out of this a savior. Or a disaster. There is opportunity. And, they're making initial steps to fill it.
PHOTOS: Fire burning under Atlanta Interstate (story continues under the gallery)
"MARTA is providing additional services to accommodate the expected influx of passengers needing to navigate traffic congestion and delay," MARTA spokesman Erik Burton said in a series of emails somewhere in the middle of his 20-plus hour day after the collapse. "MARTA continues to work closely with our state and local partners to ensure that residents and visitors can safely reach their destinations."
MARTA promised increased rail services and additional representatives. "For example, from the North Springs area, you get on the train abut every 8 to 10 minutes and that train will get you downtown in about 20 minutes or so," said Keith Parker, MARTA GM/CEO. Parker said extra services will also run through the weekend and they will reassess services for Monday.
GRTA Xpress, a regional commuter coach service with 33 routes in 12 Metro Atlanta counties, will also play a vital role in the I-85 workaround. They will continue to run scheduled service with detours, but they're also encouraging ride MARTA or telework. They're acting as a vital bridge between commuter parking lots and MARTA stations. They've added additional buses from the Hamilton Mill and Sugarloaf Mills park-and-rides and the Doraville MARTA station.
One other small complication MARTA will have to navigate is their revamp of the Breeze card. After March 31 (Yes, that's today. Day 1 of traffic apocalypse.), old blue Breeze cards can't be reloaded anymore. That means the Breeze card you last used for the AJC Peachtree Roadrace, the Braves game, or your trip to the airport won't work anymore.
If you've already loaded it up, you can still use the value, but if it's empty, you'll have to buy a new gray Breeze card. There's no word yet on if MARTA might consider delaying that transition.
Help us track MARTA performance during the I-85 workaround. Use #TrafficTracker to let us know what you're seeing on MARTA and detours.