July 4 MARTA glitch spotlights ridership drop

MARTA says a faulty rail switch was behind train delays that slowed some passengers arriving for Tuesday's AJC Peachtree Road Race.

ATLANTA -- MARTA says a faulty rail switch was behind train delays that slowed some passengers arriving for Tuesday’s AJC Peachtree Road Race.  The delays started at 6:30 a.m. and appeared to affect riders throughout the morning.   

MARTA describes Tuesday’s mechanical problem as something causing only minor delays.  

MARTA trains carried thousands of passengers July 4th.  But when some of them arrived after 9am at Lenox to start the 10K race, they found workers wheeling away the official starting line – and fumed at the transit system.

"MARTA made us late," an unidentified runner told 11Alive News at the starting line.  "Over thirty minutes waiting. You see all these people coming through? All of us coming off the train," she said as a couple dozen runners took off nearby.

The anger stung the transit system on its highest-profile travel day since the collapse of the I-85 overpass – and system watchers like state Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody), who says he rides MARTA daily.

"Sometimes these things come at the worst times. It’s possible if it came on a Thursday afternoon, it might not be that big a deal. Obviously this inconvenienced a lot more people," said Taylor, chairman of a joint House-Senate committee that oversees MARTA.  

Taylor is among those who had hoped the I-85 collapse would have long term benefits for MARTA.  And it did send MARTA ridership soaring – It spiked eleven percent while I-85 was closed.  But since then, it has “returned to pre-collapse ridership,” according to a MARTA spokesman.  

MARTA’s issues July 4th won’t help the transit agency’s goal of winning more riders.  But Taylor says a commission of state lawmakers will work on that this summer – with an eye on making public transit more dynamic and usable.

"Not just the city of Atlanta but metro, you’ve got to move people around and people don’t want to sit in traffic all the time," Taylor said.  "This is what we’re trying to hash out this summer with that."

MARTA is a 40 year old transit system that is the only one of its size in the country that gets no state funding.  This legislative commission will look at that funding.  It likely won’t be able to fix glitches like the one that marred July 4th.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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