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MARTA to suspend bus fares, reduce operations starting Thursday

Riders will be asked to enter and exit through the rear doors of the buses.

ATLANTA — MARTA is making substantial changes to its operations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In an announcement, the transit authority said it will reduce bus service by 30 percent, change rail service to operate on a weekend schedule and bus fares will be suspended. The adjustments come as MARTA tries to "protect the health and wellness of their employees" as they continue to provide transit service.

"MARTA stands by our role as a provider of essential infrastructure. Our frontline employees are everyday heroes who drive buses, run trains, protect our customers, and clean vehicles and stations,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. "I applaud the fortitude and resilience they show every day by coming to work despite the anxiety and uncertainty that has become the new normal."

Beginning Thursday, MARTA said all bus customers will be required to enter and exit using the rear door of the buses, except those who need the accessibility ramps. Because of this, and the location of the Breeze farebox near the front door, MARTA is suspending bus fares. 

Beginning Monday, March 30, MARTA will roll out the reduced bus operations. All bus routes will continue to operate, but with fewer buses on each route. The exception is on routes with the heaviest ridership (routes 15, 39, 5, 121, 196, 73, 110, 78, 83, and 89) which will have buses added to help with social distancing. 

Also on Monday, rail service will operate on a weekend schedule, except for the start time. While all Red and Gold Line trains will go to the airport, Green Line trains will turn back at King Memorial. MARTA will also close the Mercedes-Benz/State Farm Arena/GWCC rail station, and trains will not stop there. Finally, the streetcar will operate on a Sunday schedule beginning Monday.

Additional changes could be made, MARTA said. 

MARTA said it will perform deep cleaning, repair work, painting, and other small projects at the rail station during this temporary closure, which will also affect some public restrooms that are being closed at certain MARTA rail stations. The open restrooms will be at the College Park, Doraville, Five Points, H.E. Holmes, Indian Creek, Lindbergh and North Springs stations. Updated bus and rail service information will be available on www.itsmarta.com.

RELATED: Atlanta stay-at-home order: What can I do, and what exactly is 'essential'?

According to the spokesperson, through Tuesday, bus ridership is down 54 percent compared to the average weekday in February amid the coronavirus pandemic. Rail ridership is down 68 percent.

Atlanta is currently under a two-week stay-at-home order, but exceptions are in place for necessary outings.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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