MARTA, U.S. Small Business Administration Ink Strategic Alliance

By Lyle V. Harris

MARTA signed a Strategic Alliance Memorandum with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help start, maintain and expand small businesses in Georgia. SBA Regional Administrator Cassius Butts joined MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker on March 3 for an official signing ceremony and small business networking event at the transit agency’s headquarters in Atlanta.

Pictured L-R: SBA Regional Administrator Cassius Butts and MARTA GM/CEO Keith Parker sign the agreement while Terri Denison, SBA Georgia District Director and Ferdinand Risco, Executive Director, MARTA Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity stand and witness the occasion.

Pictured L-R: SBA Regional Administrator Cassius Butts and MARTA GM/CEO Keith Parker sign the agreement while Terri Denison, SBA Georgia District Director and Ferdinand Risco, Executive Director, MARTA Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity stand and witness the occasion.

Through its Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, led by Executive Director Ferdinand L. Risco, MARTA works hand-in-hand with the SBA’s Georgia District Director Terri L. Denison, other government partners, local chambers of commerce and business organizations to cultivate business development opportunities for Georgia companies. MARTA, the ninth largest public transit system in the country, provides an estimated $2.6 billion economic impact to the state’s economy.

In his remarks, MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker predicted the next few years will be critical to the agency’s growth and success. On March 21, MARTA will begin service in Clayton County, marking its first jurisdictional expansion since its inception more than four decades ago.

“As the economy continues to improve, more residents and visitors are choosing MARTA. We’ve made ridership gains and, with more customers, comes the need for more investment in the system,” said Parker.

“With that in mind, in December, we announced MARTA is boosting its commitment to small and disadvantaged businesses,” he continued. “Now, projects using federal dollars will require 30 percent participation from disadvantaged business enterprises through 2017.”

 

MARTA GM/CEO Keith Parker welcomes attendees to the signing ceremony. Photo credit: MARTA

MARTA GM/CEO Keith Parker welcomes attendees to the signing ceremony.
Photo credit: MARTA

“It is a true honor to sign this historic Strategic Alliance Memorandum with MARTA. This living document will allow our organizations to reach more small businesses that are looking for greater opportunities. Relationships such as this are critical for the growth of our small business community. We are both committed to growing the economy, adding jobs, and helping to make Metropolitan Atlanta a place where small businesses will thrive,” said Cassius F. Butts, Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration.

Prior to the signing ceremony, staff from the Small Business Administration’s Georgia office participated in a meet and greet with local small business owners. Other organizations represented included the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Business League and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

Local entrepreneurs engage with SBA staff prior to the signing ceremony. Photo credit: MARTA

Local entrepreneurs engage with SBA staff prior to the signing ceremony.
Photo credit: MARTA

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MARTA Counts Down Clayton County Bus Launch

Exactly one week before MARTA’s first jurisdictional expansion since its inception, the agency invited Clayton County residents to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and Meet MARTA Day at the Riverdale Town Center. The event included remarks from U.S. Congressman David Scott, Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeffrey E. Turner, Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, MARTA Board Chairman Robert L. Ashe III and GM/CEO Keith T. Parker.

MARTA motorcade rolls into Clayton County for a pre-launch event in advance of March 21 bus service.  Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

MARTA motorcade rolls into Clayton County for a pre-launch event in advance of March 21 bus service. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

The festivities kicked off with a 14-vehicle motorcade along MARTA Bus Route 196, one of three routes that will commence March 21.

In addition to the special guests and local elected officials, Clayton County community leaders attended the standing room only event as well as residents and MARTA staff.

In his remarks, U.S. Congressman David Scott (D-GA 13th District) praised the residents of Clayton County, his constituents, for overwhelmingly supporting the Nov. 2014 MARTA ballot measure. Rep. Scott has long been a champion of public transit and endorsed a 2010 nonbinding referendum for Clayton County to join MARTA.

He pledged to push for federal support of a commuter rail service and said, “This MARTA partnership will be an economic magnet for Clayton County.”

Congressman David Scott addresses crowd at event marking the launch of bus service in Clayton County. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

Congressman David Scott addresses crowd at event marking the launch of bus service in Clayton County. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

In Nov. 2014 Clayton County residents voted by a three to one margin to join MARTA.

MARTA Congressman from Planning and Customer Service were on hand to provide trip assistance for soon-to-be MARTA customers residing in Clayton County.

The three inaugural bus routes will feed into MARTA rail stations, providing free, seamless transfers to rail service in Fulton and DeKalb counties. Before the year’s end, MARTA will provide eight local bus routes and two flex bus circulators.

Parker pledged, “Once the buses start rolling, we will keep listening to our customers and make the necessary tweaks and changes to ensure our customers get the very best ridership experience possible.”

A Clayton County resident poses questions to a MARTA Congressman about new bus routes. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

A Clayton County resident poses questions to a MARTA Congressman about new bus routes. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

Members of the MARTA Police Department were on hand to introduce themselves to Clayton County residents. MARTA is working closely with local law enforcement partners to ensure the safety and security of its customers. The agency will open a mini-police precinct in the county and has assigned 13 officers to monitor Clayton County bus routes.

Local elected officials, community activists and members of MARTA’s Board of Directors cut the celebratory ribbon in front of a new MARTA bus.

“I’m from Atlanta and grew up riding MARTA,” said Ashe, the Board Chairman. “Four months after the November referendum, I am still overwhelmed by the vote that left no doubt in anyone’s mind that MARTA is needed in Clayton County and is here to stay. This is a watershed event for MARTA, for Clayton County and for metro Atlanta.”

MARTA and Clayton County Police Officers talk to local high school students. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

MARTA and Clayton County Police Officers talk to local high school students. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

Dignitaries cut the ribbon to celebrate the upcoming launch of MARTA service into Clayton County. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

Dignitaries cut the ribbon to celebrate the upcoming launch of MARTA service into Clayton County. Photo credit: Adam Shumaker

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New MARTA Bus Loop at H.E. Holmes Station

From new escalators to new roofs, MARTA is hard at work upgrading the Authority’s numerous rail stations to improve the customer experience and to keep the system looking as good as new.

One recent project involved the demolition and replacement of the entire H.E. Holmes bus loop. After decades of use, parts of the busway were severely damaged and had become a safety concern.  MARTA’s Job Order Contracting (JOC) team, tasked with implementing time-sensitive construction projects, was called in to bring the station back to its former glory.

We appreciate the patience of our customers during this renovation and hope you are enjoying the new and improved bus loop. More station improvements are to come, including the complete resurfacing of the Oakland City station platform.

H.E. Holmes Station Bus Loop Before Renovations

Photo credit: MARTA Before: Pictured is the original bus loop from when the station first opened in 1979 as the Hightower MARTA station. It was later renamed to honor Hamilton E. Holmes, a Civil Rights hero.

 

Photo Credit: MARTA After: The new bus loop has been repaved with concrete able to withstand the continuous pressure from 30,000-pound buses driving on it daily.

Photo Credit: MARTA
After: The new bus loop has been repaved with concrete able to withstand the continuous pressure from 30,000-pound buses driving on it daily.

 

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Transit Safety A Priority

By Reginald Mason

Reginald Mason serves as MARTA's Assistant General Manager of Safety and Quality Assurance.

Reginald Mason serves as MARTA’s Assistant General Manager of Safety and Quality Assurance.

Spend just a few minutes on metro Atlanta’s thoroughfares and in short order you’ll experience the angst and frustration of driving through traffic. In a matter of weeks, we’ve heard of a handful of tragic automobile accidents that have snarled traffic and resulted in the loss of lives due to drivers not knowing the best practices for safely navigating the Interstate immediately after an accident.

New research from the Journal of Public Transportation shows taking public transit is significantly safer than commuting by car; rail transit is approximately 30 times safer than driving and riding a bus is 60 times safer. Through proactive management, MARTA continues to be one of the safest transit systems in the country and serves as a reliable, stress-free alternative to gripping your car’s steering wheel.

Rail Map33x33-2015eTo gain a deeper understanding of how best to communicate critical safety messages, MARTA recently posted its draft safety posters on social media for public comment and received a host of suggestions that will be incorporated into the final version.

As with any public place such as the Interstate, city street, an airplane or a MARTA train, it is always helpful to understand how to navigate an unexpected emergency.

Remember these tips to safely ride MARTA:

  • Stand behind the gray, textured safety edge while waiting for a train.
  • Never lean against the train doors.
  • Use the handrails to steady yourself while the train is in motion and when boarding and exiting the train.
  • If a person falls on the tracks as a train is approaching, instruct them to immediately move to the overhang under the edge of the platform. There is enough space to take refuge and avoid making contact with the train. Do not jump down on the tracks in an attempt to save them.
  • Never place or throw anything on the rail tracks. This may cause a train to derail and potentially cause an injury.
  • Do not run after or alongside a bus to get it to stop. Operators turn their attention to the road and traffic once the bus is moving.
  • Do not stand in front of the yellow line. The area between the operator and the front door must always be kept clear to provide bus operators with as much visibility as possible.
  • Before getting on an elevator always make sure that the elevator is level with the floor.
  • If the elevator stops between floors, push the alarm button, or use the elevator’s telephone or intercom to call for help. Then wait for assistance.

When using the escalator, always stand to the right and walk to the left.

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MARTA TOD Making Strides

Amanda Rhein, Senior Director, Transit Oriented Development

By Amanda Rhein, Senior Director, Transit Oriented Development

By Amanda Rhein, Sr. Director TOD & Real Estate

When I joined MARTA just more than one year ago, our GM/CEO Keith Parker shared with me his vision of growing the agency’s transit-oriented development (TOD) program as a way of building our ridership, increasing revenues and enhancing communities.

Since then, our TOD program has been making steady progress with the support and guidance of developers, community advocates, government officials and business leaders. Here is an update on several of the TOD projects we’re working on:

Overview

MARTA’s Office of Transit-Oriented Development and Real Estate is excited to kick-off 2015 by announcing three new upcoming TOD opportunities at the Arts Center Station, Oakland City Station and Chamblee Station.

We continue to work towards our goal of having five TODs underway by spring 2015. Thus far, development partners have been selected for the following three stations: Edgewood/Candler, Avondale and King Memorial. We are pleased to report that the Federal Transit Administration recently provided preliminary approval for Avondale Station, including our progressive approach to replacement and shared parking. While there has been a delay in the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe solicitation, we are now moving forward with the re-release of the Request for Qualifications.

We are wrapping up our strategic planning process for the Office of TOD and Real Estate and eager to begin implementing the recommendations which include: hiring new staff, making organizational changes and introducing new technology.

Arts Center Station TOD

Based on responses received to the Request for Expressions of Interest for the development of the air rights, MARTA has determined that the Arts Center Station presents the best near-term opportunity for redevelopment.

Our staff will seek authorization from the MARTA Board to release a Request for Qualifications for the redevelopment of 6.2 acres of property in the first quarter of 2015. The property includes the station, a kiss ride parking lot and open space that will be conveyed to the awardee through a 99-year ground lease, air rights lease or other appropriate and mutually agreed upon transaction. The intent of this RFQ is to identify development partners to convert the entire property into a high-quality, mixed-use, transit oriented development, consisting of residential, retail, office and hotel components.

MARTA will release a Request for Proposals to those pre-qualified through the RFQ process in the summer.

Oakland City Station TOD

Photo credit: Peter Drey  MARTA is considering redevelopment options that will include mixed-income rental apartments with 30-40 percent identified as affordable units.

Photo credit: Peter Drey
MARTA is considering redevelopment options that will include mixed-income rental apartments.

MARTA, in partnership with the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission, hosted a community planning process for TOD at the Oakland City Station.

As part of the charrette process, a real estate market consultant and an architect were engaged to envision future development at the site based on community input and market realities. Mixed-income rental apartments were found to be the viable near-term development opportunity. In mid-2015 MARTA will seek authorization to release a Request for Qualifications for the initial phase of development at the station on the closed three-acre surface parking lot. Future phases of development at the site will occur on the northern parking lots and could include commercial uses.

Based on recommendations from the charrette, MARTA will seek community and City approval to rezone to mixed residential and commercial in early 2015.

Chamblee Station TOD

We are excited to announce the pending release of Lot 1 at the Chamblee Station. This 2.16-acre property is located in the City of Chamblee at the intersection of Peachtree and Chamblee Tucker roads.

Originally acquired for a park and ride lot, the surface parking lot has been closed since 2006.

The property is zoned Village Commercial and was identified as a TOD opportunity in the Chamblee Town Center Livable Centers Initiative Report.

MARTA will seek authorization to release a RFP for the redevelopment of this property in first quarter 2015.

Brookhaven/Oglethorpe University Station TOD

MARTA recently announced the re-release of a Request for Qualifications for the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe University Station TOD. MARTA determined that it was in its best interest to cancel the initial solicitation due to a discrepancy in the original RFQ between the requested information and the evaluation criteria.

The purpose of this RFQ is to solicit Qualification Statements from qualified firms capable of developing this 10.3-acre property into a high-quality, mixed-use, transit oriented development, consisting of residential, commercial and civic components.

Only pre-qualified firms will be invited to respond to the RFP, which will include a detailed development plan and a financial model that illustrates the potential economic return to MARTA. A copy of the RFQ can be downloaded, upon registration, from MARTA’s website. Responses are due to MARTA on Feb. 5, 2015.

In the meantime, please continue to share your suggestions on how we can work together on TODs to make our rail stations dynamic destinations that support healthy, thriving neighborhoods. You can reach me on Twitter at @MARTATOD1.

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Is MARTA’s TOD a light at the end of a tunnel of idling cars?

By Alison Tallman

By Alison Tallman, Graphic Designer & Daily MARTA Customer

By Alison Tallman,
Graphic Designer & Daily MARTA Customer

Ever since Jane Jacobs celebrated diverse, high-density neighborhoods in her 1961 classic “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” city planners, politicians, academics and even some developers have been trying to emulate the quaint West Village neighborhood where she lived.

To adopt Jacobs’ prescriptions for the perfect city — short, walkable blocks, with high-density, functional living — would have required a monumental 180 degree change in most of our nation’s sprawling, car-centric metropolises,  like Atlanta. However, Jacobs’ call for mixed-use development — commercial and residential combined to produce a lively street scene— was one goal that most cities could easily implement without bulldozing and starting from scratch.

Thus was born the artificial American version of mixed-use development. Slap condos on top of a few businesses like a clothing boutique or a chain coffee shop, and – Abracadabra! – you’ve got yourself an interesting, walkable street, right? Keep developing the same thing over and over and maybe you’ll witness the birth of a charming neighborhood — the kind you would find in Copenhagen, Düsseldorf, or Buenos Aires. Too many mixed-use projects are green-lit solely based on residential growth, or because of civic pressure from municipal leaders pushing for what they perceive to be the “next big thing.” The fact that developers are able to pitch ivory tower concepts, absent any kind of boots-on-the-ground, supply-and-demand realities has a lot to do with how many poorly planned,  mixed-use projects exist.

Rendering of proposed Walton Communities TOD at MART's King Memorial rail station. Image credit: MARTA

Rendering of proposed Walton Communities TOD at MART’s King Memorial rail station. Image credit: MARTA

Atlantans are now watching with bated breath as our underdog transit system, MARTA, takes on several ambitious Transit-Oriented Development projects at multiple station locations throughout the city. MARTA will be looking to lease  under-used land they own. In other words, something more attractive and useful than thousands of parking spaces, which MARTA studies found are used only 40 percent of the time during the weekdays.

This is the most positive and exciting news I’ve heard in a while pertaining to walkability and urban development getting more traction in Atlanta. Sure, it will generate millions every year in lease revenue that can fund rail and bus operations, but mark my words, this will be the tipping point for a much larger goal here. As one of the worst sprawling cities in the nation, we have limited options to redo some of the mess that has been created and carried on for the past half-century.

Curate the businesses carefully

However, it has to be done right. Most of the local mixed-use developments, in central Atlanta (and the rest of America), fall seriously short of truly being islands of independence and sustainability. These areas  become destinations for out-of-towners (visitors or tourists) with large SUV’s on the weekends “wanting to be seen” than for the locals who live in walking distance. I see it happening, as I write this, via the Krog Street Market project, Emory Point, White Provisions and Ponce City Market. One major reason, is the lack of any logical curation to the type of businesses leasing the retail spaces. Instead, “mixed-use” becomes glorified shopping centers with way too many fluffy boutique retail stores and moderately to expensively places to eat. Why would you want to live on the Westside in the heart of White Provisions? Your food options would include four-star-rated ($$$) Abattoir, the Optimist, JCT Kitchen or Bacchanalia, and your shopping options would include Billy Reid, Room & Board or Knoll. Realistically, you would only use what is right outside your doorstep if a friend came to visit. Instead, offer one of each thing the neighborhood is in serious need of. For example, the King Memorial area needs a post office; the closest one to us is on Metropolitan Avenue in East Atlanta Village.

Mix density with core functionality

We need these TOD villages to be self-sustaining. The majority should be living units above, mixed with offices, which would include: a dentist, a primary physician, an accountant, a daycare, a law office, maybe a design agency — places where people can work while actually being extremely beneficial to the residents that live in the village. Then below you would have your more fun necessities: a yoga studio or gym, a grocer with a deli and a liquor store, a Kinko’s-style post office/work space, an independently run coffee shop, a dry cleaners, a nail place, a tiny hardware store that sells apartment essentials, a pharmacy and maybe a doggie day care (you get the picture).

Then you can allow your food and retail to come into the picture. Have different money-tier brackets for restaurants so there are suitable options for residents. A pizza place that charges $2 a slice would be right next to a restaurant you could get an omelet on Sunday morning, but also serve sandwiches for lunch and burgers for dinner. I find it laughable that Gunshow (the only restaurant in Atlanta that made the national “Where to Eat in 2015″ list) is in the mixed-use village of Glenwood Park. How does this benefit the surrounding residents? It doesn’t. Instead you now have a parking issue on your hands because you have people from anywhere but Glenwood Park coming to see what the fuss is about. Even if everyone in the village could afford a weekly dinner at Gunshow, they would never be able to casually drop in because the restaurant has a three-month waiting list. This is the complete opposite of mixed-use done correctly, even though I am certain a lot of people would disagree with me.

Let walking rule over parking

In its TOD Guidelines, MARTA wrote a section header called “a new approach to parking.” It states: “TOD does not mean ‘no cars.’ Even with high transit utilization, many people will come and go by automobile and need a place to park.” However, the agency also states that parking will be hidden from the visual pedestrian environment and that there will be considerably less parking than similar, non-transit oriented development. If there are fewer places to park (or less free or cheap spots in general), there will be fewer people driving and more people using transit or other forms of transportation.  Sidewalks, bike paths and additional routes also need to be redone in order to stimulate foot traffic.

I realize MARTA has to keep different types of people in mind, from the commuter to the urban core resident to the outside visitor, but for whom are they primarily building? Are they planning on renting primarily to daily MARTA customers that don’t own a car and are living examples of walkability? Or are they building it for visitors who are willing to drop money on the weekends but leave the community and streets desolate during the weekdays? In order to have urban vitality and a safe community, you have to have people walking around all over at all times of the day and night. If you have people only coming and going in their cars, the true purpose for mixed-use will never be realized.

Lease to actual advocates of transit 

If you rent to just anyone with money, TOD communities will just look like another highly overrated, gentrified project. Only rich, yuppie-types, who drive everywhere, can afford that $1,500 price tag on a studio apartment, which quickly squashes a more multi-cultured, all walks of life, urbanist community that would have filled the streets with presence and given it the life it deserves. This is basically suburbia in town—segregating poor minority locals from a wave of wealthier Millennials looking to rent wherever is cool, safe and where they can still stay in their car bubbles. Mixing in 20 percent of housing for lower-income residents that rely on our transit and walk everywhere is a must and it’s good to see MARTA has already committed to doing so.

What MARTA can show Atlanta now is how density and smart growth will make transit work. Bringing all-inclusive, truly mixed-use development, right on top of the stations, is the smartest step we can take to build a city that people want to live in, attracting new talent and ultimately put an end to unnecessary driving. Atlanta has horrible sprawl, but if they can generate incentives for why people would want to live in town again, the prosperity will follow. We can fix what has been broken; moving people closer together to revitalize downtown and make Atlanta what it never had a chance to become.

Alison Tallman is a freelance designer who writes about her experiences in a city that loves cars. This column originally appeared on her blog. It has been edited for space. 

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2015 “State of MARTA” Breakfast: Transformation: Good to Great

Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

By Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

MARTA recently celebrated its successes and highlighted upcoming programs with regional thought leaders at its 2015 State of MARTA breakfast. Transformation: Good to Great was the theme of the event which kicked off with opening remarks from Therese McMillan, Acting Administrator for the Federal Transit Administrator.

In her speech, McMillan congratulated MARTA and the City of Atlanta on the opening of the Atlanta Streetcar and also urged metro Atlanta residents to publicly voice their support for MARTA to state and federal elected officials.

Erin Coleman, WSB-TV news anchor, emceed the breakfast and Ed Baker, publisher of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, moderated the conversation on MARTA’s role in metro Atlanta’s future growth and development.

MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker greets the standing room only audience.

MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker greets the standing room only audience.

In a keynote address, MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker shared the vision for the Authority’s future and encouraged the audience to take a S-E-A-T.

“We’ve created an easy acronym that we will use to engage with the community,” Parker said. “Each letter represents a powerful new way for MARTA to connect with our friends, partners and supporters.

The “S” stands for Service. From this point forward, MARTA is going to constantly be on the lookout for new ways of delivering our service to customers. The “E” stands for Economy.  Economic empowerment and economic development are important to MARTA and to the future of the metro Atlanta. The relationship between workforce development and economic competitiveness cannot be overstated and it has been key to selecting the agency’s Transit Oriented Development stations.

The “A” stands for Arts. Many transit agencies have built in wonderful art programs by dedicating a portion of their capital projects budgets to transit art. The “T” stands for Technology. The agency is moving forward with mobile payment technology that will allow customers to use their cell phone rather than a Breeze machine.  In addition, MARTA is planning Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity on buses and trains.

In addition to S-E-A-T, Parker highlighted the agency’s positive news including adding more rail and bus service, launching five TOD projects and perhaps the largest story of 2014 – the successful Clayton County referendum to join MARTA.

MARTA Board Chairman Robert L. Ashe III announced that the board of directors would vote to extend Parker’s contract for an additional two years through 2019. The board voted unanimously in support of the extension at its Jan. 8, 2014, board meeting.

“Routine excellence” has become the daily mantra of the General Manager and MARTA staff. One of MARTA’s biggest media stories last year was success of Ride with Respect, the customer code of conduct policy that we launched in 2013 to curtail uncivil behavior, including playing loud music, bad language and again, fare evasion which has been Public Enemy Number One. A year after Ride with Respect went into effect, the agency has suspended more than 2,000 people for an assortment of violations.

In a recent Ride with Respect arrest that attracted national media attention, two MARTA Police plainclothes officers – La-Shi Smith and James Williams –noticed an individual trying to sneak past the faregates at the Georgia State Station behind a paying customer. Because these officers were being vigilant and doing their jobs, they wound up apprehending a suspect in a string of unsolved murders.

Another MARTA Police Officer, Sgt. Oliver Delgado, a ballistics expert, also became suspicious and acted on his instincts when he saw the unusual gun and bullets the suspect was carrying at the time. Sgt. Delgado notified the Atlanta Police Department who had broadcast an alert about the weapon that was linked to four homicides.

Pictured from left: Douglas R. Hooker, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission; the Hon. Ceasar C. Mitchell; President of the Atlanta City Council, MARTA Board Chairman Robert L. Ashe lll; MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker, AICP; Dana Lemon, Georgia Department of Transportation Board Member for the 13th Congressional District; the Hon. Jeffrey E. Turner, Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.

Pictured from left: Douglas R. Hooker, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission; the Hon. Ceasar C. Mitchell; President of the Atlanta City Council, MARTA Board Chairman Robert L. Ashe lll; MARTA GM/CEO Keith T. Parker, AICP; Dana Lemon, Georgia Department of Transportation Board Member for the 13th Congressional District; the Hon. Jeffrey E. Turner, Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.

Thanks to their outstanding police work, a very dangerous and extremely violent murder suspect was taken into custody and taken off of the streets.

The event came to a close with a roundtable discussion featuring Dana Lemon, Georgia Department of Transportation Board Member for the 13th Congressional District; the Hon. Jeffrey E. Turner, Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners and Douglas R. Hooker, Executive Director of the Atlanta Regional Commission. The Hon. Ceasar C. Mitchell, President of the Atlanta City Council providing closing remarks.

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Building the MARTA Army: How one person can make a difference

By Alison Tallman, Graphic Designer & Daily MARTA Customer

By Alison Tallman,
Graphic Designer & Daily MARTA Customer

This morning, I woke up at 6:30 am on a Saturday, to work on branding for the very new MARTA Army. Strong coffee in hand and sweatpants still tied tight, I have my sketchbook out and I’m ready to go at it. I am inspired after a Wednesday night meeting at Octane with Saba Long,  who works with MARTA’s communications team. She found me by my flirtatious tagging via Twitter of my blog to the MARTA CEO, Keith Parker

Saba is tasked with, among a slew of other ambitious directives, recruiting friends and activists who are interested in the success of transit in Atlanta. This group will become an “army” for the cause. Lets just say—she wants me to put my money where my mouth is. I have lots of ideas, yes, but it was great to hear that there are at least 50 other people on this “mailing list” that do as well. I can’t wait to meet all of them and talk “shop”.

There is a lot to be done but I think that is the most inspiring and exciting part. Yesterday, I read an article about how MARTA is so hot right now. The ridership alone coming into the Buckhead station (where I get off for work) has increased in the last couple months by an unheard of- 27%. Now is definitely the time to bring MARTA to the people and to get people excited—if not just interested—about transit.

Our meeting basically entailed Saba asking me what I could bring to the table and how I would like to be involved. With that, I am drawing out ideas, logos, and marketing lines and will maybe make some compositions via Illustrator later. I am a forever volunteer. It is something my mother instilled in me well and I’ve always followed suit. The idea of donating your time and efforts to better your own city you live in, is definitely, a return on your investment. I have been waiting for an opportunity like this to come along. I spent years volunteering at the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art when I first moved here. Selfishly, I thought it would bring me important contacts and eventually, a chance at working for a museum. Instead I spent thankless hours handing out martinis and cleaning up after bourgeois art parties.

Volunteering, hobbies and extra-curricular activities just get harder to keep up with when you are older. Your time is of the essence and after a 40+ work week we just lose steam at night and on the weekends. The top three reasons young adults don’t get involved in social causes are:

  1. Time constraints
  2. Skepticism that their involvement will make a difference
  3. A lack of opportunities to get involved

For me, the main reason has always been number two. I wanted to not only be involved with something that really mattered to me but to also have that organization love me in return. Digital creativity is my strong suit and I come with 8+ years of experience under my belt. Why serve cocktails when I can lend my design expertise to promote a public agency that could use a helping hand?

All in all, I am ready to go to work. I get butterflies when I think about all the amazing potential Atlanta has; we just need to pull the trigger. Now, let’s get excited about transit and MARTA!

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MARTA starts Fiscal Year 2015 on positive note

Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

By Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

MARTA racked up a string of successes during the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2015 with notable increases in ridership and passenger revenue and encouraging declines in fare evasion and crime reports. The latest statistics reflect ongoing efforts by the transit system to become more effective, cost-efficient and customer-focused.

Ridership and revenue

The Authority experienced a steady uptick in ridership, which increased eight percent over the prior year, with early numbers showing the trend is likely to continue. The first quarter gain in ridership – which was up during 14 of the last 18 months, excluding the early 2014 winter storms – can be attributed to high-profile events and the advent of more frequent bus and rail service in May.

Also, as public perception of the system continues to improve, individuals are choosing MARTA over driving.

The recently opened Buckhead Station pedestrian bridge is also attracted a significant amount of new customers. Since the span was debuted in June, the Buckhead station has seen a whopping 27.3 percent increase in customer entries. We anticipate this upward trend will continue as the Buckhead CID and partners plan for an improved pedestrian experience along the north Peachtree corridor.

Customers will be happy to know the bus on-time performance has improved as the agency continues to replace its aging fleet with new buses. Better quality bus service is an agency priority and is the focal point of the current Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) to provide more reliable bus service to MARTA’s customers.

Closing out the first quarter, revenues were higher than budgeted expenses to the tune of $9.5 million. This was in large part due to the increase in ridership and the fares captured via the Authority’s fare evasion program to suppress freeloaders.

 Fare evasion

Another success story is MARTA’s fare evasion program, launched this summer, which requires bus Operators to be physically present when customers board. An internal task force identified external and internal opportunities to halt fare evasion and implemented a robust action plan.

This seemingly small change in operations is projected to increase revenues by $2.25 million. Equally important, surveys show customers and bus Operators overwhelmingly approve of this approach to making sure all customers pay their fair share.

In the coming months, this task force will provide recommendations to overhaul the agency’s reduced fare program to ensure all customers are paying their fair share.

Public safety and security

In another promising development, the agency’s overall crime rate is down. MARTA is committed to crime reduction and prevention to ensure this downward trend continues. With the increased transit service frequency, MARTA has added officers to patrol trains and buses. The Authority has also invested in cutting-edge behavioral recognition software and is installing cameras on all MARTA trains and rail stations; the bus fleet has already been equipped with video surveillance technology.

A year after its launch, the Ride With Respect campaign has been a tremendous tool in making the overall customer experience more pleasant and peaceful. Later this month, MARTA will again blitz the airwaves to encourage customers to treat the system and the riding public with respect.

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Update on MARTA TOD Activities

Amanda Rhein, Senior Director, Transit Oriented Development

By Amanda Rhein, Senior Director, Transit Oriented Development

During the third quarter of 2014 we invited developers to respond to two exciting new TOD opportunities including a Request for Qualifications for the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe Station and a Request for Expressions of Interest in the development of air rights above four of our most urban stations: Lenox, Arts Center, Midtown and North Avenue. We are also pleased to be working with the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission to host a community planning process for the Oakland City Station TOD.

We’re striving to meet our goal of having five TODs underway by spring 2015. Thus far, development partners have been selected for the following three stations: Edgewood/Candler Park Station, Avondale Station and King Memorial Station.

Cushman & Wakefield recently released a report which cites TOD as one of the most important development trends of the 21st century. The report explored TOD activity in ten regions across the country, including Atlanta.

In the third quarter of 2014 we kicked-off a strategic planning process for the Office of TOD and Real Estate and identified stations for our retail and concessions program.

We look forward to partnering with you to make our stations dynamic destinations which support healthy, thriving communities.

Brookhaven/Oglethorpe University Station TOD

On Aug. 18, MARTA released a Request for Qualifications (“RFQ”) for the redevelopment of approximately 10 acres of underutilized surface parking at the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe University Station. MARTA will solicit proposals to convert the property into a high-quality, mixed-use, transit oriented development, consisting of residential, commercial and civic components.

Responses to the RFQ were received on September 18th and are currently under review. MARTA will release a Request for Proposals to those pre-qualified through the RFQ process later this year.

Air Rights Development Opportunity

On Sept. 2, 2014, MARTA released a Request for Expressions of Interest (“RFEI”) for the development of the air rights above the Lenox Station, Arts Center Station, Midtown Station and North Avenue Station in a manner consistent with MARTA’s objectives and Transit Oriented Development (“TOD”) Guidelines. MARTA has identified the air rights at these four stations as potential TOD opportunities because of the high-density character of their respective submarkets and significant barriers to entry. This RFEI is the first step in the process of understanding the long-term potential for the redevelopment of MARTA’s air rights. MARTA will use the responses to determine which stations to release through a subsequent open and competitive Request for Proposals process.

Oakland City Station TOD Charrette

MARTA is working with the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission to facilitate a community planning process for an Oakland City Station TOD. An initial kick-off meeting was held with the community on Sept. 30 with two additional meetings scheduled for November. The goals for this planning process include:

  • Understand and incorporate community priorities into actionable projects;
  • Develop a specific strategy to connect the station to Fort McPherson;
  • Develop a specific redevelopment and zoning strategy for MARTA’s property; and
  • Clarify the land use and zoning future for the single family homes immediately west of the MARTA’s property.

We are excited about the potential development opportunities for this station and believe it will enhance the historic communities located near the Oakland City Station.

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