By Simon Berrebi
Like you, I believe in a world-class transit system for the Atlanta region. That’s why I am recruiting you to join the MARTA Army.
We are truly gifted as a region to have the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). MARTA is the ninth largest transit agency in the nation, and also one of the safest and most sustainable. Each day, hundreds of thousands of people choose to board buses and trains over adding more congestion and pollution to a saturated urban network. Our transit system is what distinguishes Metro Atlanta from neighboring regions in the competition for fresh jobs and bright minds.
Yet, Metro Atlanta still lacks a world-class transit infrastructure: the rail coverage is limited to only two directions, and parts of the bus network run at low frequency. Due to the fragmented political structure in the Atlanta Region, no single governmental entity has the leverage to support major infrastructure improvements. To build the transit system of tomorrow, people from all over the Atlanta region must come together and help improve the system in their own communities.
The MARTA Army is a grassroots organization empowering communities to reclaim ownership over the system. We engage people from all backgrounds to join the ranks the MARTA Army. Soldiers can take part in local and highly scalable interventions aiming to enhance the ridership experience for both current and potential MARTA riders. Concrete improvements to the system performance allows to challenge preconceived opinions, which be crucial to obtain the support for high capacity route expansion.
The MARTA Army launched an adopt-a-bus-stop program (Operation TimelyTrip) as its first intervention. We engage soldiers to adopt bus stops by posting and updating eye-catching and weather resistant signs with route and schedule information, and a QR code linking to OneBusAway, a real-time information mobile website. Operation TimelyTrip provides information, branding, and recognition to transform bus stops in gateways into the transit system of tomorrow.
Interested volunteers can sign up online to adopt a bus stop of their choice. We will provide a laminated TimelyTrip signs and mounting supplies for volunteers to attach to the U-channel pole of each adopted bus stop.
We are partnering with local community organizations to co-host boot camps, where we train soldiers to join the army, make signs for bus stops and engage in discussions about the needs for action. In the army’s first week, we have organized events with Georgia Tech, the East Point Homeowners’ Association, the Latin American Association, and Las Nubes youth soccer tournament in Forrest Park. More than 70 soldiers have physically adopted bus stops, which have become dignified destinations.
Although we are completely independent from MARTA, we are thankful to have the support of MARTA officials from the board to the staff.
As a crowd-sourced and crowd-funded organization, the MARTA Army is capable of acting fast and cheaply to help MARTA in tasks that considerably affect the ridership experience but that require flexibility. We can test pilot programs, obtain feedback from our soldiers, and establish best practices.
For example, MARTA is planning to replace bus stops on its entire network in an operation that will take years and millions of dollars. We are studying how putting schedules at bus stops can affect ridership and overall satisfaction to support their effort. With a wide network of soldiers across the entire system, the MARTA Army will help MARTA survey and address the needs of its riders.
The MARTA Army is a unique concept that finds no precedents, even amongst the world’s most innovative transit systems. We want to provide an nation wide case study for scalable tactical urbanism efforts aimed at enhancing transit experience.
In addition to Operation TimelyTrip, the MARTA Army is exploring social, cultural and technological programs and events that will positively impact the rider’s experience. We wish to engage soldiers from all backgrounds to participate in the glorious march for better transit.
Join the MARTA Army, follow us on social media @MARTAarmy and reserve your bus stop online at http://www.martaarmy.org/joinanarmy. We will let you know of upcoming boot camps where you can adopt a bus stop in your neighborhood, earn your stripes, and rise through the ranks of valorous soldiers!