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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Trick Out My Trip with TimelyTrip (Crowdfunding Bus Stop Signs)

Binh Dam

By Binh Dam, Power Distribution Systems Analyst at Landis+Gyr and Atlanta Chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation member.

It just started one night on my way back from Atlanta’s Music Midtown event. 10th Street was closed to traffic, and MARTA posted plastic holders at three bus stops with a sheet inside telling riders about bus deviations. The plastic holders were not removed immediately after the street was reopened, so that was my opportunity to try something bold. In startups, this would be the minimum viable product (MVP).

I created a timetable, with QR code access to real-time arrivals, and placed it in the plastic holder, and voilà, here is my first TimelyTrip sign! Also, I created a Facebook page and posted a picture of the feat.

TimelyTrip signs address very simple issues. With signs that just say “MARTA Bus Stop”, most stops lack the most basic information: destinations, route numbers, and not least, time. Buses remain a mystery for most without that basic information obviously displayed.

Around the same time, MARTA and IOBY announced “Trick Out My Trip”, a citizen-driven, crowdfunded bus stop improvement challenge. I submitted the concept to IOBY, and to my surprise, they accepted it! Initial contact with MARTA has also been very encouraging.

So, this week (Oct. 20-23), I am fundraising to expand TimelyTrip signs to around 20 popular intersections (see map below). My budget is modest and is around $530 (Well, that’s $10+ per bus stop). IOBY will do a one-day public challenge on October 23 (Thursday) and donation links will be provided then. IOBY will also match donations. Pending funding availability, implementation is slated for mid November (final IOBY completion date is Nov. 25 – just before Thanksgiving).

Unlike timetables found at MARTA shelters and CCT stops that show departure times at a few “timepoints” along each bus route, TimelyTrip introduces two key useful improvements:

  • Combined timetables by destination for a particular stop.
    • Guessing arrival times at a stop between time points is no longer necessary.
    • If multiple routes have the same final destination, no need to consult multiple timetables. All departure times are combined into a single sheet.
  • QR codes for smartphone users to access real-time arrivals for a particular stop.
    • Real-time arrivals complement timetables.
    • It is typically faster and fewer actions are needed to access real-time arrivals using the QR code than via a smartphone app.

Of course, one different TimelyTrip sign has to be printed for each bus stop.

Updates will be posted to the TimelyTrip Facebook pageCrowdsourcing of bus stop signage has been tried in Brasil, and volunteers have set up ad-hoc city signage around the U.S., so why not combine those two initiatives here?

In conclusion, I am excited to see how fundraising goes and look forward to posting TimelyTrip signs around Atlanta, and hopefully this will help make MARTA buses easier to discover! Make a donation today.

Note from MARTA – We have officially launched our TOMT campaign as well. To make a tax-deductible contribution, visit http://bit.ly/iobyMARTA. All donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Transit Center.

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Trick Out My Trip, Part 3: Mission Accomplished

Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

By Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

It’s official: MARTA has submitted its application for Trick Out My Trip, the innovative crowdfunding competition that seeks to help improve the overall transit experience for transit customers around the country.

Thanks again to my colleagues, Shannon Kroll,  Ryan VanSickle, Mark Eatman and Nick Gowens, for collaborating on  MARTA’s proposal to install bicycle repair racks at the Five Points rail station and other transit stops with high bicycle traffic. We also owe a big shoutout to our fellow MARTA-ian Saba Long for keeping us on track and making sure our application made it to the project sponsors – In Our Back Yards (IOBY) – just in time for the Oct. 6 deadline.

Even more gratifying is that MARTA wasn’t alone in getting geeked about the TOMT project. Several weeks ago, after IOBY first announced the competition that will grant winning applicants up to $4,000 in matching funds,  MARTA has received several ideas from customers and private businesses as well as serious inquiries from at least two local jurisdictions that were considering TOMT projects of their own.

Mayor Deborah A. Jackson of the City of Lithonia in DeKalb County, for example, is hoping to use TOMT to install a bus shelter for bus customers as well as an informational panel at near downtown that would “describe the history of Lithonia and the city’s relationship with MARTA, including the contribution to our local and regional development.”

Likewise, Michel Lee, a spokesman for the City of Brookhaven, also in DeKalb, expressed interest in sprucing up a drab, concrete retraining wall along Peachtree Road near the Brookhaven MARTA station with a mural or aesthetic improvements to make it more inviting and visually appealing for customers waiting at nearby bus stations.

Because MARTA considers TOMT a “friendly” competition, other members of our staff – including Tony Griffin in Marketing and Richard Wallace in Planning – were more than happy to offer their guidance and technical assistance in helping Lithonia and Brookhaven with their respective applications.

I don’t know for sure if either Brookhaven’s or Lithonia’s TOMT applications were completed, or if there were other submissions to IOBY that we hadn’t heard about.

No matter.

The whole point of this competition was to get individuals, communities, businesses and local governments thinking about ways to make MARTA better, one bus stop and train station at a time. Regardless of whether any of our projects get funded by IOBY, our mission was accomplished.

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Trick Out My Trip, Part Deux

Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

By Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

Last week, I wrote about “Trick Out My Trip” the innovative crowdfunding project being sponsored by In Our Back Yards (IOBY), a non-profit group, and the NYC-based TransitCenter.

These community-focused organizations are offering $4,000 in matching funds for local transit supporters across the country to make small but meaningful improvements to public transportation. What’s not to love about that?

Several of my fellow MARTA-ians got stoked by the prospect of working with our customers, grassroots organizations and affinity groups to make Atlanta’s hometown transit system better, one trip at a time.

But we also worried about IOBY’s fast-approaching Oct. 6 deadline for project submissions to the TOMT crowdfunding challenge.

So…we got busy.

Bit-by-bit, like the parable of “Stone Soup,” the makings of a great TOMT project for MARTA took shape with several employees pitching in.

Fueled by his daily ration of Chik-fil-A nuggets, Nicholas Gowens, a newly minted project manager for MARTA’s Chief of Staff, stopped by my office and casually suggested some sort of “bike project.”

Later that day, the ever enthusiastic Shannon Kroll, a Georgia State University student who works in MARTA’s Office of Research & Analysis, linked up with fearless transit nerds Ryan VanSickle and Mark Eatman, of the Planning Department to kick around other quick and affordable possibilities.

Maybe solar-powered lighting at bus stops? How about some Little Free LibrariesSimme-Seats, anyone?

Sitting in the cozy office of our colleague, Saba Long, we settled on a possible winner: A self-service bike repair kiosk, like this one, in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park.  The kiosks would benefit transit customers who ride to MARTA stations and, for example, may need to inflate a flat tire, mend a broken chain or tighten a wobbly handlebar.

These bike repair kiosks are relatively inexpensive and, given the passionate cycling community here in Atlanta, we hope to garner their support to install one or more of these facilities at strategic MARTA locations for the crowdfunding challenge.

We’ve already had some promising conversations with our friends and allies at Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Bike Coalition. Several MARTA-philes have also emailed us their pledges to help out. (Thanks!)

With less than two weeks left before the TOMT deadline, we’re still sorting out the logistics and trying to identify a Plan B for the bike repair kiosks, if necessary.

The bottom line is that we still want to hear from you. Let us know if you support the bike repair kiosks for MARTA and want to participate in the TOMT challenge or, if you have an even better idea, hit us up at #TrickOutMARTA.

No matter what happens, we’ll keep you posted. Stay tuned…

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Don’t Pimp My Ride. Trick Out My Trip!

Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

By Lyle V. Harris, Chief Spokesperson, MARTA

Crowdfunding Transit Challenge Set for Oct. 6

 Ever wanted help make MARTA an even better transit system, one bus stop or rail station at a time? Well, now’s your chance.

Last week, the crowdfunding platform IOBY (a cleverly subversive acronym that stands for “in OUR backyards”), and the non-profit Transit Center based in New York, launched a  program called “Trick Out My Trip” that’s providing up to $4,000 in matching funds for community-sponsored projects that will make taking transit easier, safer and more enjoyable.

To get a good idea of what TOMT is all about, check out this fun and funny video that’s posted on IOBY’s website.

The goal of TOMT is to co-sponsor ten, transit-centric projects in cities and towns across the country to demonstrate how smaller, grass-roots efforts can begin to fundamentally change the way people use and perceive public transportation.

“For the most part, investment in transit comes in billions of dollars,” Erin Barnes, executive director of IOBY recently told the Next City blog. “Our focus has always been on small projects. We want to see solutions led by riders and people who actually use the services, rather than municipalities.”

IOBY and the Transit Center point to some of the work already done by transit-supporters around the world who, for example, have installed community gardens at rail  stations, built mini-libraries at bus stops and created art-inspired signage that infuse the often austere, soul-less transit experience with a much-needed human touch.

Although MARTA isn’t planning on putting Persian rugs or reading lamps at its bus stops as IOBY’s video humorously depicts, the transit agency supports our customers and local affinity groups who share our mission of transforming Atlanta’s hometown transit system for the future.

If you want to participate in TOMT, please let us know. But time is of the essence: The deadline for expressing interest in getting a project funded by TOMT is Oct. 6.

Anyone who wants to work with MARTA on a TOMT project can contact me, Lyle V. Harris, MARTA spokesman, atlvharris@itsmarta.com or my colleague, Saba Long at salong@itsmarta.com.

For more details about the TOMT program and how to apply, go here. If you need some inspiration and want to find out what other communities have done to enhance transit, check this out.

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MARTA Open For Business

Ferdinand Risco, Executive Director of MARTA’s Office of Diversity & Equal Opportunity (DEO)

Ferdinand Risco, Executive Director of MARTA’s Office of Diversity & Equal Opportunity (DEO)

MARTA’s Office of Diversity & Equal Opportunity (DEO) is charged with the development, implementation, coordination, and monitoring of all equal opportunity, affirmative action, and civil rights programs required by Board policies and Federal regulations.

Our message is: MARTA is open for business.

Under the leadership of MARTA General Manager Keith T. Parker, the agency has renewed its focus to partner with the private and public sectors.

From transit-oriented development events such as the annual “Development Day” to partnering with the many external stakeholders to attract and educate disadvantaged business owners on how to do business with the agency, we are committed to working with the private sector to make MARTA even better.

Our transit-oriented development is being guided by MARTA’s Board-adopted guidelines.  Our strategic goals included: generating greater transit ridership through clustering mixed-use development around the stations and along corridors; promoting a sustainable, affordable, and growing future for the people of Metro Atlanta; and generating a return on MARTA’s transit investment through enhanced passenger revenues, greater federal support, and development on MARTA property.

We will continue to prove to our partners, both public and private, that we are an asset to the region, creating jobs and new economic opportunity. We are here to continue a dialogue with you, expand our business relationship with you and ultimately contribute to the economic success and quality of life in this region with you.

HOW TO DO BUSINESS

The Office of Contracts & Procurement and Material (CPM) is responsible for the central procurement function for MARTA, and responsible for administering the purchasing and contracting of goods and services on behalf of all MARTA departments.

Most goods and services that MARTA procures are obtained through a competitive quote or bid process. MARTA strives to solicit competition from as many interested parties as possible.

Current and anticipated vendor opportunities include towing services, facility renovation, escalator and elevator modernization, removal of scrap metals and landscaping.

The agency uses a variety of solicitation methods, including requests for quotations, sealed bids, requests for proposals, GSA/state procurements and emergency procurements.

Register your business online using the MARTA iSupplier Portal Procurement System. All bids, proposals and quotes are available for download from the MARTA website.

MARTA relies on its vendor database as a primary supplier list. Additional recommendations come from internal requesters, market research including the Internet and industry publications, references from other transit properties and DEO recommendations.

Bid packages include instructions for submittal, terms and conditions of the contract, scope of work or technical requirements, forms for bidding and submitting and finally, the DBE goal. All procurement material complies with federal guidelines, best practices according to the American Public Transportation Association, the MARTA Act and staff guidelines.

As is customary in bidding on publicly funded projects, MARTA is required to start with the lowest bid. Responsiveness is determined by MARTA’s Legal Department and bid submittals must meet all material terms and conditions without exceptions. Other evaluation factors include, but are not limited to, quality and responsiveness of the proposal, vendor approach, organization, personnel and facilities.

For more information about doing business with MARTA, including current vendor opportunities, visit the MARTA website.

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Mass Transit Innovations in Atlanta and U.S. Cities

By Carly Queen

By Carly Queen, Georgia Tech graduate student studying civil engineering

I write from my hotel room in Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin. Situated in the Aburra Valley of the Andes Mountains, this city of more than 2 million was known in much of the 1980s and early 1990s, as the most violent city in the world, due to high crime and murder rates that were largely caused by drug cartels. So what brings me here, and what does this have to do with transit in Atlanta? The simplest answer that I can give, though it will confuse and bewilder many of you, is – gondolas.

Gondolas are a type of cable-propelled transit (CPT), typically with enclosed cabins that will detach from the cable that pulls them, to slow down for onboarding and alighting purposes as they pass through a station. You may have seen these on ski resorts or amusement parks, but cities around the globe are increasingly using gondolas as part of their mass transit system. In 2004, Medellin became the first city to fully integrate gondolas into its mass transit system, effectively connecting residents of the poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods at the higher elevations of the urban fringe to social and economic opportunities in the urban core. The city  also has a tourist-oriented MetroCable line that runs to Park Arvi, an eco-park that is otherwise only accessible by an hours long bus ride through curvy mountain roads. Other places with urban gondola systems include London, Caracas, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Germany and Algeria.

In the United States, urban CPT can be found in the form of higher capacity, more costly, and faster aerial trams in Portland, Ore., New York City, and even at Stone Mountain in Georgia (although that is more of a suburban setting). However, none of the lower cost mono-cable detachable gondola (MDG) systems have been used in U.S. cities yet. Designers in Austin, Texas have proposed an extensive gondola system, rather than adding streetcars that compete with automobiles for space on roads. Private investors in Seattle, Wash., have proposed a gondola line to serve the city’s waterfront, without any public funding needed. Proponents of implementing this technology in urban environments cite several enticing factors, including the low cost, quick build time (less than two years), small footprint, minimal noise, consistent speeds (10-12 mph), and short wait times (less than one minute on average), impressive safety record, high reliability, and stunning views as some of the reasons why this technology should be considered among other, more conventional modes when looking to expand a city’s mass transit system. Low-cost MDG systems can accommodate up to 3,000 people per hour per direction, which would take about 50 buses per hour per direction.

So why is it that more than a dozen cities around the world, many in developing countries, have built gondola systems, while U.S. cities hesitate to implement this technology? Perhaps the answer to this question is more obvious. Insurance and liability concerns continue to cripple local and state governments from innovating in the area of transportation, as in many other areas of their operations. Of course, I don’t think that taxpayer money should be spent recklessly, or gambled away on high-risk ventures, but gondolas seem to be neither risky nor reckless. In fact, they seem to be one of the best investments possible with modern technology to serve medium-demand transportation corridors, based on many factors including the good return on investment and willingness of private investors to pay for such systems. This is why, though my specific plan is still being developed, I have proposed the idea of building gondola lines to expand our mass transit system in Atlanta, which I have been calling the Atlanta Skyway project. With our limited funding, high congestion, and physical barriers (railroads, highways, rivers, hilly terrain, etc.), gondolas seem like a potentially ideal fit for serving many of Atlanta’s urban areas. Although I would like to see Atlanta take the lead on something other than traffic congestion, toxicity, inequality, and sprawl, I don’t expect that we will be the first city in the U.S. to integrate urban gondolas into our mass transit system. I am actually hoping that the proposals in Austin or Seattle get off the ground, to clear the path for Atlanta and other U.S. cities to follow suit.

Coming back to Medellin for a moment, I want to share what I have seen here as I pack up to fly back to Atlanta this evening. While visiting this city, which was named the “Most Innovative City in the World” in 2013 by the Urban Land Institute, Citi Bank, and the Wall Street Journal, and just finished hosting the U.N. Habitat World Urban Forum (another reason why I came here), I have been struck by the transformation that has taken place. The barrios that were once so dangerous that even police wouldn’t go there are now accessible even to gringos and tourists, in large part because they are now served by the MetroCable, which also brought clean water and reliable electricity to the area. My visit to Santo Domingo, the highest stop on MetroCable Line K, revealed groups of schoolchildren playing, artists painting murals, street vendors selling fruits and handmade goods, and young people listening to music and generally enjoying the atmosphere around the station. What a difference social innovation and transit expansion can make in just a decade or two!

Atlanta is certainly not Medellin – the culture, topography, climate, history, social structure, and transportation system are vastly different. However, Atlanta could learn a lot from Medellin and other cities around the world that have chosen to embrace innovation.

As I see it, the effectiveness and appeal of our transportation system (not only transit) can only go up by expanding and enhancing our transit system. Given limited funding, we need to get creative with more affordable modes and greater investment from the private sector; but this will require open-minded, visionary leadership. Gondolas could be one part of the solution, but without a willingness to innovate, we won’t know until it is too late.

If Medellin, a city once fraught with violence and inaccessibility, is now a thriving city making waves of progress in many avenues, brought about largely by innovative investments in transportation. This has assisted low-income communities in rebuilding, and provided unimaginable growth to the region. Imagine the difference MARTA could make on the Atlanta urban landscape if they were willing to think outside the box.

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Riding MARTA is SMARTA

By Eddie Curtis, Georgia Tech Student

Riding transit provides benefits on an individual, community, regional and social level that if share widely might provide a compelling reason for more people to try transit.  One great service that MARTA could provide is marketing itself through a mixture of positive messages associated with riding transit and providing a forum for people within the Atlanta Metropolitan Area to express SMARTA things they are able to accomplish by riding MARTA.  The professional marketing messages and videos could be packaged into short commercials describing the benefits of transit.  The forum would allow people to submit 30-45 second videos of themselves describing why riding MARTA is SMARTA.  The videos would be broadcast as marketing pieces in MARTA stations, and on rail and busses that are appropriately equipped.  MARTA could also tweet copies of the videos on a daily/weekly basis and share the packaged marketing videos for broadcast in the airport, universities, colleges, hotels, businesses and tourist venues.  A free monthly pass could be provided weekly for the most original video that focuses one or more categories.

The categories might include:

  1. Things you can do on MARTA that make you SMARTA than people driving alone in their cars.
  • Reading
  • Meeting new people
  • Getting work or homework done.
  1. Sitting on MARTA is SMARTA than sitting on congested streets and freeways.
  • Describe how space on freeways is conserved when 40 people sit on a bus instead of 40 people sitting in cars alone.
  • Describe the air quality benefits associated with riding a bus or rail instead of driving.
  • The health benefits associated with walking and riding MARTA.
  1. Riding on MARTA is SMATA because it saves money
  • Describe the cost associated with driving from home to work in a car versus riding MARTA.

o   Car Maintenance, fuel, parking

  • Describe employer transit benefit programs.

o   Pre-Tax benefits available for purchase of transit passes

  • Select employers also provide free transit passes
  • Parking buyout programs
  1. MARTA uses SMARTA technology
    • Provide interesting stories about how people are using the MARTA app to use time more effectively as an outcome of knowing when trains and busses are arriving in real time.
    • Provide information about alternative clean air vehicles.

Provide information about studies that MARTA does to improve its service and expansion plans.

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