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Maria's Metro

A sad farewell to the 45 Virginia-McLynn; MARTA’s cuts erase links to history, future

For as long as I can remember, there has been the 45 Virginia-McLynn — until Sunday.

MARTA, faced with operating deficits, implemented a host of service cuts this weekend — further streamlining our already meager public transit system.

And this time, the cuts really hit home. No more 45 Virginia-McLynn.

The 45 bus line initially followed what had been the No. 15 streetcar line — one of dozens of streetcar lines that had made Atlanta a hub of rail and transit.

That streetcar line, and later the 45, started downtown and went north along West Peachtree Street until Fifth Street where it meandered the heart of Midtown going along Argonne Avenue, 8th Street and on towards Virginia-Highland.

Back in the late 1960s, I started riding the 45 to get to Grady High School. My sister, Elena, and I would walk from the Burge Apartments across from Georgia Tech — pass the Varsity and catch the 45 at West Peachtree and North Avenue.

As we waited for the bus, we were able to watch the day-by-day progress of the construction of the Life of Georgia building (which is still standing) and the round C&S tower (which has been replaced by the Kevin Roche-designed Bank of America Plaza).

Then in 1970s, we moved to what felt like the suburbs, to 8th Street, where the 45 would stop right in front of our house. With the exception of four years that I spent in Boston (1973-1977), the 45 was one of my lifelines to the city at large.

Whether it was when I was going to Georgia State, interning at Creative Loafing or just going about town, the 45 was my link. Since my mother also didn’t drive, she and I were devoted riders.

It was on the 45 where I finally realized the racial progress Atlanta had made in my short lifetime. I remember in the early 1960s when blacks weren’t welcome on the front of the bus. My mother would always make sure we sit in the back of the bus to show our support for a fully-integrated society.

After spending several months in Boston, where I had been made to feel insecure about being from the South, I came home for the holidays. I boarded the 45 in front of Davison’s downtown, and I saw two elderly women — one white and one black — sitting next to each other on the first row of the bus. The both had shopping bags, and they were chattering away about the latest happenings on their favorite “stories.”

That simple moment showed me that in one short decade, life on the bus had changed — recasting the racial dynamics of our city.

When I returned to New England, there were the race riots in South Boston. I realized then that racism was at least as prevalent in Boston as in Atlanta.

I moved back to my parents’ home in the late 1970s to attend graduate school at Georgia State, so I was back on the 45. My ride took less than 15 minutes.

MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) was building its heavy rail system — a move we all felt was placing Atlanta in the big leagues.

But when the North Avenue Station opened in 1981, MARTA rerouted many of its bus routes to feed into the rail system. So now when we boarded the 45, it would take us about 10 minutes to get the North Avenue Station (only a mile away), where we would de-board and wait for the train to take us another mile downtown.

So the new rapid” transportation network had turned our transit trip from less than 15 minutes to 25 minutes or more.

This misguided decision removed dozens of buses from downtown and relocated thousands of pedestrians from the city’s streets to the subway, forcing many small shops to close because of a drop-off in business.

The 45 Virginia-McLynn faced several challenges over the years. Neighbors on 8th wanted to get rid of the bus because it had maneuver down the narrow street, often rattling their homes. But we fought hard to keep the 45.

In 1980, I moved to Macon for my first daily newspaper job, which required a car. When I returned to Atlanta 15 months later, I rarely used my car — again relying on transit, cycling and my feet. We lived in a fanciful Tudor apartment building at Pershing Point, and then we moved to the Blackstone Apartments at 4th and Peachtree. Both were shamefully demolished after we moved out.

In 1985, we moved back to 8th Street, a couple of blocks from my parents, but with a bus-stop for the 45 Virginia-McLynn across the street.

For years, riding the 45 was my daily ritual. There was a regular group of riders, and we all became commuter friends. When I had my daughter, I would carry her in a pouch (bag-o’-baby) to take her to the Downtown Child Development Center at the old Rich’s Store for Homes.

Finally, when my son was born, it became a bit much to ride MARTA. Plus I needed my car to go to assignments all over town.

Although I was no longer a daily rider on the 45, it was comforting to know it was there when I needed it. Eventually, MARTA changed the route of the 45 so that it fed into the Midtown Station rather than the North Avenue Station. It traveled east along 10th Street until it got to Grady High School and then 8th Street for a couple of blocks.

Over the years, service has been cut back several times with longer stretches between buses. And with each cut back, transit becomes less and less of a desirable option for the choice rider.

It’s a downward, depressing cycle because we need to be doing just the opposite. We need transit to become the option of choice by making it more convenient — offering reliable transportation with frequent schedules.

In short, we need to be investing in our transit systems rather than disinvesting.

Sadly, this latest service reduction likely is not the last. But there’s a finality to this cut back because so many routes are being discontinued altogether — including my beloved 45 Virginia-McLynn.

Fortunately, MARTA has reconfigured several of its routes, and the No. 36 will now travel along parts of the 45 route.

But it won’t be the same because the 45 Virginia-McLynn moved more than just passengers — it carried decades of memories through Midtown.

Yes, this is a personal story of just one route.

But my heart aches knowing that a total of 40 bus lines were discontinued this past weekend — each with their own nostalgic links to our past.

And each discontinued line ends up with us slipping farther back from our desired future.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Darin September 27, 2010 9:58 am

    Thanks for sharing this story — I’d never read before about the way that the MARTA rail stations hurt local businesses by having buses re-routed to them.

    My family is moving to a condo in Fairlie-Poplar in a couple of weeks in an effort to live a more walkable, urban life. Unfortunately, it’s just in time to experience the new downgraded MARTA service that we were hoping to rely on in place of a car. Hopefully we’ll do all right even with the cuts.

    We were at Max Lager’s for dinner last night and looked at a great photo on the wall of streetcars on Peachtree Street during the 1940s or so. It makes me think about how transit options in the city have changed so much over the last hundred years. I think they’ll constantly be changing to suit the needs of Atlanta commuters and shoppers. My hope is that the way people live will continue to change so that transit becomes a more attractive option than personal car transportation.Report

  2. jessica handler September 27, 2010 2:46 pm

    Maria, I rode the #45 Virginia McLynn to and from Grady High, too. Caught the bus on the corner of Lanier Blvd, across from Shackleford’s Drugstore (now 14 West Realty.)

    This IS painful to see that bus route gone. And history aside, it’s another blow to public transit in Atlanta.Report

  3. Michael Hunter September 27, 2010 3:22 pm

    I am saddened that the Number 2 no longer goes all the way from North Avenue to Avondale Station. That was my main mode of transport in my 20s and I always considered it “The Great Ship of Ponce de Leon.” Perhaps someday, Atlantans will wake up (or have a mayor that will arouse them) and these lines will be restored.Report

  4. Terry September 27, 2010 9:11 pm

    I was a #16 and sometimes a #2. MARTA rail took something important away from Atlanta. Every bus ride was a tour of the city. You saw everybody on the bus, saw where everyone got on and off. If your bus went downtown, maybe to Broad & Walton at rush hour, you saw everybody. Now most of our downtown sidewalk life went underground into our efficient but grim tunnels. Our commutes are now multi-modal and partly in caves. Our downtown is quiet and diesel free but …Report

  5. Yr1215 September 28, 2010 9:30 am

    MARTA needs to shrink, and learn to work within its operating budget, like every other entity in the world. MARTA receives approx. $300 million in subsidies from taxpayers every year. The least they can do is try to use those subsidies in the wisest manner.

    One hopes for a wholesale replacement of MARTA oversight someday.Report

  6. The More-or-Less Hon. Doug Alexander September 28, 2010 10:06 am

    What is so sad to me is your last line. MARTA has become the transportation of lasat resort, but what it needs to be is a first-rate transportation alternative, where the choice between using one’s car or taking transit would be a competative choice — a true “alternative.” I appreciate the fix MARTA is in, and much of the problem stems from decisions made decades ago by people who are not there any longer — current management is left with the proverbial “sows ear.”
    I hope that we will see a new structure for transit that is region-wide. I am, however, not holding my breath for it. I’ve been around this track too many times for that.Report

  7. Jock Ellis September 29, 2010 9:01 am

    Isn’t it just like our politicians to be talking about high speed rail when they can’t even keep something really necessary going in tough times? Now that they’ve pulled up he track for the beltline, that’s probably dead and the streetcar line is just a fantasy, too.Report

  8. Henry Batten September 29, 2010 5:42 pm

    When I lived in Druid Hills at the end of the 45’s line, I rode it to and from work at the GA Pacific Center. This was in the 80s, and we called it “The Virginia Creeper.” It was a fascinating route.Report

  9. Lonnie Fogel September 29, 2010 7:48 pm

    I loved this story, not so much about the declining service, but about how so many of us became attached to our bus, train and trolley lines beginning when we were toddlers. In my hometown, Philadelphia, my most-commonly used buse, the “S,” is now called something else but it follows about the same route. It really did take an S-shaped route. I must have memorized everything along the route…the stores, schools, parks, etc. Must have ridden that bus 2500 times, maybe more. It tooks us to high school, to the subway to get to Center City, to old Connie Mack Stadium to watch the Phillies. I loved the 23 trolley, which still operates. It is said to be the longest trolley route in the world — from NW Philadelphia all the way to South Philly, to visit my grandmather. Public transit is not only inherently efficient, it stimulates sociability among strangers who get to know each other during so many rides. Same here in SF. Coming home, my bus buddy is a Swedish man and our families have become friendly. We just struck up a conversation one day, and then began to look for each other at our stop in the financial district at day’s end. My friends and I still talk about our mass transit experiences back “home.” I always liked MARTA trains and loved the architecture of almost all the stations on the way to the airport. If only it could branch out tenfold!Report

  10. Frank October 2, 2010 11:20 pm

    I was a regular on the 45 route that was just discontinued. It was a shadow of its former self as Maria describes it, but seemed to be useful to folks going to the area near Grady High like me. The 40 minute headways on the 36 will make this route even less useful than the limited service seen on the 45. I don’t like driving on Atlanta streets because they are so badly maintained, but I suppose I will just have to more often because of the MARTA cuts.Report

  11. Bill Todd October 6, 2010 10:24 am

    In the 1940’s, my aunt Virginia Todd caught the #15 streetcar each morning to travel to Sacred Heart High School (for girls), co-located with Marist (for boys) on the downtown block bounded by Ivy, Forrest, Courtland, and Baker. The intersection where she boarded the streetcar was at Virginia and Todd, where Murphy’s now proudly resides.Report

  12. Maria Saporta October 6, 2010 11:48 am

    Bill, So was the street Todd named after your family? If I’m not mistaken, the downtown location also was near St. Joseph’s hospital (now the Marriott Marquis). That’s where I was born. It’s nice to have roots and memories. Now if we can only get all our streetcars back…. MariaReport

  13. Joe Greear October 9, 2010 7:16 am

    I used to ride the #19 and #23 buses up and down Peachtree Street, getting off at various spots to shop or whatever. It felt like the life-line of Atlanta. From the bus you could see what new shops or restaurants had opened up, see which ones attracted the most people, and generally watch the pulse of the city.

    I agree that the rail line took something away from Atlanta.Report

  14. Joe Greear October 9, 2010 7:38 am

    I was wrong, it wasn’t the #19. But the names of the buses were the Oglethorpe and the Shopper.Report


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