Given the reactions to MARTA’s proposed fare increase and bus service changes for this fall, I expected that at last Monday night’s 7 p.m. hearing I’d barely be able to wedge myself into a room packed with riders in various states of outrage. But not only was there a conspicuous absence of torches and pitchforks, but those in attendance filled only about one-third of the Fulton County Commission’s public meeting room.
The low turnout – I counted about 75 people – might indicate that the agency’s public outreach needs some work. It could also suggest that many of MARTA’s customers believe the proposed changes are pretty much a done deal, with only the matter of “when” left to be settled.
I was only able to stay for about an hour and 15 minutes of the hearing, so I didn’t hear everyone who came forward to offer comment, but the comments of the approximately 20 speakers I did hear were pretty evenly divided between complaints and suggestions.
Among the most often heard suggestions:
- Raise revenue by re-negotiating reimbursement rates for transfers from other counties’ transit agencies
- Sell more ad space on the bus and train exteriors
- Have MARTA police officers spend more time riding the trains and buses and less time driving the their police cruisers – more security, less gas
- Don’t leave buses idling if they’ll be sitting in a bay at a station for 10 or 15 minutes and don’t run the buses’ air conditioning on the “blast freezer” setting during the summer
- Pursue state funding more aggressively
The most frequently heard complaints:
- Late and overcrowded buses and surly drivers
- Drivers who, when running far behind schedule, drive so fast to catch up that they blow past riders waiting at bus stops
- Dark, unsheltered bus stops
- Closed or out-of-order restrooms at stations
Although the hearing started out with a pretty formal air, by 8:15 it had taken on the feeling of a transit riders’ pep rally, with some audience members applauding and cheering when they found a speaker’s remarks particularly clever or insightful.
The loudest cheers came when a woman prefaced her remarks about the long-standing nature of some of the system’s problems by saying “It’s obvious that no one on this board rides MARTA.”
Although many of those who spoke were adamantly against the fare increase, many others said that the fare increase itself was less the issue than steadily decreasing service and reliability. The cost of most other commodities is rising, so it’s only fair that the same should be true for transit service, they said. But so many years of paying more and continuing to get less, they said, is unacceptable.
Yikes, almost forgot: MARTA is holding public hearings at 7 p.m. today and Tuesday.
Here’s what’s on the agenda:
- MARTA board members will outline the agency’s budget for the 2012 fiscal year
- Proposed service changes to bus routes 3, 25, 50, 51, 99, and 181 proposed for September
- Fare increases proposed for October
- Security improvements
Today’s meetings are at the South Fulton Service Center in College Park, which is served by the route 180 bus, and at the Fulton County Government Center downtown, which is served by the route 49 bus. There’s also free shuttle service to the downtown meeting.
Tuesday’s meetings are at the DeKalb Maloof Auditorium in Decatur, which is one block west of Decatur Station, and at the North Fulton Service Center in Sandy Springs. Take route 87 bus from Dunwoody or North Springs Station to the North Fulton Service Center.
Have you ever noticed how a long walk feels much shorter when you’re in a densely-built urban area with a lot of other people on the street? Festivals or other events that create novel and rapidly-changing scenery around you can have the same effect. There’s a name for that: “Pedestrian propulsion.”
Areas that rank highly in pedestrian propulsion also have high rates of “compensation” – the visual and social payoff received in exchange for the time and energy required to walk.
That’s why it seems to take weeks to walk past a strip mall or just a block or two like this:
while walking somewhere interesting seems to take less time than it really does.
Speaking of pedestrian experiences, the vision for the “Midtown Mile” is being revamped. The idea of replicating a place like Chicago’s Miracle Mile is out the window, with planners now aiming for a area of shopping and restaurants that’s more everyday than special occasion. They hope to make it a constant draw for residents in and around midtown as well as the thousands office workers who come and go daily instead of a place mostly catering to tourists and the very well-off.
A similar re-think is afoot at the Streets of Buckhead project. The “Rodeo Drive of the South” concept, with high-dollar hotels, restaurants and boutiques intended to draw people from all over the region, is being toned down and will eventually even have a different name.
If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around the wheres and whats of the Atlanta Regional Roundtable’s transportation project “wish list,” or if you’d just like a quick, easy way to get more information on projects close to you, check this out:
The Roundtable has created an interactive map of all 437 projects that were submitted for funding. (Keep in mind that this list will be trimmed considerably during the next several months.) Just use the text, graphic or address function to specify an area and the map produces a list of proposed projects submitted for the area you highlighted. Alongside each item on that list is a link to its project submittal form. The project submittal form provides a description of the project as well as information about the purpose, submitting agency and cost and completion time estimates.
After you finish playing with the map, make sure to take the quick transportation priorities survey here or here.