Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

MARTA after I-85: One Atlanta commuter's story

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week, MARTA does not appear to have received a lasting boost in passengers from last spring’s collapse of the I-85 bridge in Atlanta.

Though total MARTA ridership was up slightly in April from the same month the previous year, it was down in May and June. In fact, MARTA ridership is down more than 2 percent in the first six months of 2017 over the same period last year.

MARTA says some passengers have stuck around, though it’s too soon to know for sure how many. One of those is Phyllis Waktins Ratliffe.

The Peachtree Corners woman tells the AJC she rode MARTA occasionally before I-85 went up in flames March 30 – usually to the airport or a Falcons game. But she drove to work, even though her office is next to the Lindbergh MARTA station. The reason: She’d have to drive anyway to get to the Doraville station.

Besides, “I have lived in Georgia for a lot of years,” Ratliffe said. “That’s the problem with most of us. We’re not public transportation people.”

That changed when the bridge fire closed I-85 for six weeks. Ratliffe got in the habit of taking MARTA to work and stuck with it when the bridge reopened.

She finds she has a more predictable commute. Driving could take 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on traffic. Now it’s a consistent 45 minutes, even with the drive to Doraville.

Ratliffe said the ride is also relaxing. “Once I get on the train, I can write my to-do list for the day,” she said. “I’ve got time to do a little reading. When you’re driving, you can’t do that.”

Such comments must be music to MARTA’s ears. CEO Keith Parker believes ridership will spike again when gas prices start to rise.

You can read more about the MARTA’s efforts to retain customers here.

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About the Author

David Wickert covers transportation issues for the Enterprise team. He joined the AJC in 2010 and has also covered local government in Gwinnett and Fulton counties.