Hundreds of fans were stranded at MARTA’s Five Points Station after last January’s college football championship. The agency has taken steps to ensure that doesn’t happen again at Saturday’s SEC Championship and the upcoming Super Bowl. (MARTA security video)

MARTA preps for SEC Championship — and the Super Bowl

MARTA will beef up staffing and security for the SEC Championship as it continues to prepare for the larger national spotlight of the upcoming Super Bowl.

Saturday’s game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will serve as a test for MARTA, which made changes after the debacle that followed last January’s college football championship game. Hundreds of fans were stranded at Five Points Station until nearly 2 a.m.

“We are committed to delivering outstanding service not just to our daily riders but the tens of thousands of people who will use our system during major events such as the SEC Championship Game and the upcoming Super Bowl,” said MARTA General Manager Jeffrey Parker.

Here’s a look at how MARTA plans to make things easier for fans attending the big game:

  • Trains will run every 10 minutes between the Lindbergh and Airport stations on north-south lines, as well as between King Memorial and Ashby on east-west lines.
  • MARTA will deploy “transit ambassadors” to the Dome and Vine City stations adjacent to the stadium, as well as to end-of-the-line stations at North Springs, H.E. Holmes, College Park and Indian Creek. They will greet riders and assist them with directions and Breeze Card purchases.
  • Other employees will help load and unload trains and prevent platform overcrowding at the Dome, Vine City and Five Points stations.
  • In addition to the usual vending machines, MARTA employees will sell Breeze Cards at numerous stations.
  • Bathrooms will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at numerous stations. Previously, they closed at 7 p.m.
  • The MARTA Police Department will supplement its uniform patrol division with other officers during the game. It also will use more than 10,000 security cameras to monitor the transit system.

MARTA’s preparations for big events have become a matter of intense interest since the problems following January’s game, which also featured Georgia and Alabama.

Fans described a chaotic scene at Five Points, the hub of the MARTA system, as northbound trains failed to depart, even as more fans arrived from the stadium. Some fans searched in vain for MARTA employees who could provide information and control the crowd. It took more than an hour to clear the station.

MARTA later said medical emergencies at other stations prevented the trains from leaving, but short-staffing, poor communication and ineffective crowd control exacerbated the problem. The agency has vowed to be ready for the Feb. 3 Super Bowl.

“This year, we have seen tremendous success during the Peachtree Road Race, MLS All-Star Game and dozens of other events, and this football game is a great opportunity for MARTA to continue providing the service and support needed to move large crowds of people safely and efficiently through our city,” Parker said.

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