Over the years of living in Atlanta I have gotten to use the Metro Atlanta Rail and Transit Authorities services a few times. Like most everyone else I have a hand full of complaints but I also have a great deal of ideas that I think could help improve the system. Are roads are becoming ever more packed everyday and air pollution in the city is sad at best. There is resistance to mass transit becoming a main stay here, with reasons rooted in base racial prejudices and a deep rooted love among Atlantans (save Americans as a whole) for their automobiles.
Rather than harp on so many frustrations and complaints about commuting in Atlanta and MARTA, I would like to take the time to post some ideas here and hope that the administration on Lindbergh and Piedmont can somehow come across these ideas and weigh in on using them. I have broken my ideas up into 4 main areas of improvement:
Pace and Scheduling
These ideas are mostly from the user perspective so I am not fully aware of the overall business impact it will have but at the end of the day the user is the most important part of Marta. Some if the suggestions have already been implemented, which shows that the MARTA administration is trying to improve the system.
Pace and Scheduling
Implement a High-speed Rail System. The cost is high but the idea of being able to get from Alpharetta to the Airport in 15 minutes would pay for itself.
Introduce smaller & faster buses. The big lumbering brutes hogging the streets now are outdated. The type of high efficiency buses used by the BUC are ideal for getting smaller groups to their destination faster. Trying to carry the whole world to one station takes forever and makes the system inefficient.
Switch to shorter and tighter bus looping routes. Bus should loop between two close stations and not take routes that traverse 6 or more miles. Passengers should be riding to the nearest station by train and then a short bus ride to within a block of their destination.
Keep the intervals to one bus or train every 15 minutes during rush hour (6:00 - 9:00 am & 4:00 - 7:00 pm) and every 30 minutes otherwise, every 5 for special events (i.e. Falcon's or Braves Games, Conventions etc...).
Introduce a trolley system in the Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead areas. The Peachtree Corridor is almost 14 miles in length and receive probably the highest levels of foot traffic of all the areas in Metro Atlanta. We can get people out of their cars and on to Trolleys heading up and down Peachtree to their destinations.
Go to a 24 Hour, Seven Day a week operation for all bus and train routes. Atlanta is becoming like a New York or a San Francisco and should start to operate like a city that does not sleep. We are not go go go all the time yet but are headed there and it would pay to be proactive.
Add diagonal rail lines and a matching I-285 perimeter rail loop line. The idea that people only need to go North, South, East, West is crazy. Atlanta is a sprawling array of suburbs and counties. Someone in southeast Fulton should be able to get to Gwinnett with a direct line or loop that does not make their trip 1-2 hours, but more like 30 minutes.
Marta should introduce a new bigger brighter road side sign system. The current signs only show a picture of a bus to indicate that this is a stop. Ideally they should show the route of that particular bus, a place marker where the user is and highlight the next closest stations.
The new mapping system should better emphasize key landmarks and tourist information as well as marking the station that one should go to to get to said land marks.
MARTA needs to freshen up its TV advertising/Paper/Partnerships to more emphasize real world examples of how to use the system and not just selling it. The thing I see the most with people when they get on is just that they don't understand it at all, because when they do arrive the only thing they know about MARTA is that it is supposed to be SMARTA. People should see examples on TV of someone going from Alpharetta to the World Congress Center or returning from the Airport to Gwinnett or Cobb.
The bus covered shelter stops should be the standard everywhere for all bus stops. People should have the conveyance of not being stuck in the rain or hot Georgia summer sun on their heads. Also, these stops should be more spread apart. Right now the stops are almost 2 - 3 quarter mile. The buses are stopping almost every 100 feet to pick someone up, slowing down the route and irritating drivers behind them. When you use mass transit you should be expected to put in a little effort like walking 1/4 or 1/2 a mile to a bus stop.
MARTA should introduce day fare system. By day fare I mean you buy 1 ticket that gets you anywhere on MARTA all day long. I have seen the frustration on peoples faces when they are using MARTA when from out of town and do not know how many fares to buy or which ones. A reasonably priced fare that you can use all day for one day would ease a lot of visitors minds. The price of this fare should be 1/2 between two round trip tickets.
I had planned to mention doing away with tokens but MARTA has done that and I like their Breeze card system.
I would like to see Wi-Fi on buses, on trains, and in stations. We are in a digital age and should have access to broadband while on trains, buses, or in stations. This can be a paid or free service with advertisements, as long as the service is there.
MARTA should offer paid public lockers in larger stations like in European style mass transit stations.
Finally, there should be TV's on buses, on trains, and in stations providing up to date information on routes, delays, weather, and of course news/advertisements.
Ultimately, changing MARTA is the job of all citizens of Atlanta in all the major counties. If we do not think like one great forward thinking city we will have the pain of on disjointed and sprawling behemoth who can not pick itself up to get running. To be fair, I drive my car most everyday, but only have a 6 mile round trip commute up and down Peachtree. I would like to stop this driving, however, and grab a 10-15 trolley ride to work. We'll see if that ever happens.