The Decatur Metro blog caught an interesting story this week: MARTA Shortens Morning Rush Hour Trains on East/West Line
According to the post, a reader reported a recent change in MARTA’s east-west Blue line, saying that trains have become “so crammed with passengers…that several people had great difficulty holding on, boarding and unboarding.”
Riders of the north-south line in the weekday mornings will recognize that situation as fairly normal through the Downtown and Midtown stations, but it hasn’t been the case on the Blue route until now. The reason? MARTA responded with this:
“Recent data shows that the ridership during the weekday, morning peak service period on the Blue Line did not require the use of the 8-car configuration during that time of the day. As a result, the configuration was changed to the standard 6-car train.”
Another letter from MARTA notes the decline in their ridership as being a factor. As I noted in a post earlier this year, MARTA is bucking a national trend in ridership. Where other systems in the US have gained passengers, MARTA has lost them.
CEO Keith Parker is aware that the agency needs to gain ridership in order to survive and wants to expand the service area to achieve that goal, saying earlier this year that “[MARTA’s] footprint is too small…We need to be in Cobb county. Many of the folks who ride our system are moving well beyond our service area.”
Which makes the news about the move of the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County all the more troubling, since county leaders there are taking a stance against expanding transit in order to serve the stadium.
According to the US Census’ “American Community Survey” data from 2012, the City of Atlanta (emphasis - the city, not the full metro) ranks 15th in the US among large cities when it comes to commuting by bicycle/walking/transit. See more US data here.
Initially, this may not sound impressive given that MARTA ridership puts the system 8th nationally. But consider that Atlanta has a relatively low population among large US cities, where we rank 40th. And we have a relatively low density as well, barely even ranking at all (seriously, check Wikipedia; it’s sad), So this is a pretty darn good showing for us.
Also consider that our bike-commuting share strangely declined by a considerable degree in 2012. You can download the full stats here, but basically we went from having a kinda-respectable a 1.5% bike-mode share in 2011 (meaning 1.5% of commutes were made on bike) to having a not-so-respectable 0.6% share in 2012.
It’s a suspiciously unbelievable drop; nonetheless, these are the official stats used to inform the chart above.
Yes, we can and will do better as we continue to build compact, walkable places in areas served by transit and bike infrastructure. But given our handicaps, I’d say this is a pretty good ranking for our combined alternative-transportation mode share.
"Poor investment in transit is holding the Atlanta region back…DC’s Metro rail system is about 2.5 times the size of Atlanta’s, despite the fact that they were the same size in the 1980s. As a result, MARTA has a reputation for serving mostly poor people, while DC’s Metro ridership is a much better reflection of the total population."
— Is Atlanta Done With Sprawl? | StreetsBlog, 10/7/2013
"Transport scholar Eric Morris…found that rail transit had a surprisingly strong connection with personal well-being. Whether or not a person lived within a mile of a rail station had a greater impact on his or her quality of life than whether or not that person owned a car."
— Living Near Good Transit May Make You Happier | Atlantic Cities, 9/12/13