MARTA reduces transit services due to steep decline in ridership

While MARTA officials appear to be in support of riders not using its transportation services amid the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, the transit company is making several service changes due to its decline in ridership.

As of March 24, MARTA reported that ridership declined 68 percent on trains and 54 percent on buses. On its social media accounts, the company has encouraged riders to stay home, unless for essential travel and “flatten the curve” of COVID-19.

“Thanks to everyone who is staying at home to help #FlattenTheCurve. We’re continuing service on regular weekday schedules for essential trips ONLY,” stated a post on the MARTA Twitter account. “This allows more space for #SocialDistancing while making sure those who need to get to work and essential activities can do so.”

Some of the MARTA changes beginning March 26 will require bus customers, other than those who require the accessibility ramp, to enter and exit using the rear doors only, according to the MARTA update. Customers will not be allowed to pay their fares on the bus. Instead, customers transferring to and from the rail system will have to pay fares at rail stations.

Public restrooms will remain open at College Park, Doraville, Five Points, H.E. Holmes, Indian Creek, Lindbergh, and North Springs rail stations; however, restrooms at other locations will be closed.

MARTA plans to reduce bus service by approximately 30 percent beginning March 30 by operating fewer buses on each route, though routes with higher ridership, such as routes 15, 39, 5, 121, 196, 73, 110, 78, 83, and 89 will have buses added to help with social distancing, MARTA states.

“This adjusted plan most closely mirrors MARTA’s inclement weather plan and prioritizes service along major arterial routes and to medical facilities. The plan also allows for weekday level bus service to essential businesses,” stated a MARTA press release.

MARTA trains will operate on a weekend schedule beginning March 30, though the start times will remain the same as weekday start times to complement bus service. Trains will not stop at the Mercedes-Benz/State Farm Arena/GWCC rail station beginning March 30 due to low ridership. Additionally, the streetcar will operate on a Sunday schedule beginning Monday, March 30.

Just days before MARTA’s announced changes, the agency joined several other transit agencies around the country in urging Congress to provide at least $16 billion in immediate financial assistance to ensure the continuation of transit services through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ridership is down significantly—by 40 to 60 percent. Businesses are closed, and people are staying home and not spending money. With decreased farebox and sales tax revenue, we will be unable to sustain full bus, rail, and paratransit service for those customers who rely on us,” said MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker in a March 20 press release. “MARTA is strongly urging Congress to provide additional money for immediate operational and cleaning assistance to ensure we can keep providing this essential service, while anticipating the need for future financial support to ensure the long-term fiscal health of public transit.”

MARTA plans to post updated bus and rail service information on it website at www.itsmarta.com, MARTA’s On The Go app, @MARTASERVICE on Twitter, @MARTAtransit, on Facebook, digital boards throughout the system, and through announcements on buses, trains, and at rail stations. Riders are asked to call MARTA’s Customer Care Center at (404) 848-5000 for any concerns.

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