MARTA Army to deploy volunteers to help new riders Monday

ATLANTA — More than 50 volunteers are expected to gather at MARTA stations across the metro Monday to help first time riders navigate the rail system.

On Friday, the transit system saw a 25 percent jump on ridership on its trains after a massive fire caused an overpass bridge to collapse Thursday along Interstate 85, causing the expressway to be shut for at least several months in both directions.

The shutdown has more people looking to MARTA for their commute. Channel 2's Rikki Klaus found out that first-time riders will have extra help to navigate the rail system Monday.

Raheem Franklin has ridden MARTA ever since he was a little boy. He's bracing for ridership to grow, following the bridge collapse.

"As they say, MARTA is smarter," Franklin told Klaus. "I just was trying to show a lady how to reload her Breeze card just a second ago, so it's just about learning the schedule, learning the routes, learning how to load your cards."

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Teaching new riders these lessons is what volunteers with the grassroots group, MARTA Army, will be doing Monday and Tuesday.

"We're expecting a large surge in demand for public transportation next week and so we asked our volunteers to mobilize and help first time MARTA users navigate the system," MARTA Army executive director Simon Berrebi told Klaus.

More than 50 volunteers are expected to help out at nine metro Atlanta MARTA stations: Brookhaven, Buckhead, Candler Park, Chamblee, Civic Center, Decatur, Dunwoody, East Point and Oakland City.

[PHOTOS: I-85 bridge collapse aftermath]

"I think a lot of people will try MARTA for the first time and see that it's a great service that can get them where they need to go, fast, and making a better use of their time," Berrebi told Klaus.

MARTA will be running a normal schedule Monday, with drivers, buses and trains on standby if need be.

"I think that this bridge collapse is an opportunity to see that relying solely on road infrastructure is not resilient," Berrebi said.

Volunteers are scheduled to work at the MARTA station on Monday and Tuesday.