ATLANTA — Some people who decided to give themselves a break from the Interstate 85 detours have chosen to take MARTA instead.
The head of the transit organization talked exclusively to Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne Wednesday about how employees were able to quickly handle the rush of riders.
“Since the bridge collapse, how much has ridership increased on MARTA?” Winne asked MARTA General Manager and CEO Keith Parker.
“Very significantly. In a range of ways, we've seen in some stations huge spikes -- as much as 40, 50 percent. Other stations 5, 10, 15 percent, but just an overall steady increase of people using our services every day,” Parker told Winne.
When asked if MARTA had the resources to handle in the increase in passengers, Parker said yes.
“We made ourselves more efficient by getting our bus operators and rail operators to respond in a more efficient manner,” Parker told Winne. “We got our planning people involved to make sure that we're adding trains and buses where we're having the biggest loads. The biggest thing we've done is we have buses and trains, particularly the trains, in reserve."
Winne asked Parker about the possibility of adding more lines.
“For MARTA to go where it needs to, does it need to have additional lines and spurs off existing lines?” Winne asked Parker.
“Short answer is absolutely. The most legitimate complaint that people can make about the transit service is that we don't go to all the places they need to go,” Parker said.
“Is MARTA working on a strategy to use the increased ridership from the I-85 bridge collapse as a springboard to expanding MARTA rail lines and service?" Winne asked.
“Yes,” Parker answered.
Parker told Winne that the transit service offers Wi-Fi on virtually every bus and a pilot program is coming on trains.
"Our phone app is going to be one of the most state-of-the-art, sophisticated phone apps in the entire world in about the next six to eight months. The phone itself becomes your method of payment," Parker told Winne. "We're going to be rolling out a whole host of promotions to get people who've tried us out to keep trying us, including a reduced-fare program."
Parker suggested the organization is going to give everyone a dignified ride.
MARTA has said it’s addressing the perception that the line's unsafe, and the numbers say it’s one of America’s safest transit lines.
MARTA said there's a zero tolerance program for certain behaviors.
“We've suspended more than 10,000 people from riding the service,” Parker told Winne.
Those suspensions range from two weeks to permanent, Winne learned.
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