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Photos: How MARTA Has (and Hasn't) Changed Since 1970s

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Expansions in rail and bus service boosted ridership, but not much has changed since

All aboard, Atlanta, for a time-traveling transit trip involving everyone's favorite underfunded system!

MARTA service began in 1972 after the transit agency bought the previous Atlanta Transit Company. At the very beginning, it was a bus-only system, and rail service wouldn’t open until 1979. These photos collected by the National Archives Catalog give a glimpse into the early days of our maligned transit system.

Ridership was in a long slump by the time MARTA took over bus operations. That turned around immediately after the agency reduced fares from 40 cents per ride to a flat 15-cent fare that included transfers. Annual rides passed 80 million per year before rail service opened, and rides exploded in the following years. 1983 was the system's peak service year with over 150 million rides.

Since that time, service has leveled off and remains above 130 million rides a year. That is, in part, due to limited growth inside the city and a lack of service in the growing metropolitan suburbs. But, with rapidly increasing city density and proposed service expansions, MARTA service could jump in upcoming years.