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PHOTOS: MARTA fire, underground evacuation add to litany of Atlanta travel complications

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Transportation woes continue as fire breaks out on train route between Midtown, North Avenue Stations

Smoke fills the train car and presents a harrowing situation Thursday evening.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

For the past five weeks, MARTA has had an amazing, unprecedented opportunity to attract new riders as Atlantans try to get around without ITP Interstate 85.

While there have been some hiccups (full parking lots, a shooting, etc.), the system has risen to the challenge, accommodating many more commuters than pre-collapse.

In the middle of rush hour, at around 6:20 p.m. Thursday, MARTA faced its biggest challenge yet. Between Midtown and North Avenue Stations, a fire erupted in the southbound tunnel, according to MARTA. The details still remain scant, but here’s the general timeline, experienced by someone on the train at the time.

At 6:20, as a train was cruising out of Midtown on its way south toward North Avenue, a strange smokiness could be seen filling the tunnel ahead. Overheard: “That’s not good.”

As the conductor stopped the train, the car immediately began to fill with smoke through the air vents. There wasn’t panic, just confusion, as the train driver left the controls and headed back into the train.

Confusion, but little panic, on the train as the car begins to fill with smoke.
Michael Kahn, Curbed

Almost immediately, there were three loud explosions and the smoke quickly grew thicker. Some riders joked about how this was really inconvenient, while others began to go into crisis-response mode.

Passengers tried to pry the doors at the front of the train open, before the emergency release at the center of the car was pulled and the middle set of doors was opened.

Passengers reacting as the smoke grew thicker.
Michael Kahn, Curbed

The first group of passengers set out from the front car of the train, heading north toward Midtown Station, using the distance on the emergency signs to mark progress. Yelling erupted in the tunnel as the minutes dragged on and the next steps were unclear.

Passengers attempt to sort out which direction to go while receiving different instructions from police on board the train.
Michael Kahn, Curbed
Michael Kahn, Curbed

After 20 long minutes, and a lot of confusion, the passengers from the first car made it to Midtown Station. The scene was serene, with others waiting on the platform for trains that wouldn’t be coming.

However, the scene at North Avenue was far more dramatic as first responders lined up in response to the emergency. Thankfully, reports from the Atlanta Fire Department indicate that no one was seriously injured.

There were, however, a lot of nerves wracked.

Ambulances and fire trucks lined up on West Peachtree Street outside of North Avenue Station.
Michael Kahn, Curbed
Michael Kahn, Curbed

Amazingly, MARTA had all stations up and running just a few hours after the fire. The ridership fallout from the incident, if any, remains to be seen.

But one thing is clear: Some omnipotent being has it out for Atlanta’s transportation system.