With the threat of tropical storm force winds on Monday, MARTA announced an unprecedented complete shutdown of transit in the city, leaving thousands who use the system daily in a lurch.
While the decision likely didn’t impact the majority of Atlantans—even many frequent users were given the day off by their employers due to severe weather threats—it brought to a halt the sprawling operation of buses and trains that crisscross the city.
Often, Atlanta is criticized for a lackluster transportation network, and the comments aren’t that unjustified. But in many ways, MARTA is still a major factor in the life of Atlanta.
As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone,” and the loss of MARTA service—even just for a day—inspired one infrequent, anonymous rider to take to Reddit and poignantly express just what transit means to many who rely on it:
Like many Atlantans, I have ridden Marta just a few times in the last year as my preferred transportation mode is by car. I voted for the increase in funding for Marta, not to get more for my usage, but rather to improve for others and those [who] are to come the only public transit option in our city. Yet yesterday showed me more than ever before how truly vital Marta is.
As I went to check on my father at his senior living facility, I didn't notice the traffic flowing smoother than normal on Roswell Road or a distinct lack of lane-switcheroo to dodge buses stopping. I was surprised to find out no hot meals would be served to him today due to the lack of staff. Returning from the grocery with hot soup, as the local Wendy’s (he likes their chili) was closed, it dawned on me many critical staff at facilities all over the city may be affected by the Marta closure. Perhaps they've done alright for a day.
Thank you Marta, for enabling people to get all over the city for $2.50. Thank you Marta for training Atlanta drivers in quick lane switches, skills useful for dodging potholes, plates, and merging on 400/285/85/75/damn near everywhere. Thank you Marta and may your new dollars serve us all well.
Those sentiments garnered a lot of conversation online, boosting the post to one of the top spots on the digital database.
Ultimately, the success of the system won’t hinge upon usage by all, but rather the realization that MARTA allows those who need it as a main mode of transportation to access jobs, housing, and everything else in Atlanta.
The Reddit user had an epiphany that the system is important to those who use it, but it also has a much broader impact on all Atlantans. It’d probably be good for the region if everyone else, and especially lawmakers, came to the same conclusion.