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About: Shorties

August 21, 2009

Regular service MARTA buses come in three sizes: 40-foot, 35-foot and 30-foot. The latter are what some of us affectionately refer to as “shorties.” You can even combine the word “shorty” with the route number, calling them out like punchbuggys or padoodles, though this works best with route numbers that fall into the 40-49 range. From this little bit of shortbus love, we have such amalgams as the “shorty-four,” “shorty-five,” and if you’re drunk, the “shixteen.”

What about the schmedium, and how is it different from a shorty? The 35-foot schemdium is another five feet longer than the shorty, though it still makes you want to say “beep-beep” and scratch it behind the headlight. What difference does five feet make? A rear exit, and three bench seats. Back to the shorties.

Why a shorty? There are several different reasons for using a shorty on any given route. In subjectively-based ascending order of likelihood, the top three are: low ridership volume, for which a large bus is a bit more costly to run at certain times of day; turn radius and maneuverability, usually on wiggly routes like the 44; and because the bus garage just fucking feels like sending one out that day, and you can cram it, the way people cram into a shorty in the rain.

What about those really short ones? The 20-foot van-hybrids are usually paratransit buses, a special service for qualified disabled riders. It’s sort of like a taxi, except you make friends along the way. Some are fixed routes that are a vital thread for certain communities, but don’t necessarily have the ridership to support even a shorty.

We at the bus nerd headquarters haven’t come up with the name for these little guys yet. Got one? Suggest it in the comments!

Do you ride one of these teeny routes? Want a shorty to call your very own? Rally your community and increase ridership at the grass roots, or contact your city councilperson. You can also call the MARTA main line at 404-848-5000 for more information.

Have a shorty day!


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