Keeping MARTA as MARTA
Remember the “My Delta” campaign to prevent Delta from being acquired in a hostile takeover from US Airways? I think it’s time for that kind of campaign for MARTA. There are a lot of people talking about how a regional transportation authority should be created and all of the existing agencies (CCT, C-Tran, GTA, GRTA, and even MARTA) should be rolled into this new authority. Sounds great! Less acronyms to remember, hopefully more continuity between systems, it just seems so efficient. But….. that’s why the METROPOLITAN Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority was established in the first place. Notice the emphasis on the word metropolitan. That was the original goal, an organization that would serve the metropolitan area. But unfortunately, some geniuses who thought oil was free, a renewable resource, and a right handed down in the constitution and the bible, decided they would opt out. And now, here is the big surprise, we found out that the current model of suburban living and single occupant transportation was not sustainable. Shocked, just shocked I tell you.
So now these counties are expressing interest in transit, but really don’t want to be tied in with MARTA. I think I would understand that, if there were certain deficiencies to MARTA that were MARTA’s fault. But alas there are not. You can scream inefficiency all you want, but don’t think for one second that a newly formed authority wouldn’t have the exact same inefficiencies. In fact you will be hard pressed to find any business that is free from inefficiencies. And I have yet to meet someone who can actually give me an example of what the inefficiencies are; instead it’s like a buzz word that is used to mask their real distaste for MARTA, regardless of what it is.
But let us pretend that this new transit authority was created, and we will call it ARTA (creative I know). It should be a rather smooth transition. I mean the only work involved would be to repaint the buses, repaint the trains, change every single sign at every bus stop, every sign at every train station, park and ride, facility building, directional street signs, company cars, letterhead, business cards, promotional materials, posters, system maps, websites, safety ads, police equipment and uniforms, employee uniforms, breeze tickets, breeze cards, breeze machines, fare gates, and I am sure I had to leave out a few things. So after all that has been changed, the suburbanites are happy because now they are riding ARTA and not MARTA. Problem solved. Everyone is happy and everyone is taking transit. We are basically NYC or Portland. We have abolished the horrible name of MARTA and all the perceived problems that went along with it, except…….
The trains and the buses are going to the exact same places they were before, and the exact same people that rode MARTA are going to ride ARTA. And while I know anti-MARTA people claim they don’t like it for inefficiencies, crime, safety, etc. (of which all theories have been disproven) there is a nagging part of me that informs me otherwise. It is a socio-economic issue. It is a race issue. It is an anti-Urban issue. And these “concerns” will not be changed because of a logo change, and even if everyone started riding it, just wait until the first crime incident occurs, and then we will have to go through this whole process again. It is a band aid response. It’s similar to the move the city made a few years back to curb prostitution on Stewart Avenue. The solution was to rename it Metropolitan Parkway, as if the hookers and prostitutes would just stop going there, hell it probably helped their business. Metropolitan sounds swankier than Stewart. In fact if you do a quick search on the area, it actually becamse worse after it was renamed.
Both of these are soft responses to the problem. It is the magic trick of action while being totally inactive. It is time for the surrounding communities to stop thumbing their nose up at Atlanta and realize that if it wasn’t for Atlanta there would be no suburbs. And likewise for the urban dwellers, Atlanta wouldn’t still be a city if it wasn’t for those that lived in the burbs. Reinventing the wheel is not going to magically make the flaws that MARTA does have disappear. Instead these communities that are now pushing for mass transit should embrace MARTA, seamlessly integrate themselves into it, and use their knowledge and expertise to fix the issues that they may perceive MARTA to have, not to slap a new sticker on the side of the train and assume that they will never run into a panhandler again.