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When Ragging on MARTA…..continued

July 1, 2011

After reading the last paragraph of That’s MARTA’s most recent post I couldn’t help but throw in my two cents as well regarding this notion that “MARTA goes nowhere.”  I find myself in a lot of conversations with people regarding how I move around the city.  Most seem floored that I do not own a car, and that I pretty much stick with rail transit, and a lot of walking.  Most of the time I get this look like I am an underprivileged child and that someone should throw a benefit concert for all of us without an automobile.  Then I have to remind them that I do it by choice.  So then the look turns from sympathy, to this surprised/disgusted/there must be something mentally wrong with me appearance. This look has then been followed by some of these insightful and well thought out statements/questions:

Well you don’t get to see trees and animals!

Because apparently at 65 mph the interstate begins to sprout redwoods and gives birth to wild animals.

You at least own a gun right?

Because apparently riding transit and walking is similar to the wild west and you never know when high noon will strike.

How do you go anywhere?

Because the words “I take the train” still haven’t fully sunk into their brains.

Don’t you miss the freedom of a car?

Because when the Constitution was written, freedom came with an automobile clause.  I mean seriously people, do you think everyone prior to 1920 just sat in their homes 24 hours a day wishing for a magic machine that would whisk them away across the world.  And apparently “freedom” means shelling out hundreds and thousands of dollars a month to an object and an action that is more prohibitive than anything else.  Seriously, have you really thought about how many no’s, donts, stops, wrong ways, no reentry, etc. etc. etc signs, laws and rules there are to driving. 

But the best is when they say “I don’t know how you do that, MARTA doesn’t go anywhere” or if they are really smart they will say nowhere.  And the most common thread I have found that ties all of those people together that say that to me, is that they all reside in the burbs and their appetite for doing more than going to Bed Bath and Beyond on the weekend is marginal.

So clearly an initial observation of those people says that to them MARTA doesn’t go anywhere, because they reside in a county where MARTA is prohibited.  No fault of MARTA’s so really it’s their elected officials that are not allowing them to go anywhere on MARTA.  Usually at this point in the conversation I have to suppress that boiling rage, to snap off and explain to them that it was their choice to live in AnywherebutAtlantaville, Georgia, but the civility in me stops it.  So after they have told me that MARTA goes nowhere (because clearly a resident of West Cobb County would be an expert at mass transit) I try to ask them where it is that they go, that is better than the nowhere that I am going.  I am expecting answers like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory or some hidden majestic waterfalls or unicorn preserve somehwere in Georgia.  But alas, it is not.  It is the grocery store, Target, the shopping mall; the same boring mundane activities that we all have to participate in.  So what they often describe as their “freedom” obtained from the automobile involves not visiting places of historical importance, or neighborhoods with eclectic and diverse value located in some far flung exurb, but rather shopping and errands. 

Now I am not lobbying that the burbs don’t have their own character, identity and charm at times.  I enjoy Roswell’s historic district and I have heard that Marietta Square is a great place.  But to tell me that I am going nowhere while this person has freedom of mobility because they can bounce from interstate exit to interstate exit that look exactly the same is just downright foolish.

By using MARTA my wife and I not only take care of our boring chores, or ho hum shopping trips, but also utilize it to go to all these nowhere places.  Places like Cabbagetown, Candler and Inman Park, Midtown, Buckhead, Castleberry Hill, Atlantic Station, Downtown Decatur, Piedmont Park, Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta Braves games Little Five Points and so on.  We go to these areas to eat and drink at local establishments, shop at local businesses, relax in the park, check out historical sites, and take in the atmosphere and eclecticism that these areas have to offer.  The funny thing is, that when I describe any of these trips to the “freedom drivers” they have either never been there or have never heard of it, whether it be an entire neighborhood or a particular restaurant.  Yet when they describe to me their weekend, it involves places and things that I can get at every interstate exit from here to Tampa. 

The point is, unless you can tell me something you have done that doesn’t involve Chili’s, Home Depot, or any other “Urban Village” shopping center; don’t tell me that MARTA doesn’t go anywhere.  Because from what I am finding out, I am going to a hell of a lot more places using MARTA in the past 8 months, than many people have gone to in their car for 15 years.

So thank you MARTA.  Thank you for getting me out of my car, slowing me down and allowing me to take the time to truly explore places.  Thank you for taking my preconceived notions of what Atlanta was, and turning it upside down.  Thank you for showing me places I normally would have zipped by on my way from one outlet center to another.  And thank you for showing me a city that has character, charm, history, and diversity that I was sorely lacking while living in Charlotte.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Duke permalink
    July 8, 2011 10:32 pm

    Thank you for writing such an enjoyable post. Why is it enjoyable? Because I too have been at the end of this very conversation at least 1 billion times with OTPers. They seem to have no concept (even if they come from a city that has good transit) of someone intentionally using MARTA even though they can afford to have a car easily.

    I have ridden the rails just about every day since the East Point station was opened back in ’86 (I was there on opening day and remember it like yesterday even though I was a child) and wouldn’t switch having a car for the world. Hell, the very thought of being forced to live in some subdivision in North Fulton or Cobb County spending my weekends at Pottery Barn or Dave and Busters gives me the creeps.

    • UrbanCommuter permalink*
      July 12, 2011 1:36 pm

      Thank you for the compliment. And I agree, it is even those who transplanted from a city with a good transit system that still dont get it. I think that is primarily due to the fact that they did migrate here looking for that large sprawling suburban home that is often unaffordable in many of the regions they come from, which inherently comes with the need for a car. For whatever odd reason there are a few of us that regardless as to where or how we grew up, we just never quite latched onto an automobile.

      Im with you on getting the creeps from having to live in some suburban subdivision, that is lacking any and all character or diversity. I think as a society we are approaching that brink where we are beginning to realize why the suburbs and individual transit will not sustain. It was a fun experiment while it lasted but it is just not feasible, logical, or sustainable. I recommend the book “The Geography of Nowhere” if you want an insightful yet humerous look as to why every suburb an interstate exit is becoming nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

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