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ryancs

MARTA Experiences After Gas Hikes

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After the gas hike yesterday and sudden "shortage" of gas in Atlanta, I finally decided to give MARTA a try for my commute into downtown this morning.

I've been a metro area resident (ie, East Cobb resident - I know, I know, Snob County) for a little over a year now and to date, MARTA has had zero appeal. Traffic, believe it or not, really is NOT that bad here and I've really never had much of a problem getting to work in either the Galleria area or downtown. But after paying almost $50 bucks at the pump last night, the thought entered my mind that my 40 mile daily round-trip downtown was adding up quickly. Evidently, I'm not the only one as today's AJC reports MARTA passenger traffic is spiking as of late.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on my MARTA ride and mass transit in Atlanta:

1. Overall it was a good experience. I traveled from the Sandy Springs station to Peachtree Center in about 25 minutes - 50 minutes total from my house to downtown. Parking was free and using MARTA saved about a gallon of gas which includes the commutes to and from the station (or about the equivalent of a standard $1.75 fare times two). Also, the rail cars were only moderately full as I traveled during off-peak times.

2. Traveling that cooridor into downtown makes you realize how un-urbanized Atlanta is. The majority of the trip you see nothing but nice green trees. It is a very spacious city which doesn't bode well for the practicalities of mass rail transportation. Each station, besides the ones in midtown/downtown are pretty much islands. Once you get off the train, something better be fairly close to MARTA unless you are up for a hike.

3. Side note: What is up with the bare rock walls / subterranian landscape in some of the stations?

4. Realization that if the sh*t hits the fan and gas goes even higher, this city is majorly screwed. The suburbs are cut off from employment, shopping, restaurants and the city center. You must - must have a car in metro Atlanta to function.

5. Mass transit does take more time and is less convenient than using a car. Also, unless you are willing to buy monthly or weekly passes for MARTA, the gas savings is about nil (for me at least).

Anyway, just my two cents. I think that in the long run, densification of the city and mass transit will be a plus for Atlanta. And like it or not, Cobb county and the other suburbs will need to consider options for bringing it into their communities.

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Nice post ryan - my thoughts on your thoughts

1 yes, that is a nice trip - I used to live in Sandy Springs & took that same trip daily to work to Perimeter Center

2 absolutely, you don't experience any urbanity until you go underground before Arts Center. Around Buckhead & Lenox you realize how dense it is, but all in a suburban car oriented environment

3 MARTA stations are ugly, they all stem from that pompous futurist 1970's attitude - my local MLK station is the ugliest though

4 yes, it is, the majority of Atl workers work outside the city core in all the edge & (worse yet) edgeless cities that are absolutely dependant on cars. Even Perimeter, which I have walked a great deal around when I was carless in Sandy Springs is unhospitable to people

5 which is why MARTA still struggles, I can't argue against anyone not to drive, including my wife b/c I completely understand. It's still cheap to park in downtown & at least back in the sub $1.50 gallon a gas days it was cheaper to drive too

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^ Because they are mostly developed. Peachtree Center is downtown, MLK is on the edge of downtown - though a development is planned beside it. Lastly Sandy Springs is a rare suburban underground station below a few office towers.

But your point is still valid - other MARTA stations are prime development sites & some are planned.

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Well, my thought is this- you can't expect to see much from the rail. You shouldn't ride it for the view :)

I like the bare rock walls. Its better than generic ceramic tile ceilings and walls that you see in other cities.

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Well, my thought is this- you can't expect to see much from the rail. You shouldn't ride it for the view :)

I like the bare rock walls. Its better than generic ceramic tile ceilings and walls that you see in other cities.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

How many times have you ridden MARTA, Spartan?

Anyways, aside from a few inconveniences like stopping for a few minutes, my experiences have always been good ones. No doubt I'll be using it if I finally get a chance to go to Atlanta for some pictures over this week-long Labor Day Break that Douglas County schools give.

@The View from the rail- Too true indeed

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^  Because they are mostly developed.  Peachtree Center is downtown, MLK is on the edge of downtown - though a development is planned beside it.  Lastly Sandy Springs is a rare suburban underground station below a few office towers.

But your point is still valid - other MARTA stations are prime development sites & some are planned.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There are definitely some stations that are ripe for TOD. Kensington Station, Chamblee, Doraville, H.E Holmes, Ashby all come to mind immediately as station that have empty lots, low density industrial, or MARTA parking lots surrounding them that are ripe for TOD. I know most of these stations have some plan in place already for development, but it's definitely been slow to come.

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So, is Lindbergh the only TOD in progress? I know Peachtree Center, Arts Center, Midtown, Lenox have development that are new nearby but those areas were already built-out by the time MARTA made it's presence. I'm not sure how to classify Sandy Springs' stations, since they are basically situated in 9-5 office parks.

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I rode MARTA about 5 years ago on a Friday night and had mixed feelings about it. I thought the stations were easy to find, cheap, and convenient. However, the trains were dirty, there were hardly any passengers, and this creepy homeless person kept following me and my family. I'm sure in the past few years, however, that MARTA has gotten better due to the influx of people moving into the urban core. My dream is for MARTA to be as popular as the Subways of New York, whick could happen if people keep moving in! :thumbsup:

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Marta's model should be the Metro in DC. It is one of the other "new" heavy rail systems in the USA and is approximately the same age as Atlanta's Marta.

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I was last on Marta in early August.

My trip took me from the North Springs station to the Airport station. On the trip south I was with my husband and children. On the way back I was alone. I found the trip easy, comfortable and safe. I didn't have to worry about parking and walking great distances to drop my husband off at the airport. The station is right in the airport.

As far as the stations ambience, I find them to be in line or slightly better than some other comparable rail lines in other cities. Has anyone ever ridden the L from O'Hare to downtown Chicago. The ambience is not the best but I will tell you, I appreciated it's convenience.....as I appreciate Marta's relative convenience....if you are in the city center.

I suppose one's experience on Marta will be influenced by the time one rides. When I rode it was during regular business hours and not once did I feel uneasy. There were people that were different from me but I suppose that comes from traveling through a city. Between my husband, my children and myself, the ride to the airport cost $5.25 heading south and $3.50 back. That's $8.75 round trip. That's about comparable to a one way trip to the airport. We didn't have to worry about traffic or parking fees at the airport. The my youngest three also got a kick out of the train ride.

My only gripe about the trains would be that a North Springs train comes every 20 minutes. That's a long wait when you have children with you...3 which are ages 3 and under.

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MARTA's model is indeed METRO in Washington & also BART in San FRancisco is similar in design as well.

My wife & I cancelled our Savannah trip & stayed in Atlanta, so we rode our bikes to the MLK station & spent the day at Dragon Con in downtown. It was nice to see the trains running at a decent schedule & especially nice to see all the trains were generally full, even at 10.30 at night.

Not that I'm not sympathetic for the poor that are being hurt by the high fuel prices, but it would be interesting if gas prices did stay between $3 & $4 a gallon.

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How many times have you ridden MARTA, Spartan?

Anyways, aside from a few inconveniences like stopping for a few minutes, my experiences have always been good ones. No doubt I'll be using it if I finally get a chance to go to Atlanta for some pictures over this week-long Labor Day Break that Douglas County schools give.

@The View from the rail- Too true indeed

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Wow, I have no idea. Easily dozens upon dozens of times. Every time I go to Atlanta I take that thing everywhere I need to go. Usually I get on at Chamblee or Brookhaven and go from there. Its a nice ride to the airport, and for a 'small town' person like me its always a treat. The trains are less and less clean since the Olympics, but that isn't saying much. They are still decent. I've been on much worse (NYC Metro :sick: ). I've never felt unsafe, and they are usally moderately full. Since I get on towards the end of the line I always get a seat :) The best part is that I don't have to try and navigate Atlanta's maze of roads. :wacko:

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Wow, I have no idea. Easily dozens upon dozens of times. Every time I go to Atlanta I take that thing everywhere I need to go. Usually I get on at Chamblee or Brookhaven and go from there. Its a nice ride to the airport, and for a 'small town' person like me its always a treat. The trains are less and less clean since the Olympics, but that isn't saying much. They are still decent.  I've been on much worse (NYC Metro :sick: ). I've never felt unsafe, and they are usally moderately full. Since I get on towards the end of the line I always get a seat :) The best part is that I don't have to try and navigate Atlanta's maze of roads.  :wacko:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It's always good to know they get such positive reception from out of towners. Since I come from the Western side of the Metro, I usually get on at the Hamilton E. holmes station. Lately, I've been using the P'tree Center Station more often because of the bad neighborhood around HE Holmes (don't want anything to be stolen). I share much the same opinion as you do about them. :)

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There are definitely some stations that are ripe for TOD.  Kensington Station, Chamblee, Doraville, H.E Holmes, Ashby all come to mind immediately as station that have empty lots, low density industrial, or MARTA parking lots surrounding them that are ripe for TOD.  I know most of these stations have some plan in place already for development, but it's definitely been slow to come.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm really excited about the naturally occurring TOD (without Marta involvement) happening around the Chamblee station. I believe its an Asian developer thats doing much of it, but I could be wrong. I think it has a chance to be a really nice area.

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My experience w/ Marta has had its ups and downs. I used to live in the GSU village for my first 3 years of college (00-03). It was quite convenient to take to school every day, but then again we had free passes each month. At times the trains seemed to run a little too late, but nothing to write home about. However, as soon as I moved to Vinings, I stopped using Marta almost altogether. There were no stations in Cobb, tho I think it would be cool if they expanded a line from Arts center that paralleled I-75... however that would require Cobb to approve of Marta being in their county... oh the Snobs! j/k!

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Transit Oriented Development.

I'm not sure on the exact definition, but it is pretty much offices, condos, hotels, retail, or mixed use (a combination of at least two of the development types I listed) built near a transit station that are supposed to encourage people to take transit to and from the developments (the developments are transit friendly, in other words).

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Transit Oriented Development.

I'm not sure on the exact definition, but it is pretty much offices, condos, hotels, retail, or mixed use (a combination of at least two of the development types I listed) built near a transit station that are supposed to encourage people to take transit to and from the developments (the developments are transit friendly, in other words).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thats pretty much right. But the idea is to make the mass transit feature prominent and accessible enough that people will use it. Usually its residential/commercial mixed use, but im sure its not exclusive to that. This is the notion behind createing high density corridors along transit lines. MARTA was built defore TOD was a 'buzzword,' so there is likely less of it, which is not to say it doesnt exist. I have read of quite a few TODs that are already happening around the beltline project.

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Speaking of one of the TODs........

The Lindbergh City Center around the Lindbergh Marta Station.

I see that Brad said that this was not a good example of a TOD. I would have to ask him why he says this. I feel in concept it is a great example of a TOD. There were many factors that have slowed it from reaching its full potential more quickly.

Marta's corporate headquarters is located at the TOD and they were instrumental in encouraging Bellsouth (along with tax incentives) to move major employment centers along the rail lines. I read in a Charlotte thread that Bellsouth was moving call centers along rail lines but that's not solely true. Bellsouth made the annoucement to move operations to Lindbergh, Lenox and North Ave Marta stations back in 2000. I was working for Bellsouth when these announcements were made. I was in PR for the Internet Service Division and this is the division that was slated for the Lindbergh TOD.

Just a little info on the Lindbergh TOD.From the Atlanta Business Chronicle

Anyway, there were to be jobs, shops, apartments, restuarants, condos and rail all within steps of each other. I remember when we were given briefs on the move. Bellsouth slated to move 10,000 workers (pre layoffs) to the Lindbergh location. We were going to be charged $55 a month to park in a total of 3000 parking spaces. What amazed me is that first, a majority of the workers pitched a fit about having to pay $55. There was such an uproar that Bellsouth relented and lowered the price to $35.

The next issue came was Marta. There were many people who actually left Bellsouth because they did not want to be forced to ride Marta. It wasn't s speciific type of person who was complaining.....it was almost all employees who were complaining. To encourage workers to ride Marta, Bellsouth paid a majority of the price for a monthly Marta card. A normal monthly Marta card cost $52 but workers only had to pay $20.

So people will ride right?

Nooooooooo, I will tell you that a majority of the people drive to this day. One of my good friends is still there and I can tell you that the Bellsouth parking deck is full, the Marta employee parking lot and desk are full and now the parking desks for patrons to the stores are full with workers. So much for if public transportation is available people will use it.

The second issue that occured with the Lindbergh TOD is timing. Right as it was planned (for those who remember, Marta fought many leagal battles to even get this TOD started), the economy began to fail. Many of the residential and retail segments of the development stalled. There were plans for another office tower to go atop the 4 story Bellsouth parking deck. That project stalled because companies were not looking for anymore office space. Then came the big wammy. Bellsouth begin shedding thousands of jobs.

What was meant to be a vibrant new area spearheaded by the Lindbergh TOD sputtered along.

While Lindbergh is a very used station down below ground, many of those people are not making Lindbergh City Center their final destination. Recently, development has started to come alive again. Longhorns Steakhouse @ Lindbergh opened in July. There is now an urban Publix being built directly across from the station. You can get off the train and walk right into the store. The apartments are back on track and the last time I was there, there was ground being turned for the condo building. Across Piedmont from the Lindbergh City Center, Sembler is remaking a very large plot.

Info here:

Sembler's Lindbergh Plaza

In case the PDF file doesn't work.

There is also more condo's being developed one block east of Piedmont on Lindbergh Way. It's slow getting to where it was proposed to be but I feel if it is realized in it's full potential then it will be a shining example a TOD. While it may not be as urban as some may hope, we have to be realistic and realize that the only way to make it and the surrounding area totally urban, you would have to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. That was neither practical nor realistic. I think what we will potentially have is a best effort to right a wrong in sprawly development. Mixed use, live, work, play!

That's just my thinking. B)

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Speaking of one of the TODs........

The Lindbergh City Center around the Lindbergh Marta Station.

I see that Brad said that this was not a good example of a TOD. I would have to ask him why he says this. I feel in concept it is a great example of a TOD. There were many factors that has slowed it from reaching its full potential more quickly.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

^That may have been one of the reasons that he said it was not a good example.

Also, Brad is a very well known cynic.

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^ Oh am I :)

Celeste - my wife was acually a BS (pun intended) employee herself until she was laid off.

But my criticism is what Lindberh is now, not what it was intended to be. As it is now, as it has been since it openend, is two midrise office buildings with ground levels vacant except some pretty window pictures at the 'street level' that shows what it could be - restaurants, cafes, clothing stores. But it's not. Instead it's nothing but the BS offices with that recent Longhorn restaurant fully detached, hardly making it a uniform development. Also - those apartments behind it hardly make it a mixed use project.

Maybe after a couple of years it will be a full TOD, at least it is better than what was there before.

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