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Kenneth Disraili-Jean

MARTA

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I know there is a topic for all the transpotation resources in the Atlanta Meto area, but I thought this as an individual topic waranted merit to discuss individually away from all the threads running together on all the available and proposed transit in the area.

MARTA was one of the first transit agencies to introduce some of the technoloy being used today and a recent addition that will be implimented on July 1, 2007.

When we see the conductor of a MARTA train, we think about what it's like to drive a train, but many do not know that the operator does not in fact drive or operate the train. This is done by computers that run and make sure the trains are spaced apart correctley. All the operator of the train does is open and close doors when the train enters and leaves a MARTA station. However if there is a problem the operator can take the train off automatic run and place it on manual run. But this is seldom ever done. Even the station announcements are done by a computer voice that says for instance, "Peachtree Center is your next station," and then upon entering the station the computer voice says "Peachtree Center, Peachtree Center station." But also if need the operator can override the computer voice and make manual announcements over MARTA's train communications system.

Now starting July 1 2007, MARTA will start using the "Breeze Card". No more change or bills to worry about, no tokens, and no paper transfers.

How the new Breeze system will work: The Breeze card looks like credit card, but it does not have a magnetic strip on the back, instead the back is solid white and MARTA uses smart technology to do this. On the back of the card is a smart chip that scanners in the stations and bus system can read. So when you get a breeze card, this is what you do:

1. Select "Reload Card" from the Breeze vending machine's display menu.

2. Tap your Breeze Card on the circular card reader

3. Select the value you would like to place on your card by pressing the corresponding button(s) on the menu screen.

4. Insert your payment into the appropriate slot-cash or coins (Credit/Debit coming soon).

5. Tap your Breeze Card on the card reader a second time to load the value onto your card. A future web site will be provided to load your card, check your balance, and get an overview of how you have used the MARTA system.

Next: 1.Tap your Breeze Card to the reader located on the station entry gate or bus fare box.

2.The reader will let you know your card has been accepted and flash the remaining balance on the screen.

3.Breeze will open the entry gate for you or signal the bus driver that you have paid.

4.When leaving a rapid transit station as you exit, tap the Breeze Card again and a transfer is added to your card.

In regard to transfers, they are automatically recorded on your Breeze Card- you can make up to four transfers within three hours of your initial boarding.

I think this technology is just amazing, and what are your thoughts on this?

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For readership purposes, fellow forumer here on the Atlanta Forum, please post comments as to whether you like the new Breeze Card system, or if you can think of better ideas in which MARTA technology can better serve the MARTA system.

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For readership purposes, fellow forumer here on the Atlanta Forum, please post comments as to whether you like the new Breeze Card system, or if you can think of better ideas in which MARTA technology can better serve the MARTA system.

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I like having the option of distance based fares, but for those who tend to frequent the system, as do I when I'm in the area, or here in Boston, will that impact the current pass options and prices?

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Breeze has a lot of advantages:

1) convenience and reliability

2) ability to charge distance based fares. The fact that someone travelling two stations to meet a friend for lunch pays the fare as someone commuting from North Springs actually discourages use.

3) the same payment mechanism can be adopted by other transit agencies, making connections painless if not seamless

The Bay Area has been testing / trying to implement a smart card system for at least 6 years, so far without success. Good job, MARTA.

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I like having the option of distance based fares, but for those who tend to frequent the system, as do I when I'm in the area, or here in Boston, will that impact the current pass options and prices?

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Personally I think MARTA should adopt a "zone fare" type of system. I mean $1.75 is just crazy cheap for transit these days, especially considering how the Feds have lowered money they pass out and the state doesn't even support the system at all. Zone fares would in the long haul make more money for the system.

Gwinnett residents don't pay a 1% tax to support the thing, so I see no reason why a one-way fare from Doraville (where most of the cars have Gwinnett tags) to Five Points shouldn't cost $3.00 (or more) each way. On the flip-side, someone going from Lindbergh just up to Lenox could only pay $1.00 each way, etc. Those who say the poor would be harmed by this - well, they could easily offer reduced rate Breeze Cards for the elderly, handicapped, and those who fall below a certain income level, so this wouldn't be an issue as well.

I feel they just need to completely rethink the fare structure, where the daytimer riders are coming from (as in non-supportive counties), etc., and come up with something appropriate that would also generate more money. Let's face it, even $3.00 each way is vastly cheaper than gas, parking, and the sheer frustration of driving in the traffic. Other cities transit agencies use this type of system and they are thriving, so I see no reason why MARTA can't do the same.

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As a visitor to Atlanta, my only objection to the MARTA is people who smell horrible sleeping in a lump on the train. They show absolutely no sign of life or interest in what stop is next. Perhaps they are listening to the announcements and know when to leave the train, but more than likely they are asleep or passed out and abusing the system as a means of shelter. The flat fee probably contributes to this problem.

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Personally I think MARTA should adopt a "zone fare" type of system. I mean $1.75 is just crazy cheap for transit these days, especially considering how the Feds have lowered money they pass out and the state doesn't even support the system at all. Zone fares would in the long haul make more money for the system.

Gwinnett residents don't pay a 1% tax to support the thing, so I see no reason why a one-way fare from Doraville (where most of the cars have Gwinnett tags) to Five Points shouldn't cost $3.00 (or more) each way. On the flip-side, someone going from Lindbergh just up to Lenox could only pay $1.00 each way, etc. Those who say the poor would be harmed by this - well, they could easily offer reduced rate Breeze Cards for the elderly, handicapped, and those who fall below a certain income level, so this wouldn't be an issue as well.

I feel they just need to completely rethink the fare structure, where the daytimer riders are coming from (as in non-supportive counties), etc., and come up with something appropriate that would also generate more money. Let's face it, even $3.00 each way is vastly cheaper than gas, parking, and the sheer frustration of driving in the traffic. Other cities transit agencies use this type of system and they are thriving, so I see no reason why MARTA can't do the same.

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This is probably the worst idea that could be proposed for MARTA, even with its financial struggles.

First off, you simply can't do it on a subway system like MARTA. How would people know in Doraville if you were going to Lenox, Airport, North Springs, or Arts Center? You would have to buy a new card every single time? And having someone there to monitor this at every single station? And make sure you got off at the appropriate stop? No, that is what is done on a commuter rail, not a subway line, which MARTA is.

Secondly, if you increased fares, people would stop using the system. The entire thing would fall apart, and MARTA would be in worse trouble than it is now.

Thirdly, your idea about reduced rates based on income levels - again, an administrative nightmare. How could you buy tickets at vending machines and account for a reduced income discount? No, instead you would place way too much demand on the RideStores, which already can't do special employer or university discounts alone, nevermind this income requirement.

So overall, that is a HORRIBLE idea. The key, unfortunately, is that metro Atlantans have to unite to force the state's hand into funding this system. Then and only then will we have a better performing MARTA system. And it can happen - there are by far enough people in the major urban and suburban Atlanta areas that could outnumber those in rural GA on this issue. The problem is - you can't get them to unite and make a commitment. Very sad indeed.

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To address your last point, do you think people who take MARTA from Alpharetta to the airport would stop doing so if it cost $5 instead of $1.75? Or even people who commute downtown from Alpharetta or Doraville ? Do you think maybe more people would take shorter trips like midtown to downtown if it was only $0.50 ? Especially with the increase in residential density being developed along the Peachtree Corridor ?

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This is probably the worst idea that could be proposed for MARTA, even with its financial struggles.

First off, you simply can't do it on a subway system like MARTA. How would people know in Doraville if you were going to Lenox, Airport, North Springs, or Arts Center? You would have to buy a new card every single time? And having someone there to monitor this at every single station? And make sure you got off at the appropriate stop? No, that is what is done on a commuter rail, not a subway line, which MARTA is.

Secondly, if you increased fares, people would stop using the system. The entire thing would fall apart, and MARTA would be in worse trouble than it is now.

Thirdly, your idea about reduced rates based on income levels - again, an administrative nightmare. How could you buy tickets at vending machines and account for a reduced income discount? No, instead you would place way too much demand on the RideStores, which already can't do special employer or university discounts alone, nevermind this income requirement.

So overall, that is a HORRIBLE idea. The key, unfortunately, is that metro Atlantans have to unite to force the state's hand into funding this system. Then and only then will we have a better performing MARTA system. And it can happen - there are by far enough people in the major urban and suburban Atlanta areas that could outnumber those in rural GA on this issue. The problem is - you can't get them to unite and make a commitment. Very sad indeed.

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Maverick, you are wrong in your first assertion that distance based fares "simply can't" be done; DC's Metro has done it for many years. See: DC Metro fares

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A fare based system simply wont work the way the Atlanta region is set up. It is not fare to charge someone at the North Springs Station $7.50 to go to the Peachtree Center Station to work, and what if they need to go to the airport, it could be $10.00. This idea is rediculous.

I know some people are suspecious that this is why MARTA instituted the Breeze Card system, but I don't think the fare based travel system will ever happen. One reason is Atlanta has alot of lower and middle class minorities that are heavely dependent on the MARTA system. So I think we all need to take that into consideration.

As far as the new Breeze Card, it truely is a breeze to use. Just pull out your card, tap the scanner and be on your way.

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I think you're looking at the fare zones in the wrong way. Its a good concept. But what you could do is have a fare-free zone or reduced fare zone, say between Lindbergh and West End on the North-South line and Ashby and Georgia State. Or perhaps from all stations with no parking to others with no parking. This would have to tie in the with bus system too.

The new breeze cards were weird at first, but over all I like them. The main benefit is that MARTA is now able to provide a much more accurate count of its passengers since its all digital. Thats one reason for the ridership increase (aside from actually having more passengers).

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A fare based system simply wont work the way the Atlanta region is set up. It is not fare to charge someone at the North Springs Station $7.50 to go to the Peachtree Center Station to work, and what if they need to go to the airport, it could be $10.00. This idea is rediculous.

I know some people are suspecious that this is why MARTA instituted the Breeze Card system, but I don't think the fare based travel system will ever happen. One reason is Atlanta has alot of lower and middle class minorities that are heavely dependent on the MARTA system. So I think we all need to take that into consideration.

As far as the new Breeze Card, it truely is a breeze to use. Just pull out your card, tap the scanner and be on your way.

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Distance based fares and congestion pricing work well for cities with extensive rail systems. I think that in a city where you're practically begging people to use transit, a fixed price makes much more sense.

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Nice strawman you've constucted there; where on earth would you get the idea fares would increase 400%-600% by switching to a zone or distance based fare system? Yes, the numbers you've thrown out there are ridiculous, but the range DC's Metro uses - minimum $1.30 to a maximum of $3.90 - are not.

As for what's fair - is it fair that a Midtown resident having lived in Fulton County for 15 years paying taxes to support MARTA, will pay $1.75 to go from Midtown Station to Lenox, or North Avenue to Georgia Dome, and a Gwinnett county resident, who pays no taxes to support MARTA can board at Doraville and ride to the airport (maximum distance) for the same $1.75? I'm surprised at the resistance to distance-based fares. You pay for everything else by the amount you use - gas by the gallon, electricity by the KWH, beer by the ounce - why not transit by the mile?

I wouldn't see a need for MARTA's fare structure to go as high as DCMetro's $3.90 but I can imagine a range of $1.00 to $2.50 with $1.75 remaining the median fare and used for the most frequent ride-lengths (meaning the average rider would continue to pay the same). That is data, btw, that the required Breeze tap-outs are creating.

Finally, MARTA already provides discounts for students, seniors citizens, disabled riders and MediCare recipients (whether minority or otherwise) and there is no reason why any of those would end under a distance-based fare system. Also, I don't think you'll find substantially more lower/middle class people in Atlanta than in DC.

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Nice sarcasum there, I have never been involved with a distance based system, so I threw some numbers out, but you got my point, and your trying to make me look like a stupid idiot and I DO NOT appreciate it at all.

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The sarcasm was in response to the numbers you used that were so outrageous as to appear disingenuous, particularly coupled as they were with (and appearing solely for support of) your complete dismissal of the concept with comments like "A fare based system simply wont work the way the Atlanta region is set up." and "This idea is rediculous."

I sure advocates of distance-based fares don't appreciate the idea being dismissed as "ridiculous" either. If you are going to make those sorts of absolute comments and use invalid data to support your case, someone is likely to refute them.

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Like I said, I don't know anything about distance based systems, and how much they are charged, so I threw out some numbers simply to show it would cost much more to travel from North Springs to the Aiport than from North Springs to the Dunwoody station.

Also, I meant that the idea was rediculous for MARTA, not other systems, and it would be hard to implement a distance based sytem with the large amount of poverty that exist in Atlanta. Most of the African-American community in the city would resist this idea with all force.

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Why would any one race resist distance based transit fares? If you're speaking of inner-city residents as African-American, the distance based fares would be favorable to them...the short trips of inner city residents would be cheaper than they are currently. The increase would be felt by suburban residents who make the longer trips and by airport arrivals/departures. It's very simple...the distance traveled determines the fare, and all fares are posted in the stations so you know how much $ to put on your card.

Implimentation of this system is very simple as well. Riders run their cards through upon entering the station and run their cards again upon exiting the station of their choice. The correct fare is deducted from the card, and if there isn't enough $, the card is rejected and the rider may add $ to it in order to exit the station. It's not a difficult system...just one that we aren't accustomed to. We will become accustomed to it and I seriously doubt there will be any major resistance to it.

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Well FriskyDingo, the idea sounds good but we have had the flat fee since the system opened in 1979. And some of our poor live way down on the Southside, so I think there might be a little resistance, as you know many that don't understand or are unaccustomed to change seem resistant. I personally think the distance based fee is a sound program after carefully analizing the two fare systems.

So we shall see if the Breeze Card is in fact the start of a distance based system, and since I live in Buckhead and use the Lenox Station to Peachtree Center on weekdays, it would be interesting to see what my daily fee would be under this distance based system.

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I didn't mean just the poor couldn't understand or would be a little resistant. Hey look at me, I didn't understand the concept at all and I was resistant because I thought it would mean higher fares to pay under the distance based system.

But I appreciate you taking the time to help educate this native Atlantan on this new system and break the suspecions I had towards it, since we have never had this type of system before.

It sounds good and especially fair and I'm all for cheaper fares to pay by all means!

As you know that map you provided are on every subway car and I only wish MARTA could extend the system further and more counties would join MARTA versus every county having its own system. A metrowide system would be so much better.

Anyway you have sold me on the new system. Now let's see how long MARTA takes to implement it.

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I didn't mean just the poor couldn't understand or would be a little resistant. Hey look at me, I didn't understand the concept at all and I was resistant because I thought it would mean higher fares to pay under the distance based system.

But I appreciate you taking the time to help educate this native Atlantan on this new system and break the suspecions I had towards it, since we have never had this type of system before.

It sounds good and especially fair and I'm all for cheaper fares to pay by all means!

As you know that map you provided are on every subway car and I only wish MARTA could extend the system further and more counties would join MARTA versus every county having its own system. A metrowide system would be so much better.

Anyway you have sold me on the new system. Now let's see how long MARTA takes to implement it.

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