Commuters Use MARTA As Alternative After I-85 Bridge Fire

Passengers board a MARTA train during the evening rush hour in Atlanta, Friday, March 31, 2017. Officials say commuter behavior shifted quickly after a section of Interstate 85 in Atlanta collapsed amid a massive fire, shutting down the busy highway for at least the next several months. Keith Parker, CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, said there was a 25 percent surge in ridership and a nearly 80 percent increase in sales Friday morning. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press
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Commuters are looking for alternate routes after the Interstate 85 bridge collapse and many people are choosing to use MARTA.

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Early data shows ridership jumped Monday morning by more than half and parking lots at several stations in the North corridor were full.

MARTA’s chief of staff Rukiya Thomas told “Closer Look” hosts Rose Scott and Jim Burress that more trains and larger buses in service.

“This week, you know, is spring break. Next week will truly tell the story. I can’t imagine what it will be like when everyone’s back at work,” Thomas said. “And it’s an opportunity for people to try us and then realize that we are an alternative that’s safe and that’s reliable and that could be a permanent option for the region.”

At the Lindbergh Center station, just half a mile from where a section of I-85 went up in flames, Andrea McGowan purchased her first MARTA Breeze card to get to her job at Accenture in Midtown. 

“I had been considering it, but especially with the collapse of the expressway, I’m just going to try it out,” McGowan said.

For other passengers, like Brian Dean, it’s been a while.

“I honestly don’t remember,” Dean said when asked when the last time he used MARTA was. “I’ve never had a bad experience in the past, so I’m not too worried about it.”

Dean said he worked from home Friday, but instead of driving Monday, he took MARTA and he’ll walk a mile to get to his office at Turner Broadcasting.

First-time MARTA rider Eric Xu said he took MARTA because it was faster than driving.

“My friend was about to drive me to Emory, but since the bridge collapsed it takes much longer so I have to take MARTA and take Uber to get there,” Xu said.

During rush hour, trains are running every seven minutes.

About 50 volunteers with the nonprofit rider group The MARTA Army are at stations across metro Atlanta to help first-time riders this week.

Uber also announced it’s partnering with MARTA to offer half off UberPOOL rides to and from MARTA stations this week and 25 percent off rides to other areas in metro Atlanta.