Atlanta riders say city officials should experience public transit challenges firsthand

Passengers are seen during the evening rush hour on a Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority commuter train in Atlanta on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)

To recognize Transit Equity Day this week, one Atlanta non-profit is calling on City of Atlanta officials to ride MARTA public transportation on Friday and Saturday.

Propel ATL is leading the nationwide movement locally — pushing for more frequent, sustainable and affordable ways to commute. Transit Equity Day also falls on Civil Rights icon, Rosa Parks’ birthday, on Feb. 4.

“Every 60 minutes — that’s just not equity in transit.”

Propel ATL executive director Rebecca Serna

Parks is best known for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955. That inspired the Montgomery Black community to organize a citywide bus boycott — a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement.

Propel ATL executive director Rebecca Serna told WABE’s “Morning Edition” that the day coincides with Parks’ birthday because public transit should be considered a civil right. She also feels buses need to come more often and connect more with MARTA’s train system.

“If you’re waiting for the bus and it comes every 35 to even every 60 minutes — that’s just not equity in transit. If you miss that bus, if your bus isn’t understanding, you might lose your job, your kid might be late to school,” Serna told WABE’s “Morning Edition.”

MARTA police chief Scott Kreher told WABE in an April 2022 interview that ridership declined significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it’s still recovering. Kreher said there was about a 20% reduction in MARTA’s workforce since January of 2020.

MARTA’s now permanent general manager and CEO Collie Greenwood’s priorities include the expansion and modernization of rail cars and electric buses.