Examining The Push To Rebrand MARTA As ‘The ATL’

The name MARTA has history — including the times counties like Cobb and Gwinnett voted against joining it. An effort at the Georgia Capitol is underway to rebrand MARTA, call it “the ATL” and create a regional transit system.

Alison Guillory / WABE

An effort to create a regional transit system is moving forward at the Georgia Capitol. And with that comes an effort to change MARTA’s name.

The name MARTA has history — including the times counties like Cobb and Gwinnett have voted against joining MARTA.

With this new regional system, state Sen. Brandon Beach wants to leave all of that behind.

“Sometimes a refresh and a rebrand is good,” he said.

And Beach said when state lawmakers thought about a replacement, the name “ATL” just made sense.

“When you fly into Atlanta, you go pick your bag up at luggage, you have a tag on it that says ATL,” Beach said. “It is our brand.”

Branding isn’t typically the job of legislators. But it is the job of transit marketers like Traci Jones. She leads a Colorado-based company called Studio 6.

Jones doesn’t disagree with the senator’s logic.

“A name is a great way to create new energy around a transit system,” Jones said.

She said Boulder renamed its system and saw a ridership boost. LA transit also turned around its image with a new brand. But Jones did have one piece of advice for state lawmakers.

“I just would recommend they involve residents, business owners as much as they can before that decision be made,” Jones said.

What she’s talking about are focus groups.

WABE tried conducting one of its own outside the Five Points MARTA station. Nearly every rider who was stopped said they liked the name ATL.

“Everybody knows Atlanta as the ATL,” said Jennifer Gurley. “We’re in Atlanta. Why not ATL?” said Von Paul.

Just one rider did not support a name change.

“MARTA been here for so long,” Davis Jack said. “I’d rather it stay MARTA.”

It should be noted that this was not a thorough focus group. Whether state lawmakers will have time to use one is unclear.

The bill changing MARTA’s decades-old name would need to pass by the end of the legislative session, which is next month.