MARTA pilot program to test on-demand shuttle service

MARTA is kicking off a six-month pilot program that features on-demand shuttles in certain areas of Metro Atlanta. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

MARTA is set to deploy more than a dozen on-demand shuttles as part of a new pilot program.

The new program is called MARTA Reach and it will let customers in certain underserved areas of metro Atlanta use a mobile app to hail a shuttle to get them a little closer to their destination, taking them to a bus stop or train station.

Channel Wilson will be driving one of the new vehicles.

“I’ve driven Uber before, so as far as picking up people and requesting trips and how they come up on our tablets, it’s very, very similar,” said Wilson.

The mobile app used for MARTA Reach was designed by students at Georgia Tech. President Angel Cabrera says it’s a project that fits nicely into the school’s curriculum.

Collie Greenwood
MARTA interim CEO Collie Greenwood says Georgia Tech will help analyze data from the new Reach pilot program. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

“How to use optimization, artificial intelligence, software, cloud computing and mobile computing to solve a problem that really limits the opportunities for so many people in our city – which is that last mile,” said Cabrera.

Each ride will cost $2.50. The six month pilot program will serve West Atlanta, the Belvedere area in DeKalb County as well as the Gillem Logistics Center in Clayton County, where more than 2,000 employees work.

“This could not have come at a better time,” said David Matthews, general manager of Kroger’s Atlanta fulfilment center, located in the Gillem Logistics Center. “I have personally seen people walk long distances to get to either a bus stop or some pre-defined destination where they told someone to pick them up.”

Reach will run weekdays from 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. A $1 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation helped fund the pilot program.  

MARTA’s interim CEO Collie Greenwood says they’ll be monitoring level of adoption, ridership and cost effectiveness as the pilot program moves forward.

“Those are the numbers we’ll be looking at,” sand Greenwood. “Clearly, we’re starting from zero right now. But the beauty of having Georgia Tech on board is that they’re going to help us with the analytics.”