MARTA Ridership Takes A Hit After I-85 Overpass Reopens

MARTA ridership surged after the I-85 overpass collapse.
MARTA ridership surged after the I-85 overpass collapse.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE
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When the Interstate 85 overpass collapsed in late March, many metro-Atlanta commuters depended on MARTA to get to and from work. MARTA’s daily usage numbers surged 11.5 to 12 percent. 

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But now that the overpass has re-opened, how many people are still using public transit? 

Rachel Webster lives near Ponce City Market, but works on the north side of the Perimeter. Before the overpass collapsed, she had a 45-minute commute. After the collapse, it could take her up to two hours to get to work. So, she decided to use MARTA rather than sit in traffic. 

She said, at first, the commute was relaxing, and she even got some exercise.

“You get on the train and you can put on an e-book. You don’t have to focus on anything, and I liked that,” Webster said. “So when I got to my destination, I would feel more relaxed.”

But she said there were some issues when it came to getting to the station. 

“Using MARTA itself is great, I think getting to and from the stations is a little bit difficult,” Webster said. 

And she said the trains were stuffy. So her time on MARTA ended when the overpass re-opened. 

Joanne Hughes said her walk to the MARTA station only takes seven minutes. But before the bridge fell, she never considered MARTA as a commute option

“I’m not happy that I-85 caught fire, but I’m happy that there was some type of impetus that made me go and try it,” she said. “Definitely, I’m glad that I’m doing this now and I will continue for the foreseeable future.”

But Hughes said other people she knows who are sticking with public transit already used it before the overpass collapse.

“We basically anticipated that we would see a dip in ridership, but we did put in place a number of promotions as well as working with our first time riders to reassure them that they understand their commute,” Erik Burton, senior director of communications for MARTA, said.

While Burton doesn’t have exact numbers, he said he’s noticed their parking lots are less full than before the overpass re-opened.