Take A Seat: Nonprofit Wants To Crowdfund MARTA Benches

A grassroots nonprofit called The MARTA Army wants commuters to be able to take a seat while they wait for the bus.

Executive director of the MARTA Army, Simon Berrebi, said 85 percent of MARTA’s 10,000 stops don’t have any amenities, so his group is launching a map-based “non-space specific crowd-funding campaign” this summer to fund thousands of benches.

“We’re planning a regional crowdfunding program where local businesses, residents and associations will be able to pool money together towards a bench at the bus stop in their neighborhood on their block,” Berrebi said.

He said cities often have prioritized lists of where to place benches when funding is available based on ridership data, but he said commuters should be able to decide where they should be placed.  

“Instead of taking this top-down approach, leave the initiative to your citizens so they can decide where they want their benches and which bus stops matter the most to them,” Berrebi said.

An interactive map would allow someone to find their bus stop, choose how much they want to contribute and see who much has been raised for bus stops nearby. Each bench will cost $500. If the bench isn’t fully funded by the deadline, donors will be asked whether to transfer their funds to another stop or to be reimbursed.

For lower-income neighborhoods, Berrebi said he’s been working to get matching funds from businesses and to subsidize the cost of those benches.

“It’s important for us that this program remain accessible to everyone across the region: from the people who are starting to take transit and adhere to this lifestyle but also for those who have been riding MARTA for generations,” Berrebi said.

The cities of Chamblee, Doraville, Clarkston, East Point and Brookhaven are working with the MARTA Army to install some of the benches this summer.  

Beberri said eventually, he hopes cities and unincorporated areas will be able to add more expensive amenities like garbage cans and shelters at bus stops. 

In September of 2015, the MARTA Army began the adopt-a-stop program, where volunteers are given laminated signs with updated route and schedule information to place on poles. More than 300 volunteers have adopted bus stops. MARTA changes the bus schedules three times a year.