When the I-85 Bridge was out of commission for six weeks, MARTA proponents hoped the catastrophe would mark a permanent collective shift toward public transit. The closure of one of Atlanta’s most important vehicular arteries was a prime opportunity to introduce those accustomed to commuting by car to alternative forms of transit – and the initial spike in ridership by 25 percent looked promising.

Most rail stations saw increases in weekly ridership, with one DeKalb County station seeing the biggest uptick, according to an Atlanta Regional Commission report.

The Brookhaven station’s numbers ballooned by nearly 67 percent, far above the overall 11.5 percent increase at all stations, the ARC found.

Second was the Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center station, with almost 57 percent. Next was Sandy Springs at 43 percent.

The analysis compared ridership rates from March 24-31, the day after the collapse, to March 31-April 29.

All but six stations saw an increase in ridership in that time, though some saw only small increases, the ARC found.

Since the road reopened in May, however, the majority of commuters have returned to their old ways, with ridership falling to pre-collapse levels.

While the quick repair of the road was cheered on by the droves of mostly suburban commuters who were impacted by the closure, the relatively short outage meant that alternatives such as telecommuting and flex hours were viable tactics to survive the six-week outage in the interim..

Factors for the abandonment of public transit since the reopening probably have a lot to do with the short duration of the closure, and the fact that MARTA simply doesn’t serve many areas beyond the urban core. It will take more than a temporary transportation meltdown to get Atlantans on MARTA. Increased reliability, frequency, and destinations served will be key in convincing metro residents to get on board.

 

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