ATLANTA - They call themselves the "MARTA Army" and they plan to help riders new to the transit system get around Atlanta in the wake of the Interstate 85 bridge collapse.
"We expect a large surge in demand for public transportation next week and so we wanted to help first-time MARTA users navigate the system and purchase Breeze cards," said Simon Berrebi, executive director of the MARTA Army.
The grassroots organization was founded a couple of years ago to help empower people to improve the MARTA experience in their own neighborhoods. They raised $16,000 through crowd-funding to pay for the addition of trash cans at 80 bus stops in East Point. The MARTA Army also coordinates the "adoption" of bus stops by members of the community.
Officials with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority announced Friday that they had already seen a 25 percent increase in ridership since the I-85 fire and an 80 percent increase in Breeze Card sales.
Berrebi is in the finishing stages of earning his Ph. D in transportation from Georgia Tech. He believes this is a great opportunity for people to try transit for the first time.
"When a piece of highway comes crashing down in flames in the middle of the city, that's a real test in a transportation network's resiliency," said Berrebi. "The kind of congestion that we're seeing today shows that if you're only relying on road infrastructure, then you're not able to recover from those kind of shocks. Public transportation, heavy rail service can move tens of thousands of people per hour compared to one lane of traffic that can move at most 1400 people if it's in free-flow speed."
The MARTA Army needs volunteers at transit stations all over the city on Monday and Tuesday from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 to 7:00 p.m.
To volunteer, visit www.MARTAARmy.org/relief.