Riders push for MARTA to reinstate all bus routes

A small crowd gathered outside MARTA headquarters Tuesday afternoon pleading for officials to reinstate all routes.

MARTA officials said they had to cut some routes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Please. Please bring the bus routes back,” faithful MARTA rider Yolanda said.

“Something needs to be done,” Patricia Isom said.

“People are hurting today. We need these buses reinstated last week,” organizer James Davenport said.

It was a small crowd but those who came out for a rally in front of MARTA’s headquarters had a big message.

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“It does not make sense. Bring these buses back,” Davenport said.

Many are calling for officials at MARTA to reinstate all bus routes.

MARTA slashed several buses and routes as COVID-19 impacted travel and businesses.

Many who came out to the rally said most of the people impacted are those in African-American or low-income communities who rely on the service.

“The members of the community can’t leave. They can’t get to the jobs. They can’t get food,” Yolanda said.

“People have called me. One lady uses a walker and she has to go half a mile just to get to a train station,” Davenport said.

Know how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Georgia

“There are other areas that I need to go but I can’t get there because the buses stopped running,” Isom said.

Isom has had to find other ways to get around.

“I have to take the Lyft or Uber …my finances are low and that’s the impact it has on me,” he said.

MARTA officials released this statement:

The Essential Service Plan that was put into place on April 20 ran 40 bus routes and one new circulator service that provided transportation to 17 hospitals, 22 urgent care centers, 85 grocery stores and 16 job centers/industrial hubs. The plan was designed to keep service running for the lion share of our riders, eliminate the dangerous overcrowding of buses and protect the health and safety of our riders and our operators. The initial decision to make this emergency, temporary change to service was not a decision made lightly. The negative impact to riders across the jurisdictions weighed heavy on everyone, but the need for drastic action in the face of the pandemic could not be ignored.

Georgia’s COVID data is worse today than when we started the Essential Service Plan. On April 20, the 7-day rolling average of positive cases was 760. As of today, the 7-day rolling average of positive cases is 1,205. These numbers underscore the importance of continuing to social distance and wear masks. And because capacity on current bus routes is still stretched, the Essential Service plan is as necessary today as it was in the spring.

As of today, we have added back 8 routes. Routes are added back slowly when capacity monitoring indicates that we have buses available. Routes are added back based on their indexed prioritization.

“They don’t have any routes that go where I have to go,” Eve said.

Eve was out asking if anyone knew of a nearby bike shop.

“I have to take two buses then I have to take a cab, or walk or a bike,” Eve said.

She’s searching for an affordable bike, which she says is the only way she will be able to safely get to and from her new job.

“It’s been challenging. I‘ve been walking 10 miles plus some days and 10 miles back and that’s like 20 miles a day,” she said.

“We understand the Essential Service Plan still presents a burden to our riders who rely on routes that remain suspended. We are in the field every week assessing our ability to safety restore routes,” MARTA said in its statement.

Officials are encouraging riders to call the Customer Care Center at 404-848-5000.

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