MARTA is part of a regional solution to transportation, and is working across the region with transit partners and planning agencies. Even as fuel prices fluctuate, MARTA will be part of environmental and traffic alleviation goals. MARTA is planning new services, upgrades, transit partnerships, and is part of envisioning new transit solutions such as the Beltline. Learn more about MARTA's plans for the future.
A quarter century and more than 3.5 billion rides later, it is hard to imagine Atlanta without MARTA trains and buses. But there was a time – not that long ago – when Atlanta’s modern transit system existed only on paper.
In the 1950s, planners recognized the importance of public transportation – including a new rail system – to the growth of Atlanta and the region. In the 1960s regional planners and transit experts focused on proposals for rapid transit systems, highlighted by a Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Study Commission report recommending a 66-mile, five-county rail system with feeder bus operation and park-and-ride facilities. Action shifted to the legislative arena and by 1965, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act was passed by the state legislature and subsequently approved in four counties and the City of Atlanta, creating MARTA.
But it took several years of legislative and electoral activity as well as a voter referendum before MARTA was in a position, in February 1972, to purchase the Atlanta Transit System for $12.9 million and take control of the area’s primary bus transportation system. Fares were reduced from 40 cents to 15 cents throughout MARTA’s Fulton and DeKalb County service area. By the end of 1972, more than nine million more passengers than anticipated had ridden MARTA buses since the fare reduction; after twelve months of reduced bus fare, MARTA had an overall increase of 21% and carried more than 65 million passengers – 11.5 million more than the previous year.
Through the 1970s, MARTA received grants of more than $800 million from the federal government for planning, design, land acquisition and construction of a rapid rail system. The effort bore its first fruit on June 30, 1979 when MARTA’s first train, the East Line, began operating between Avondale and Georgia State Station. It also marked the start of MARTA’s combined bus and rail service.
Later that year, construction began on the Airport rapid rail station, one of many rail construction projects during the 1980s. In May 1980, West Peachtree Street, between Baker and North Avenue, reopened to through traffic after being closed for more than two years for subway construction. By September 1982, the Peachtree Center and West End stations began revenue service; by December the Arts Center and Midtown stations began revenue service. And in December 1984, five new stations opened: Lindbergh Center, Lenox, Brookhaven, Oakland City and Lakewood/F. McPherson. Four months after opening the stations and nine miles of track, rail ridership was up 29%.
In August 1986, the East Point Station opened, extending the South Line by about two miles. A little more than a year later, the Chamblee Station began revenue service and served as the temporary end of the Northeast Line. By September 1990, trains began running on an eight-minute headway throughout the system. At the same time, all southbound trains began running to the airport and all northbound trains started going to the end of the line at Chamblee.
The expansion continued through the early 1990s. The Bankhead Station went into service in December 1992, and in June 1993, MARTA extended East Line services through Kensington to Indian Creek Station – the first time the rail line went beyond the I-285 perimeter.
MARTA’s leadership changed hands in March 1994 when Kenneth Gregor retired. Gregor spent 21 years with the Authority, and was General Manager from 1982 to 1994. He was inducted into the American Public Transit Association (APTA) Hall of Fame in 1998.
Richard J. Simonetta, previously General Manager of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus, Ohio, replaced Gregor. Simonetta would oversee a heavy construction program leading up to the 1996 Olympic Games.
By June 1996, MARTA had completed more than 20 major projects including the North Line, the new Perry Boulevard compressed natural gas (CNG) bus facility, new RideStores, ITS projects, escalator rehabilitation, mid-life overhaul of some rail cars, and automatic train announcements. The new seven-mile North Line included the Buckhead, Medical Center, and Dunwoody Stations and represented the first time in MARTA’s history that a line segment spanned all three funding jurisdictions (City of Atlanta, Fulton County, and DeKalb County).
In the late 1990s, MARTA focused on transit’s link to community development as an alternative to highway congestion. At the start of 1999, MARTA announced a partnership with BellSouth to create the Lindbergh Transit Oriented Development (TOD), a live, work and play community built around a rail station and the largest multi-use development of its kind in the United States at the time. The Atlanta Business Chronicle later named the Lindbergh TOD project the “Best Mixed-Use (Real Estate) Deal of the Year.” Phase I of the Lindbergh City Center opened in November 2002. Carter & Associates was the master developer of the 47-acre site, which includes BellSouth office towers, a multi-tenant office building, new parking decks and a Main Street retail promenade, apartments and condominiums.
About a year later, MARTA opened its Windward millennium, and in March 2000 carried its' 3.5 billionth customer. By the end of the year, MARTA had opened two new rail stations – Sandy Springs and North Springs – on the North Line. The end of 2000 also brought a change in leadership when the Board of Directors appointed Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. as MARTA’s fifth General Manager and CEO. Ford is MARTA’s first African American chief executive.
In April 2001, the Laredo Garage Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Facility opened, providing more capacity for a bus fleet that was nearly half CNG powered. At about the same time, MARTA signed an agreement with the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) to operate five fixed bus routes and paratransit service for Clayton County to start the C-TRAN system.
Bus service to the Mall at Stonecrest Park/Ride Lot in Alpharetta became available serving three bus routes in North Fulton County. The lot has 502 parking spaces.
Security also received more attention in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The MARTA Police received CALEA certification, the first transit police in the country to be so designated.
In 2006, MARTA joined the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in partnership to create the Transit Planning Board (TPB). The TPB's mission is to create the next regional plan for expanding and funding public transportation for the entire Atlanta Region. MARTA will certainly play no small part in the future!