Your Ride, You Decide

Inspired by robust feedback from thousands of riders, MARTA revealed its vision for a new fleet of rail cars featuring a host of customer-centric amenities, inside and out. 

The dynamic rail car design was unveiled to the public at the virtual State of MARTA 2022 event on January 12. The overall design reflects the culmination of outreach efforts in 2021 during which nearly 4,000 customers participated. The result is an alluring mix of improved comfort, convenient technology, and sleek minimalism.

Rail car interior view:

For example, the train interiors will have open gangways that enable riders to move freely between cars, forward and inward-facing seating options, spacious luggage and bicycle areas and large, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant (ADA) doorways and spaces. 
Customers will also benefit from conveniently placed mobile device charging stations throughout the rail cars and digital system maps and screens that display timely transit service information. 

Other upgrades such as wind screens near the train doors and improved heating, cooling and lighting systems will also enhance the commuting experience. 

Not to be outdone, the exterior of the new rail cars is an understated work of art. The most prominent feature is on the front of the train, where a lighted “smile” denotes the color of the respective rail line -- Red, Gold, Green or Blue -- so riders will know from a distance that their train is approaching. 

MARTA’s three iconic colors will flow in a strip along the vehicles’ flanks, carrying your eye down the length of the train and highlighting the aerodynamic design. 

Rail car exterior view:

During the first phase of “Your Ride, You Decide” campaign in May 2021, more than 1,300 people voted online or in-person at MARTA stations on the interior design features. 

In September, about 2,600 respondents voted in the monthlong exterior design outreach campaign. The winning design, “Minimalist: Option A,” received 2,193 total votes, narrowly beating “Flowing Ribbons: Option A,” which garnered 2,186 votes.  

(In an informal, unofficial poll, some students from Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta ranked another exterior design, “Neighborhoods: Option A,” as their clear favorite.)

When casting their votes, customers who used the online Qmarkets crowdsourcing platform praised the exterior aesthetic of the low-key design that MARTA ultimately selected.  

“Of the designs proposed, this one [Minimalist] seems to be the most timeless,” said respondent, Chris Kalil. 

Customer Reg Mitchell also described the less-is-more design as, “Dignified but with a bit of color. Easy and inexpensive to apply.” 

Sam Solomon, who also favored the minimalist approach said: “Of all the designs, this one seems like the one with the most staying power. Several of the other designs will look terrible in 5 or 10 years. Considering these cars need to last 40 or 50 years, that should be a major consideration. This concept also feels like the one that most closely fits with MARTA's branding.” 
So far, more than 34,000 votes have been cast for multiple rail car design features over the course of both outreach campaigns. MARTA is planning another phase of public engagement for the rail car design later this year. The first of MARTA’s 254 new rail ​cars is expected to arrive in metro Atlanta in 2023. 

We’re glad we asked.

Thanks to ongoing customer input, MARTA’s staff is gaining valuable insights that are guiding the decision-making about the form and function of the new rail cars.
Previous online commentary about the interior rail car features reflects the rich diversity of MARTA’s ridership and sparked lively and thoughtful conversations. Riders’ comments ranged from serious to playful, pragmatic to inventive, and from the cosmopolitan to the proudly Atlanta-centric.

“Ask local musicians to contribute a 5-second melody for each station's arrivals and departures,” posted Chad Miller on the topic of digital line displays.
On the possibility of using low-profile handholds, commenter Debbie Newmark was one of many riders who strongly preferred the more traditional floor-to-ceiling versions that are currently in use.

“When the train lurches, hips will be bruised, and bags and bodies could maim low-holding hands,” Newmark warned.  “Your hold point should always be above the waist.”
Cyclist Eric Ayers was enthusiastic about the option of reserving areas for bikes on the rail cars.

“I commute to work on a bicycle and sometimes it is late or raining so I take my bicycle on the train,” Ayers posted. “But when I do so I always feel like I'm getting in the way of other riders. Having a reserved area would make me feel like a 'first class citizen' when riding with my bicycle.”

MARTA Customer Carden Wyckoff is experienced travelling on other transit systems and favors designated areas near doorways for wheelchair users, such as her.
“D.C. Metro and [Bay Area Rapid Transit] have this and people respect the space and move out the way,” Wyckoff posted. “Proximity is very important.”

MARTA appreciates your support and is looking forward to continuing working with you on this project and many others that are improving our transit system and making metro Atlanta an even better place to live.

Raising the Bar

MARTA’s next generation of rail cars will build upon new technology and advance safety and security for all customers. The goal is to expand comfort and convenience elements to create a reimagined transit experience.

The new rail cars will also interface with other investments aimed at enhancing the customer experience such as MARTA’s new integrated operations center, new station audio-visual information upgrade, systemwide elevator and escalator upgrade, restroom modernization program and station rehabilitation program which will refresh MARTA stations. 
We’re doing this to raise the bar. Gathering your input now will help us deliver a rail car the improves the rider experience. Nothing means more to us than having you as a happy customer.

How This All Began

In 2019 MARTA’s board of directors approved a $646 million agreement with Stadler Rail for the purchase of new rail cars. The procurement, which is the single largest for either organization, is a milestone in MARTA’s capital improvement program aimed at more efficient performance and enhanced customer experience. The rail cars are scheduled to be delivered between 2023 and 2028, with the delivery of a pilot car in 2023.

As the MARTA system grew between 1979 and 2000, MARTA had procured rail cars three times previously – in 1979, 1985 and 2003. The Stadler procurement, however, will mark the first time that all previously purchased cars will be retired.

Stadler has manufactured trains since 1942. A Switzerland-based manufacturer with U.S. operations in Salt Lake City, Utah, the organization is committed to meeting the specific needs of their clients and employing innovative technologies to customize features that improve performance and passenger comfort.

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