Members of the MARTA Army include, from left, Bakari Height, Simon Berrebi, Binh Dam, Harshath JR and Rohit Ammanamanchi.
Members of the MARTA Army include, from left, Bakari Height, Simon Berrebi, Binh Dam, Harshath JR and Rohit Ammanamanchi.

By Clare S. Richie

Today at a MARTA bus stop, you’ll see the signature tri-colored sign attached to a pole and little else. The MARTA Army is working to change that through their adopt-a-stop initiative, Operation Timely Trip. The initiative seeks to improve bus riders’ experiences on Atlanta public transit.

MARTA Army, an independent grassroots action group, was an idea sparked at the 2014 Georgia Tech Transportation Camp. The citizen group plans on using “boots-on-the-ground interventions to improve the physical, cultural, and social environment of the MARTA system.”

“It’s tactical urbanism – citizens coming together to do small acts for large scale change,” explained Simon Berrebi, a MARTA Army co-founder and Georgia Tech Transportation Systems Engineering doctoral student. The army is pulling together citizen soldiers from different Atlanta neighborhoods and backgrounds to reclaim ownership of MARTA and make it more accessible and convenient.

Most MARTA bus stops don’t have bus route and destination information. The few that provide a route timetable, only list times for the main locations on the route, leaving the rider to guess at arrival times. A setup that’s not likely to attract many new riders.

MARTA Army’s first intervention will upgrade “a bus stop to show you where you can go, on which bus or route, and when,” said Simon.

For citizens who adopt-a-stop, MARTA Army will provide training and printed timetables, making bus destinations more visible and hopefully more enticing.

Co-founders Binh Dam and Harshath JR, who commute on MARTA developed an app to produce the bus stop specific timetables. “We can make informative signs on the spot” Binh shared, “an improvement that MARTA is excited about.”

With initial support from In Our Backyard crowd funding, MARTA, Georgia Tech and the City of Atlanta, MARTA Army was able to launch an adopt-a-stop initiative at the recent 2015 Transportation Camp. Operation Timely Trip targets the entire Atlanta region by providing signs at community events in East Point, Buford Highway, Midtown and more.

As of late October, more than 100 citizens had adopted bus stops, and many more have signed up to participate. The army has a sign up sheet at where recruits can volunteer to adopt bus stops and to organize boot camps in their neighborhoods.

MARTA Army believes that citizens can come together to make MARTA an enviable world-class transit system. To do your part, consider becoming a soldier and adopting a bus stop near you.

Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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