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 metro’s Atlanta public transit.

MARTA Army, an independent grassroots action group, was an idea sparked at the 2014 Georgia Tech Transportation Camp. The citizen group says it 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.

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 Berrebi.
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,” Dam said, “which is an improvement that MARTA is excited about.”

With initial support from In Our Backyard crowdfunding, 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.

As of early October, more than 65 citizens had adopted bus stops.

The army has a signup sheet at where recruits can volunteer to adopt bus stops and to organize boot camps in their neighborhoods.