MARTA rides to the rescue as commuters try to avoid gridlocked Atlanta streets

5:17 p.m Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 Atlanta News

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice − we know the rest. Atlantans peeked through their windows late Friday morning to see a vision reminiscent of winter 2014, the infamous Snowmageddon. They refused to be held over at their jobs and on the interstate for hours on end for a second time.

RELATED: Bring on the memes: Twitter reacts to Atlanta snow, traffic chaos

The dusting of snow and slick roads across the metro Atlanta area had many locals and vistors seeking refuge in a less familiar embrace: MARTA. The train ride Friday was a welcomed relief for most, but the newfound transit savior wasn’t such a joy ride for those regular riders packed in with newcomers.

Jackie Gonzalez was one of those newcomers. The 27-year-old started her Friday skeptical of the weather warnings, since her commute was clear and easy. 

But once lunchtime rolled around, she realized the warning was becoming an actual storm.

“It was going to take me more than hour to get to North Ave.,” she said. “That’s usually a 20-minute commute, so I took the train home.”

Stephanie Toone

She hopped on the MARTA around 2:30 Friday afternoon and planned to come back Saturday for her car that she left at her office in Dunwoody.

“I just didn’t think it was going to be this bad,” Gonzalez said. “Whatever groceries I have at home will have to work, because I heard we’re getting more of this later.”

LEARN MORE: WINTER WEATHER HITS ATLANTA

· Traffic still snarled as snow comes to metro Atlanta

· Atlanta’s worst snowstorm wasn’t Snowmageddon, SnowJam ‘82 or the Blizzard of ‘93

· AJC Flashback Photos: A brief history of Georgia deep freezes

Rob Sherrod had survived Snowmageddon 2014, so Friday his plan to avoid the interstate as much as possible was set by daybreak. 

He typically takes a commuter bus from his Suwannee home to his job in downtown Atlanta. But Friday he drove to MARTA’s Five Points station, and he hoped he’d shave off some of his commute back to Gwinnett.

“I didn’t want to be stuck in downtown at work all night, again,” Sherrod told the AJC as the train neared his stop at Five Points. “I have to pick up my kids.”

Sam Shapiro, who stopped at the Arts Center station, also had scars from the chaos of Snowpocalypse, as he called it. His lesson from that walking-in-the-snow nightmare: take MARTA.

The East Cobb native opted for MARTA instead of his normal preference for Uber to get to catch his flight back to Washington, D.C. 

“I saw the salt trucks this morning, he said. “I knew there was going to be accumulation.”

RELATED: Winter storm warning expands again; snow falls in metro Atlanta

Stephanie Toone

Though MARTA was a savior for many, there were plenty who experienced the inconvenience of atypical riders piling on to get home. MARTA’s southbound trains Friday afternoon were delayed and severely overcrowded.

Connie Jones, a regular MARTA user, spent about three hours Friday attempting to get to southwest Atlanta before dark. She left her job in Howell Mill around noon, but at almost 3 p.m. she’d only reached the Arts Center station. Her bus, slated to pick her up from Chattahoochee Hills around 12:15, didn’t make it for 45 minutes.  That bus dropped her off at a stop in the Moores Mill area. A co-worker pitched in to get her to Arts Center, but that ride also took longer than expected.

“I was leaving work due to the weather, and I would’ve been home about an hour ago,” Jones said. “I believe the roads were messed up, so that caused my bus to be late. ... They should have made sure the roads were clear.”

MARTA had pledged to maintain normal operations early in the afternoon - and largely did despite some delays and alterations to bus routes.

By late afternoon, the tranportation service said that rail service was back on schedule - though overcrowding meant a wait for a spot on the train for many. 

While there were a few complaints about MARTA, Shapiro said it wasn’t up to just government agencies and transit to have cleared out the roads early enough Friday.

“The city and government knew what was going on as far as the weather,” he said. “People should have remembered what happened a couple of years ago and got home or stayed home.”

» RELATED: I-85 bridge collapse: Is MARTA ready for its close-up?

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