MARTA to rethink bus service

Credit: Andria Brooks

Credit: Andria Brooks

MARTA is rethinking its future bus service, planning to do away with a "one size fits all" approach in favor of providing rides that are more tailored to passengers' needs.

Specifically, the transit agency is eyeing the possibility of using different-sized vehicles for providing different types of trips.

Credit: Andria Brooks

Credit: Andria Brooks

"Most impactful of all the things we are doing over the next couple of years will be a true redefinition of how we provide bus service," said MARTA CEO Keith Parker on Thursday at the annual State of MARTA address. "MARTA will be moving away from the one-size-fits-all of a traditional bus system to a series of vehicles that accommodate the needs of the customer. So smaller vehicles that go into neighborhoods, midsize vehicles that do everyday trips and then even larger 60-foot articulated buses that will allow us to accommodate special events and the heavy routes."

MARTA surveys indicate there is a decided gap between people that will ride the rail system and the bus system. Parker said "we want to eliminate that and make everybody a MARTA customer."

MARTA is currently conducting a Comprehensive Operations Analysis to better understand customer needs. The analysis, once complete, will help the transit agency decide where to strategically expand or adapt bus service.

Parker also announced other improvements customers will see within the next two years.

First is integrated mobile payments. Passengers will be able to use their cell phone to not only book and pay for a trip, but also use proof of payment on their phone to get through the fare gates.

Parker also pledged to have Wi-Fi available for free on all buses, trains and subway stations within the next 18 months.

Lastly, Parker announced the formation of a task force to structure an arts program. MARTA will work with leaders in the cultural and arts community to generate ideas to structure the program, which will enable the transit agency to transform the appearance of its stations.

With those recommendations, Parker said he will go to the MARTA board to seek approval and possibly funding to add the artwork. He said that artwork makes people feel more connected to their transit system.

"When we incorporate art, we make people care about the system," Parker said. "We have seen transit systems around the country where they saw less vandalism."