Why MARTA suspended service Saturday night

Vandals smashed windows at MARTA's Peachtree Center station Saturday. The agency suspended service when Atlanta initiated a 9 p.m. curfew. (MARTA PHOTO)
Vandals smashed windows at MARTA's Peachtree Center station Saturday. The agency suspended service when Atlanta initiated a 9 p.m. curfew. (MARTA PHOTO)

Amid Saturday night's sometimes peaceful, sometimes chaotic protests over the death of George Floyd, MARTA suspended its rail and bus service at 9 p.m.

The decision drew criticism from Atlanta Journal-Constitution reader Andreas Wolfe, who called it “an incredibly discriminatory move.”

“This left thousands of people throughout the city, the majority of whom were African American, and who furthermore were not involved in last night's demonstrations, stranded with no way to get home,” Wolfe said. “Furthermore, there was only a curfew in the City of Atlanta, which represents less than half of MARTA's coverage area, impacting people who were not under curfew.”

Wolfe noted the city did not curtail the use of private vehicles, “effectively saying that people who do not drive, or cannot afford a vehicle, are not entitled to freedom of movement in the same manner as vehicle owners.”

RELATED: COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE ATLANTA PROTESTS 

We reached out to MARTA to ask why the agency suspended service, why it suspended service outside of Atlanta and why it was a last-minute decision. Spokesperson Stephany Fisher said the agency suspended service in conjunction with the city’s curfew “at the suggestion of Governor (Brian) Kemp and request of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

“Given the events of Friday evening, we felt it was in the best interest of customer and employee safety to close,” Fisher said.

She added:

“As for the timing of the decision, it was done as quickly as possible after receiving word of the curfew from the mayor. The logistics had to be arranged, jurisdictional partners needed to be notified, and most importantly, customers had to be informed through all of our communication outlets.

Bus and rail operations did not stop running at the stroke of 9 p.m., trains continued operating until almost 10 p.m. in order to pick up customers who didn’t receive word of the closure. Additionally, bus service continued until midnight to provide transportation to rail customers who called for assistance. Bus shuttle service to College Park was provided for airport employees who had parked there and taken the train to work. Mobility still provided medically necessary trips. Supervisors monitored the entire system from our Integrated Operations Center (IOC) until 1 a.m. and had buses stationed at rail stations to the north, south, east, and west to assist any customers who needed transportation home.

As you know and have reported on, transit use is down significantly due to COVID-19 and ridership is especially low on the weekend. We do, however, appreciate that there are customers who depend on us at this time and the decision to suspend service was not made lightly. The events of Friday evening were significant enough to warrant extreme measures such as the Governor activating the National Guard and the mayor instituting a curfew. We felt closing a few hours early was in the best interest of customer safety and security."

You can read more about last night's protests here.

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