MARTA targets bad behavior on trains and buses

MARTA may crack down on bad behavior on its trains and buses by imposing tougher sanctions on the worst offenders.

Under new rules approved by a MARTA board of directors committee Thursday, anyone with three citations for violating the passenger code of conduct in a 90-day period would be suspended from the transit service for one year. Anyone with four citations in 90 days would be permanently banned.

The measure also would impose yearlong suspensions for more offenses.

MARTA Police Chief M. Scott Kreher told the committee the tougher sanctions are needed to target a small group of repeat offenders who continue to ride the transit line and cause problems.

“It really disrupts our ridership’s ability to have a safe, secure ride,” Kreher said.

MARTA says its trains and buses are some of the safest for a large transit provider in the country. In 2013 the agency approved a new code of conduct and launched a “ride with respect” campaign to target behaviors such as smoking, panhandling and eating. The code allows MARTA to bar passengers from a few days to a year.

Three years later the agency created suspensions for nonjailable offenses. But problems persist.

The new rules would impose automatic yearlong or permanent suspensions for repeat violators. They also would impose automatic yearlong suspensions for a variety of offenses, including indecent exposure, stealing or damaging MARTA property, harassing or threatening passengers or employees, and fighting.

Kreher said many offenders receive multiple suspensions for a variety of violations but continue to ride MARTA. If they’re found on trains and buses, they’re arrested on a charge of criminal trespass. But Kreher said courts dealing with COVID-19-related backlogs usually release them without bond.

He said MARTA is working with courts to make sure they take the problem of repeat offenders seriously. In the meantime, he believes the tougher rules will help.

The full MARTA board is expected to take up the rules in August.