MARTA cuts bus schedule beginning Saturday

MARTA will reduce service on most of its bus routes beginning Dec. 18 amid a staffing shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. SPECIAL PHOTO

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MARTA will reduce service on most of its bus routes beginning Dec. 18 amid a staffing shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. SPECIAL PHOTO

If you’re a MARTA bus customer, you’d better take another look at the schedule.

Beginning Saturday, the metro Atlanta transit agency will scale back its bus service amid a staffing shortage. Ninety-six of MARTA’s 113 routes will run less frequently – they’ll operate on a Saturday schedule, even on weekdays. The remaining 17 routes will maintain regular weekday schedules.

MARTA also will adjust the routes of six bus lines beginning Saturday. No routes will be eliminated, and there will be no changes to rail service.

The reduction in service comes as MARTA experiences a shortage of bus drivers. Though its budget includes money for 1,366 full-time drivers, about 14 percent of those positions are unfilled.

MARTA says the coronavirus pandemic is causing the driver shortage. Through Thursday, 946 MARTA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Some bus drivers also initially refused to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, which MARTA now requires. Nearly all of them have since complied with the policy, said MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher.

Still, absenteeism remains high, and for weeks that’s meant late or canceled buses.

Rather than leave customers guessing when the next bus would come, MARTA decided to reduce its schedule to reflect staffing realities. It’s unclear how long the new schedule will last. The agency is offering $3,000 signing bonuses as it recruits new drivers and bus technicians.

To help make up for the missing service, MARTA is offering discounts on ridesharing services during early morning hours. Customers can receive up to $15 off rideshare trips in MARTA’s service area from 4 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information on the ridesharing discount and on bus schedules, visit www.itsmarta.com.

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