MARTA riders: How bus cuts hurt us

MARTA resumed collecting bus fares Monday. But the agency is still operating less than half its bus routes amid the coronavirus pandemic. AJC FILE
MARTA resumed collecting bus fares Monday. But the agency is still operating less than half its bus routes amid the coronavirus pandemic. AJC FILE

On Monday MARTA took a tentative step toward normalcy by restoring front-door boarding and collecting fares on its buses for the first time since April.

But genuine “normal” is nowhere in sight for many metro Atlanta residents who depend on MARTA buses to get around. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is still operating less than half of its bus routes.

MARTA says its modified bus schedule is needed to promote social distancing on the remaining routes, and it has no timeline for restoring full service. That has left many residents who relied on the suspended routes scrambling to find other ways to get to work, the grocery store and other destinations.

The AJC recently asked MARTA customers how the diminished bus service has affected them. The newspaper received dozens of responses. Below are a few of the comments we received.

You can learn more about MARTA’s revised bus schedule and its impact here.

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I am on the Route 162 which is one of the routes suspended. I live in a senior community which is the last stop on the route. It is not a long route but a lot of seniors and handicapped individuals on this route. It has affected me particularly I have to walk .5 miles to catch the Route 83 to go the grocery store, to get my medications, and other things that have to do. I can’t use MARTA Mobility because I don’t qualify for that service. Lyft and Uber are expensive, since I am on a fixed income… I also used to connect to other routes which is also suspended Routes 25, 9, 85, 81, 140, 141, which is part of my travels for other needs along those routes. It is hard for us to get around the bus stop is right at the front of the building. I am in the Campbellton Road area. Safety is a concern for the crime in the area.

- William J. Smith

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I live in a senior community and has been very inconvenient for me as the service was cut on my route. I was taking LYFT service, but now it has become so expensive that I can’t afford to ride it all the places I need to go. Will MARTA restore all the buses soon? I feel trapped and isolated.

- Debra Duckett

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The MARTA cuts have definitely affected me financially! I can’t get to work nor anywhere else because of it… Because of the pandemic my job had cut us to 2 days a week and when MARTA cut the bus my only option would be Uber, which I was spending more money to get to work than I was making. Thank God I was able to get unemployment, but still it’s hard even getting to the grocery store sometimes. Trying to stretch unemployment to pay bills and rent! Then when you call MARTA customer service, they are very rude and not helpful at all.

- Anthony Jones

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I work off of Chamblee-Tucker Road and with the elimination of Route 126, I either have to walk 2 miles to get route 124 or 39 even though there is a bus stop right outside my office or take Uber/Lyft. MARTA’s communication about route’s reopening has been poor and with businesses starting to reopen, there is no excuse for these route cuts to remain in effect!

- Kevin Weiner

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I am a senior citizen that now has to walk about a mile to get to the train station so I can get a bus to the grocery store or I walked about a half a mile to get to a bus route that goes to another grocery store that I had never used until my bus route that is a block from my house stopped running. It is not so bad going, but because I have to walk so far I have to go more often because it is difficult to carry everything I might need. And I feel somewhat safe, but too many people take their mask off after they get on the bus. I rode the train for the first time and only 80% of the people actually wear a mask while riding. They take them off after they get inside the station.

- Thelma Christian

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I am one of many people on this route (119) that are highly inconvenienced by the stoppage. In my area the closest transportation is Indian Creek station which is a very long walk. I am disabled like a lot of people on this route. I am forced to make this walk to the station by a dangerous shortcut like the majority of people. I am not qualified for mobility and can’t afford uber or Lyft. It’s very hard to get my grocery shopping done without spending an extra $10 for cab fare. I know there would be a lot of riders such as myself and the ones who still have jobs would be very grateful to have this route reinstated.

- Jeffery Smith

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Ever since MARTA has cut bus Route 32, we have no bus near us for 4 miles, I have to Uber everywhere, costing nearly $400 a month just to go to work, let alone not being able to go get groceries without an app. And I can’t go to the gym nor get haircut because it’s just too far away. Even voting was difficult for me.

- Tom English

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Please start our buses back. We have to get Uber or Lyft to the train station every morning and evening that is costing us a fortune, especially at my age (68) and still working. We need help. somebody save us, please. A lot of people don’t have a car in my neighborhood. Just don’t forget about us. We still ride your trains Praying for help.

- Marsha Fullins

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My partner and I moved here 4 years so I could attend a GSU grad program. We sold our vehicle because we were not driving and bringing it up to emissions standards was likely to be beyond our means and value of vehicle. Last year he got a full-time job with GSU Perimeter, and this fall he was moved from the Clarkston to the Dunwoody campus. The campus is about 5 miles from the train station and the bus route hasn’t been brought back. This is costing us about an extra $20 a day (4 days a week) in Lyft charges plus the 2 train rides so he can work to support us while I write my dissertation, instead of the MARTA charge of $5 it would have been and was when he was at the other campus. We were hoping the route would come back by now.

- Beth Topping

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I have been emailing and calling MARTA asking as to when my bus Route 180 Roosevelt Highway will be reinstated. I have to walk 30 minutes to get to the next bus, which is the 181. Which is dangerous for me because I have to walk while it’s dark just to get to the bus stop so that I can get to work on time. It’s very frustrating because it seems as though MARTA cares more about their up-and-coming expansion projects than they do the riders that have been affected by this. I have been a MARTA rider for years and I am extremely disappointed in the way things are being handled.

- Tarressa Eleby

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