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Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gridlock Guy: MARTA madness after man’s failure to stay behind the gray

Things went south on the southbound MARTA line very quickly last Tuesday morning. A train pulling into the Chamblee Station struck someone on the southbound platform just before 6 a.m. and service ground to a halt. MARTA stopped service in both directions, as they tended to the situation. Passengers on the stopped southbound train had to deboard and take buses to Brookhaven. The bus bridge between Doraville and Brookhaven lasted for close to an hour. And, as it turned out, the whole commotion was completely avoidable.

» RELATED: Man charged with trespassing after being hit by MARTA train

WSB Triple Team Traffic’s Ashley Frasca first heard word of a person getting hit by a train at the Chamblee Station when DeKalb dispatched the fire department there just before 6 a.m. We were just lifting off in the WSB Skycopter from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, so we were there immediately. As we watched police and fire units arrive, we could see the train stopped on the southbound platform and people filing downstairs to the buses. What we couldn’t see was the severity of the problem or how or even if this person got hit. 

MARTA was fairly quick in getting out the word about the problem. They confirmed that a man had gone into an unauthorized area, gotten clipped by a coming train, and received non-life threatening hip and leg injuries.

I live in condos directly across from the Chamblee Station on Peachtree Road. So I wrote in our community Facebook group about the service interruption and found out in the comment thread that a neighbor of mine was in the station when the trouble happened. Art Höfmeister was still on the escalator when the contact occurred.

“I was surprised more people were not up there…guessing it was due to how early it was,” Höfmeister said. And he said it was obvious that the injured man had not been behaving above reproach. “There were several others already at that end of the platform who were hurling insults at the guy, basically saying he got what he had coming to him by fooling around.”

MARTA was quick to note that the hit person had been in a forbidden place and their police department was quick to tweet out security footage of the incident.

They said in the tweet: “The trespasser from Chamblee has been arrested for criminal trespass and suspended from the system for 60 days. We encourage our patrons to ride safely and report criminal behavior through our See & Say app. #RideSafe”

The video shows the man climbing back over a gate at the end of the platform, right before a small ledge. It has clear signage stating the dangers and the rules. But just as he came back around the gate, the train clipped him from behind, hurling him back onto the platform. The eight-second video shows him slithering to the right, just out of the shot. Maybe the trespasser was trying to scare people or maybe he was blitzed out of his mind. Either way, his string of bad decisions inconvenienced dozens of people and could have made them even later to their destinations, had his injuries been worse.

MARTA has many rules of etiquette on its rail and bus system, and quite a few of them are for safety. When waiting for the trains, no one should even flirt with standing on the gray, bumpy, rubbery material at the edges of the platforms. And, of course, no one should go in forbidden areas where both trains and voltage can cause instant death. At least last week’s trespasser can walk away from this scare with his life.

We all have a duty to be courteous and respectful to each other in any form of commuting. Taking mass transit takes the pressure off of some of those rigors, where passengers can just tune out with some headphones and reading material. But something as simple as standing too close to a train can cause calamity for that person and big delays for everyone else. So when it comes to waiting for MARTA trains, stay behind the gray. 

» RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Human behavior often unaccounted for in traffic-easing ideas

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.

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