MARTA, expand with respect, please

If MARTA ultimately succeeds in bringing heavy rail to Clayton County, as is the transit agency’s aim, residents along the lines proposed on early maps face substantial changes, and not just to the landscape. Being one of those residents, I’ve considered what a buildout of MARTA rail near me would likely bring. It’s a glass-half-full vs. glass-half-empty scenario.

There are the obvious benefits, like easier access to rail, and no more driving to the College Park, East Point or Lakewood stations, all in a 5- to 10-mile range of northern Clayton cities like Morrow or Forest Park. Those cities would be right on the proposed rail line.

Then again, regular MARTA rail riders like me know transit stations are often big, bulky cement and stone. Well, they’re giant eyesores, frankly. Blasting underground tunnels just isn’t going to happen, so we could expect to see raised rail lines in some places. The trains are not exactly quiet as they squeal into stations and rumble along their tracks.

When I told a neighbor that a Morrow/Southlake Mall MARTA high-capacity transit station had been proposed for a now-dead shopping plaza within walking distance of our homes, she flatly stated that if MARTA moved in, her family was moving out. What’s sitting there now are defunct stores and a few little restaurants and shops — nothing quaint. But to this neighbor, the resulting influx of riders, traffic and noise and the flat-out ugliness of the station wouldn’t be worth the convenience of the commute.

I’m not planning on moving, but as a potential neighbor of MARTA, I hope the transit authority will take a thoughtful approach to future station designs and how it routes rail through communities.

“Ride With Respect,” MARTA tells patrons, and it’s a good message. But as riders and residents who would be permanently impacted by MARTA expansion, we deserve respect, too.

This column originally appeared on Comments from some readers who responded to it appear below.

LogicalDude: OK. Would you rather have a now-dead shopping plaza type of eyesore, or a mass transit useful type of eyesore? Sheesh! Some people wouldn't want progress because it might bring a telephone line into their nice quiet house!

SeriousBlack: So your neighbor prefers empty stores and blight to a way around traffic? If MARTA rail moves to Clayton County, consider yourself lucky. Pull your heads out of 1977.

LVG: Thugs coming to steal your TVs and take them away with your loot on MARTA. Trains full of looters with loot.

ReasonableGuy: Who has ever carried a stolen big-screen TV to a bus stop then to a train stop? Quick getaway right? smh … illogical fears preventing progress.

Mandi Albright is an audience specialist at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.