A train derailment that disrupted MARTA service near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport left some passengers in a foul mood and wondering whether the transit agency will be ready for the Super Bowl in just a few weeks.
Normal MARTA rail service to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport may not resume until Thursday because officials need to bring in a crane to lift a derailed train that has been sitting on the tracks since Tuesday, officials said.
The mishap and other delays in the transit system throughout the day left some passengers frustrated. Some felt the problems reflected poorly on MARTA as Atlanta prepares to host hundreds of thousands for the Feb. 3 Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It’s less than three weeks until the Super Bowl, and this is a major problem for MARTA,” said Angelo Go, whose trip to work Wednesday morning was delayed more than half an hour. “Derailed trains aside, I expect them to run this system much more efficiently.”
During an afternoon press conference, MARTA rail operations chief Dave Springstead said crews hope to remove four working cars from the “damaged set of cars, while ensuring employee safety and avoiding damage of vehicles (parked below the track). ... Our expectation is to have the crane work done tomorrow.”
The crane is scheduled to arrive at sunrise, MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, it’s not clear what time Thursday full service will be restored.
According to the transit agency, the disruption started about 9 p.m. Tuesday when a train derailed just north of the Airport station. The conductor was the only person on board and was not injured.
Officials are not sure what caused the issue, which has had “minimal impacts” on travelers to the airport.
Springstead told the AJC delays were just a few minutes, on average. But he said mechanical or other problems elsewhere may have led to further delays.
He advised passengers headed to the airport to leave 20 to 30 minutes earlier than they normally would, just in case.
“This was unexpected. It’s an unusual occurrence,” Springstead told the newspaper. “But MARTA operations, MARTA police responded very quickly.”
When asked about incidents that may arise during the Super Bowl, Spingstead said that “this situation proves MARTA is ready to respond.”
MARTA was forced to ferry passengers between the College Park and Airport stations by shuttle and on southbound trains running on the northbound tracks.
Dozens of passengers waited for trains at College Park Wednesday afternoon. Many weren’t fazed by the delays.
“You don’t need to rush to work,” said Oliver Gumbs of Atlanta, on his way to a job at the airport. “This is why you leave home early.”
But some passengers were frustrated, including Theodore Evans of Atlanta, who was late picking up his grandson from daycare after working a construction job at the airport. He worried about having to pay daycare late fees.
“It’s a major hassle,” Evans said. “They have problems all the time with this train system.”