March 31, 2017, Atlanta - A red line train leaves the North Springs MARTA Station in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday, March 31, 2017. Ridership was up nearly 50 percent on Monday and the massive parking deck was full up with cars before 7:30 a.m.(DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)
Photo: David Barnes/DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL
Photo: David Barnes/DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL

UPDATE: Atlanta I-85 collapse: Some MARTA stations run out of parking early 

Parking continues to be an issue at many MARTA stations Tuesday morning as commuters and a crush of other passengers dealing with the I-85 collapse seek to ride public transit into and out of the city.

Once again, parking along the red and gold lines serving the northeast and north central Atlanta suburbs appeared to be in shortest supply. Just as happened on Monday morning, the North Springs decks were the first to reach capacity a little past 7:30 a.m., according to a tweet sent out by Marta. It directed riders hoping to get on at the northernmost station along the red line to seek parking at the next two stations down the line, Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.

Related: MARTA tests real-time parking tracker for commuters

A few minutes later came the bad news that parking was gone at Doraville station,  the northernmost station on the gold line. Passengers coming from the northeast suburbs of Atlanta were told a little before 8 a.m. to try their parking luck down the line at Chamblee.

MARTA is agressively using social media to try to keep riders abreast of the parking situation. That includes providing real time updates of the remaining availability at certain stations’ decks and lots: 

As well as a map of the rail system and a complete list of the short-term and long-term parking options at 23 stations to help passengers make decisions on where to try to access the system:

It’s all part of a new reality for metro Atlanta and MARTA since last Thursday night’s I-85 collapse forced a shutdown of that critical stretch of interstate into and out of the city. MARTA on Monday said it was well aware of the need to address parking shortages at many of its stations and would be reaching out to businesses and other community partners in hopes of finding more parking in the vicinity of stations. 

Original story: First-time MARTA passengers and even some veteran riders experienced another rude aftershock of the I-85 collapse on Monday morning:

No room at the inn. That is, no place to park at MARTA stations.

The enormous parking decks at several stations were filled to or nearing capacity early in the morning rush hour. The problem was particularly acute along the red line, where every spot was taken at the North Springs station by 7:20 a.m. A MARTA employee stood near the entrance to the parking deck of the northernmost stop along the red line and redirected drivers to Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, the next two stations down the line.

By around 8:30 a.m., however, the first five levels at Sandy Springs were full and only about half the spots remained available on the uppermost level. By the end of rush hour, both parking decks at the Dunwoody station were at or near capacity, said Goldie Taylor, MARTA’s chief communications officer.

Related: Maps, detours, road closures and alternative routes

MARTA is aware of the parking situation and is working on ways to alleviate it, Taylor said. Along with encouraging passengers to carpool or to be dropped off at stations, MARTA is hoping to convince businesses, malls and other entities located near stations to allow daily passenger parking in their own lots during this one-of-a-kind crisis.

“On our end, we know we have to expand capacity,” said Taylor, adding that MARTA officials planned to meet on the parking matter on Monday and hoped to set up a working group to address it. “This is not something that’s going to be resolved over the next day or two, or even the next week or two,” she said about the closure of a portion of one of the busiest portions of I-85 for repairs and the resulting increase in MARTA ridership.

The disaster had caused some people to alter their commuting and make their first tentative foray onto the city's public transportation system. (Video by DAVID BARNES/AJC; edit by ARMANI MARTIN/AJC)

While complete data won’t be available until Tuesday, a “snapshot” of Monday morning’s ridership in the portions of the red and gold lines serving the northeast and north central Atlanta suburbs shows an increase of between 45 and 50 percent compared to a normal Monday, Taylor said.

Sales of Breeze cards were up 100 percent in some stations. Or more: Sales were up 111 percent Monday morning at North Springs and a whopping 172 percent at Sandy Springs.

“What we’re also finding is that people weren’t buying just one (trip) on a Breeze card,” Taylor said. “They were buying ten trips or monthly cards, because they know this is going to be a long haul.”  

Related: Transit agencies should ‘be made whole’

Meanwhile, the increased demand for parking isn’t limited to the northern stretches of the red and gold lines (parking was at a premium at Doraville and Chamblee, too). By 9 a.m. on Monday, the lots at the College Park and East Point stations were at 100 percent capacity. On the blue and green lines, Inman Park and Candler Park were all “hovering around 100 percent full” by the end of rush hour, Taylor said, while Kensington station in DeKalb County “filled up fairly early.”

Even as MARTA works on parking solutions, one longtime rider had a suggestion:

“Those of us who’ve been taking the train for 10 years with an annual pass need to get parking,” said Laurie Ausley. She always parks in the same spot on level four of the Sandy Springs station as part of her commute to Buckhead. But when she arrived there a little after 8:30 a.m. on Monday, she found herself having to drive two more levels up in order to snag one of the few remaining spots on the top, uncovered level.

Still, she sounded understanding.

“I love MARTA and I really feel for people who’re used to driving and now can’t,” said Ausley, who also felt compelled to point out that a lot of people are off this week for spring break. “But next week it will be even worse.”

MARTA’s Taylor concurred:

“The true Monday will be next Monday.”

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