The March 30 overpass collapse that closed a portion of I-85 for six weeks sent many commuters flocking to public transit. Local MARTA stations reported big ridership boosts, and some local commuters say they will keep using public transit now that the highway has reopened. Others will go back to the roads.
The Atlanta Regional Commission, a planning agency that studies transportation, reported the average weekday ridership for MARTA stations from March 31 to April 29 was, in most cases, much higher than average ridership the week before the bridge collapse. The report was made on the ARC’s regional data blog at 33n.atlantaregional.com.
All local MARTA stations showed ridership increases, the report says.
The Brookhaven/Oglethorpe Station saw the greatest increase at 66 percent. Dunwoody Station was up by 26 percent. In Sandy Springs, Sandy Springs Station, Medical Center and North Springs were up by 43 percent, 30 percent and 18 percent. In Buckhead, Buckhead Station, Lenox and Lindbergh Center had increases of 30, 24 and 6 percent.
Some commuters, who were interviewed after responding to Twitter and Reddit posts, said the collapse helped them learn that using MARTA to commute to work is easier for them, but some said they returned to driving on I-85 once the bridge reopened.
Mark Miller commutes from Midtown to Dunwoody and said he had never considered using MARTA to get to work before the bridge collapse, but found it to be less stressful than driving for nearly the same cost and travel time. Miller now bikes to the Arts Center station and rides MARTA to Dunwoody.
“I didn’t have a lot of motivation to use MARTA before the collapse,” Miller said. “I didn’t have the spark I needed to change my way of thinking.”
Tony Wilkey, who commutes from Atlanta’s Grant Park to Sandy Springs’ Medical Center MARTA station, said he will stick with MARTA and his bike as long as the weather and his schedule allows.
“I’m saving a significant amount of money and time on my commute to Sandy Springs, and I’m getting in shape,” Wilkey said. “The bridge collapse ended up being great for me, just not on the days I tried to drive in it.”
But MARTA is not the solution for every rider. Samuel Withers, who commutes from Buckhead to Dunwoody, said it took longer to ride MARTA from the Lindbergh Center than it does to drive. Withers said he returned to driving when I-85 reopened.
“If there was a station closer to my house and I didn’t have to drive to the station, I would consider it,” Withers said.
Jessica Carter, who took MARTA before I-85 collapse, is looking forward to her commute returning to normal. New riders are good for the service, but they also became agitated with delays and made her commute stressful, said Carter, who commutes from Cascade Heights to Sandy Springs.
“Before the collapse, it was a quiet ride with familiar faces,” she said. “I saw at least four altercations between newcomers since the collapse over silly things like bumping into each other, or complaining too loud about reasons they were late. I am looking forward to keeping the appreciative people that enjoy the stress-free commute.”