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MARTA First Time Rider Questions


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#1 Pere Flyer

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 01:13 AM

I'm spending five weeks this summer at a vocational program in Atlanta, and I have to take both MARTA rail and bus to and from the site Mon-Sat.

 

After learning that I'd need to purchase a Silver Breeze Card and make yet another online account (grumble) in addition to purchasing a fare pass, I figured the cheapest plan was to buy a 30-day pass and 7-day pass to cover the 36 days. (Wonderfully, there's a promotion through the end of May for $24 off a 30-day pass.) All in all, just under $100 for 36-day access to metro transit. I'm impressed!

 

As my signature suggests, I'm generally familiar with commuter rail, but MARTA is new to me. I have several questions for those of you who've used it.

 

1) What's the fare payment system for the rail and bus, respectively? My card will first be used at the airport station on the Gold Line. How should I use it properly at that station?

 

2) I read that the passes don't begin their timeframes until the first day of use. What happens if one card has two time-based passes? Do they both begin on the first day, or do they automatically stagger? (More practically: should I cancel the 7-day pass and wait to purchase it until the 30-day pass has expired?)

 

3) Any tips for navigating the MARTA network? Advisements about unreliable routes and/or neighborhoods to avoid are appreciated.

 

Also, I'd appreciate any suggestions of things to do/see in ATL, since this will be my first time in the city.

 

Thanks!


Pere Marquette: 370 (CHI, HOM, GRR); 371 (GRR, HOM, CHI) | Heartland Flyer: 821 (OKC, NOR, FTW); 822 (FTW, NOR, OKC) | Texas Eagle: 22 (FTW, CHI)

 

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#2 MattW

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 06:26 AM

I'm spending five weeks this summer at a vocational program in Atlanta, and I have to take both MARTA rail and bus to and from the site Mon-Sat.
 
After learning that I'd need to purchase a Silver Breeze Card and make yet another online account (grumble) in addition to purchasing a fare pass, I figured the cheapest plan was to buy a 30-day pass and 7-day pass to cover the 36 days. (Wonderfully, there's a promotion through the end of May for $24 off a 30-day pass.) All in all, just under $100 for 36-day access to metro transit. I'm impressed!
 
As my signature suggests, I'm generally familiar with commuter rail, but MARTA is new to me. I have several questions for those of you who've used it.


 
 

1) What's the fare payment system for the rail and bus, respectively? My card will first be used at the airport station on the Gold Line. How should I use it properly at that station?


Once you have the appropriate fare loaded onto your card, simply tap it against the target in front of the faregate (target to the right of your gate) and walk through. At your destination station, you'll tap again to get out of the fare area.
When you board a bus, you'll tap the card on the target on the bus again. It's as simple as that, there's no extra cost going between rail and bus, though for you it won't matter since you have a pass anyways.
 
 

2) I read that the passes don't begin their timeframes until the first day of use. What happens if one card has two time-based passes? Do they both begin on the first day, or do they automatically stagger? (More practically: should I cancel the 7-day pass and wait to purchase it until the 30-day pass has expired?)


I'm pretty sure they stagger, but you may want to call customer service to verify.
 
 

3) Any tips for navigating the MARTA network? Advisements about unreliable routes and/or neighborhoods to avoid are appreciated.


Well, my personal opinion of the buses is that they're garbage. Except for a few routes, they're all slow, meander everywhere needlessly, and run on ridiculous headways. Do you know what route you'll be needing to use?
The trains are pretty decent.They reach 70mph in some places. Just keep in mind that two routes (Red and Green Lines) truncate to Lindbergh and Vine City respectively after 9pm and on some weekends (it varies, check the MARTA site for "single-tracking" information). In terms of neighborhoods to avoid, pretty much anything south and west of Five Points isn't great, but on the train you'll be fine.
 

Also, I'd appreciate any suggestions of things to do/see in ATL, since this will be my first time in the city.
 
Thanks!


Edited by MattW, 19 May 2017 - 06:26 AM.

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#3 Pere Flyer

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:17 AM

Thanks for your answers, Matt. I'll need to take the Gold/Red Line to North Avenue, transfer to the No. 1 bus, and get off near Underwood Hills.

I see your point about the meandering bus routes. The 1 makes an 'S' out of North Avenue before settling on Marietta. Astounding.

Pere Marquette: 370 (CHI, HOM, GRR); 371 (GRR, HOM, CHI) | Heartland Flyer: 821 (OKC, NOR, FTW); 822 (FTW, NOR, OKC) | Texas Eagle: 22 (FTW, CHI)

 

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#4 MattW

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 09:29 AM

Make sure you know which departure your stop will be on. 1 is a split route, every other bus takes a different route in the middle, where Underwood Hills is.
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#5 Pere Flyer

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 02:41 PM

I'm pretty sure they stagger, but you may want to call customer service to verify.

MARTA CSR said only one pass is activated at a time. The 30-day pass will activate first, then the 7-day pass once the other expires. Very convenient.

Make sure you know which departure your stop will be on. 1 is a split route, every other bus takes a different route in the middle, where Underwood Hills is.

The weekday split between Huff Rd and Marietta Blvd-Chattahoochee Ave, yes. Thanks for alerting me to that. Looks like my destination is accessible from either route.

Well, my personal opinion of the buses is that they're garbage. Except for a few routes, they're all slow, meander everywhere needlessly, and run on ridiculous headways. Do you know what route you'll be needing to use?

According to MARTA's OTP statistics, Bus Route 1 was on time about 70% in June/July 2016. Below the self-imposed "target" of 78.50%, but seems typical for a massive metro like ATL.

Edited by Pere Flyer, 19 May 2017 - 02:43 PM.

Pere Marquette: 370 (CHI, HOM, GRR); 371 (GRR, HOM, CHI) | Heartland Flyer: 821 (OKC, NOR, FTW); 822 (FTW, NOR, OKC) | Texas Eagle: 22 (FTW, CHI)

 

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#6 MattW

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 06:41 PM

Even with 100% OTP, I'd consider most of the routes, including route 1 to be garbage.
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#7 Pere Flyer

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 06:48 PM

Even with 100% OTP, I'd consider most of the routes, including route 1 to be garbage.

It seems like 100% OTP would nullify the speed and headways issues that you mentioned. Aside from those, what do you see that makes the routes garbage?

Edited by Pere Flyer, 21 May 2017 - 07:00 PM.

Pere Marquette: 370 (CHI, HOM, GRR); 371 (GRR, HOM, CHI) | Heartland Flyer: 821 (OKC, NOR, FTW); 822 (FTW, NOR, OKC) | Texas Eagle: 22 (FTW, CHI)

 

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#8 MattW

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Posted 22 May 2017 - 07:12 PM

Huh? How would 100% OTP affect speed or headways? A bus that comes once every 65 minutes, is only going to come once every 65 minutes. Maybe better OTP would reduce the number of buses needed so more could be running, but that's it. Speed wouldn't be affected at all, a bus that takes 40 minutes to go 5 miles, is still probably going to take that long even if it's on-time. What's garbage are the headways and route maps, 65 minutes for one near me, 20 minutes at rush hour, 40 at other times for the one actually on my street. The route you're looking at drops to overall ~30 minute headways during the middle of the day which gives most of the mid portion of its route ~60 minute headways. We aren't talking far-flung fringe-area routes either, route 1 stays just a few miles from Atlanta's core and serves a pretty high-density area. Most of the routes (including route 1 as you noted) make utterly insane turns for no reason at all and meander all over the place turning a 20 minute straight-line ride into an hour long nightmare.


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#9 Pere Flyer

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Posted 22 May 2017 - 07:42 PM

I understand now. Thanks for the clarification.

Pere Marquette: 370 (CHI, HOM, GRR); 371 (GRR, HOM, CHI) | Heartland Flyer: 821 (OKC, NOR, FTW); 822 (FTW, NOR, OKC) | Texas Eagle: 22 (FTW, CHI)

 

S Shore Line | TRE | DART | MTA | NJT | DC Metro | MBTA | CTA | Denver RTD | MARTA | ATL Streetcar | QLine | Paris Métropolitain | Barcelona Metro | Greyhound Lines | Jefferson Lines


#10 me_little_me

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 08:05 PM

I have a grandson in Atlanta who is an expert on MARTA.

 

He's only six!

 

Yes, he really is an expert. His favorite thing to do on weekends is to have his parents take him on MARTA trains and buses - just for the hell of it.

 

At the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, the first thing he does is go to where the old MARTA buses are displayed. He gets in the driver's seat and start telling other visitors which bus route he imagine it is today and where he is going. Then he moves on to another historical bus at the museum.

 

He's also been on Washington METRO, Baltimore buses and rail, NYC subways, Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road, the Boston T, Chicago Metra and CTA, Charlotte Lynx as well as many trip including overnight on Amtrak. I'm sure there are others I missed.






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