The Misadventures of a (Un) Common MARTA Rider: The problems within Atlanta's Public Transportation

About a year ago, I started my real first job at Lilly Pulitzer in Phipps Plaza. I was very excited to be working in such a fun environment with clothes I had only ever dreamt of wearing in such a sophisticated mall that I had just stepped my foot in for the first time during my interview. But like when all good things happen, a complication was right behind me. I was away from home, no driver’s license, and definitely no car, so I had to figure out a way to get myself to and from work in a timely manner. And then the answer hit me, MARTA of course! That big train that I remember my father taking me on for the first time when I was about 10 years old-- and little old me so mesmerized by it since I had never seen one in real life before and my only ideas of it were of people in movies rushing, out of breath to catch the train. However, I had never imagined that one day I would be one of those people who had to rely on public transportation every day.


So after realizing that I had to use MARTA for my commute, another question popped up of how I would know when to catch the train. Alas, I stumbled upon the app in the iTunes store that is supposed to tell you the APPROXIMATE (hardly accurate) times of train arrivals. My commute every day summed up to exactly an hour and 20 minutes (I calculated and timed myself), and this included walking from my dorm to the train station, which took up at least 20 minutes. For the first month, riding the train was a breeze and I was really proud of myself for figuring it out. It was not an easy route as it consisted of me taking the train to Five Points and then getting off and taking to the gold line to Lenox and then figure out how to walk to Phipps.

You can only imagine how tiring that became and how limited my outfit ideas were, especially in the shoe area because stumbling in heels was not even an option; that would have accounted as a whole work shift in itself!  But besides having to deal with that super fun extraneous, long commute, I experienced (and still do), problems within MARTA’s faulty system. From being late to my current job because the bus driver decided to stop by Little Five and grab an ice cream cone,  being stalked by creepy men, to waiting for the train for literally a whole hour (I kid you not), I have experienced it all.


My main battles with MARTA have almost always been caused by the uncouth treatment I receive from the employees. Trust me, they don’t like to be asked questions and when you get on that bus, you better be sure you know where you’re going! One might be wondering how the ice cream lady thought she could get away with taking a quick 5 while on the clock; but the answer is simple. I was the only one on the bus, and mind you, I do not look intimidating what so ever, so is that not the perfect opportunity? I was lost in my music when the bus stopped and I looked up.  She was already out of her seat, walking out, and she tells me she’s going to the restroom. She does not even give me time to react and I check my time to see that it was 4:50 yet I was supposed to arrive at work at 5. Her departure wasn’t even affecting me at first because she did say she was going to the restroom; even though I’m not sure that that’s allowed by MARTA guidelines. If so, it should not be during driving hours, just my opinion. Any way, who was I to deny her humanly needs, right? A few minutes passed by and it was then I realized I was definitely, without a doubt going to be late.

The bus is sitting right in the middle of Little Five Points and I begin to sweat a little thinking of the traffic ahead. If you have ever been on Ponce de Leon, you know how horrible and congested the traffic can be, especially during peak hours. But just as I was about to break out into fits of major anxiety, I saw her coming back. If my skin were fairer, a passerby would have definitely seen the blood disappear from my face as I was in shock at the ice cream in her hand. Without a word or a care about me, she placed her ice cream beside her and started the bus again. Now, I am all for enjoying the little things in life but not at the expense of other people (I was late!) or your job. Luckily, when I told my managers the reason for my late arrival, my excuse was welcomed with understanding and fits of laughter considering my unfortunate encounter.

This occurred in the beginning stages of my life as a transit commuter and time after time, little incidences kept coming about hindering me from being the savvy employee who knew how to get to work on time. By no means am I a confrontational person but one afternoon I had had enough of the tardiness. I built up the will to ask one certain bus driver if the times of the bus’ departure had been changed and he inquired why I was so curious, and in response I expressed to him that my understanding was that the bus was supposed to leave at a certain time but it had not. As expected, I received a snarky comment stating that him being late made no difference at all.  With my dignity, I walked away because clearly, the man did not understand that being 6 minutes early or 6 minutes late makes a difference in me being late or being on time.

The hulking problem with our dear pubic transportation is that it seems to hold the idea that time is merely just a nonexistent factor. Try catching a train on the weekend when MARTA is “single tracking” and you have to wait in a crowd full of angry and confused people. The estimated wait is no less than 20 minutes, because who needs to get to work on time anyway? My favorite experience had to be the morning I was scheduled to open at 9am. I entered the station, and I was welcomed by the intercom announcing that they were single tracking, only to renounce that message as the anticipated train arrived (-1 minute early according to the app) on the right platform but it was a lost cause for me. All of my hopes and dreams were passing me by on the other side. Luckily, Uber exists because no way would I have made it on time at this point, unless I figured out a way to fly across the tracks and even then, I doubt the train attendant would have stopped for me.

In any case, MARTA is not all the way unreliable; after all, my estimations of time have become so apt and if I ever decided to become a gymnast, I can utilize my new balancing skills that I’ve perfected from my bumpy rides. 


(A picture of me randomly took by a friend on one of my less stressful misadventures)