Last May, the plan to expand the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), using the half-cent local sales tax increase from 2016, was finally announced in detail.
Some have praised the plan for promising to make the Clifton Corridor line a reality, while others have criticized it for leaving the Atlanta Beltline unfinished. Few are talking about the plan’s most dangerous shortcoming, however: a lack of emphasis on much-needed repairs and safety updates.
Of the $2.5 billion in expected funding over the course of the project, only 5% has been earmarked for station enhancements, which include not only repairs but aesthetic updates as well.
MARTA Facilities Already Have a Questionable Safety Record
In 2010, MARTA had to fire its inspection and maintenance contractor, after a whistleblower revealed that a mechanic had deliberately disabled the safety systems of over a hundred of their escalators. This happened just over a week after a 5-year-old boy fell down the shaft of a MARTA elevator with faulty doors.
MARTA then switched back to a previous maintenance contractor, Schindler Elevator Corp — the same contractor they’d previously blamed for an incident in which an escalator suddenly lurched forward, injuring a woman. Within a year of switching back, a nearly identical incident of sudden escalator acceleration happened in another MARTA station.
More recently (and still on Schindler Elevator Corp’s watch), a 3-year-old girl’s foot was crushed in the gears of a MARTA escalator. The accident happened in February of 2017, when the escalator’s protective guard broke open. The girl survived, but her foot ultimately had to be amputated.
Safety May Not Be Exciting, but It Should Still Come First
Public transit is a wonderful thing, for the environment, the economy, and everyone’s convenience. It makes sense that, when talking about the “More MARTA” plan, people are most excited about the new routes, connecting more places more efficiently. It also makes sense for MARTA to emphasize the parts people most want to hear.
Still, these worthwhile improvements should not come at the cost of safety or common sense. People who rely on public transportation deserve fair and safe access to it. Apart from the actual accidents, these infrastructure problems in MARTA stations also result in more escalator and elevator shutdowns, to protect the public from the unsafe conditions. This makes accessing the advantages of the MARTA expansion, and its existing lines, dangerous or impossible for many people with disabilities.
MARTA’s official FAQ about the project promises that existing facilities will be “evaluated and addressed for usability during the program,” but no plans or dollar amounts have been announced for the specific purpose of improving safety.
MARTA’s website does note that some flexibility is built into the plan, and adjustments can be made depending on, among other things, public input. If you’re concerned about safety or any other part of the More MARTA plan, you can take their public survey or send a direct email to weigh in.
And if you’ve already been injured by this unsafe infrastructure, feel free to reach out to the professionals at the Stoddard Firm for a free consultation.