Marta, are you really smarta?
This morning my wife dropped her father off at the Chamblee Marta station so he could make his way to Hartsfield and fly home. This being his first experience with Atlanta’s rapid transit system (or any rapid transit system for all I know), we gave him simple but precise instructions on how to buy a token, where to go once he passed through the turnstile and where to get off. He was to ride Marta all the way from the northern-most station on the line until the end. How difficult could it be? A few hours later my wife tells me over the phone about his journey on Marta.
As it turns out the riding wasn’t what he had trouble with. It was the token buying. Then again, he didn’t really have too much of a problem with that either. He just didn’t buy one. After dropping him off, my wife watched as he stumbled around the entrance looking for the token machines. She said he would later claim that while he saw the machines, he assumed they were mere vending machines, like of the Coke and chips dispensing variety. So he does what any savvy tourist does in a foreign land. He watched the locals to see how they maneuvered in a such a situation.
It was then that he watched a snappily dressed woman with a briefcase exit her kiss-ride and stride up to the turnstiles. She immediately reached for the handicap turnstyle, the one which is actually just a gate large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, hoveround or seeing eye pachyderm, pull it back toward her and pass through. Not only did the woman not have a wheelchair, hoveround or seeing eye anything, she didn’t have a token. As my father-in-law would later claim there was another befuddled touristy type he had seen wandering aimlessly like he was who, upon seeing the briefcase-wielding woman proceed both effortlessly and cheaply through the gate, followed right in after her. In turn my father-in-law, always happy to stick it to the Man, followed suit.
There were three people within just that brief span of time who successfully cheated Marta out of it’s fare share. If they did it all in a matter of a few minutes, you can imagine how many people must do this throughout the day. Surely this doesn’t happen just at the Chamblee station. Is it any wonder our rail system is failing miserably and has been for some time? I’m not one who generally touts privatization, but you gotta wonder if there isn’t a better way to manage our tax dollars. Marta, are you really smarta? Or are you just cheapa?
Incidentally, I tried to go on the Marta website this morning to find out how much the fare was so I could do some general estimation on losses, but the site was down. Go figure.