marta. one year later.

i started riding marta one year ago last week. it was a combination of frustration with sitting in my car, the rising price of gas and just a plain old desire to have some time back in my life that put me on the train for the first time. by the time those first few weeks were over, i was hooked. i haven’t driven my car to my office in alpharetta in more than one year, that is how much i love my ride to and from work on the bus and train every day.

this is what i wrote here on the atlanta metblog of that decision a year ago:

and then last friday hit. my commute from my workplace off of old milton parkway in alpharetta back home to north ormewood took more than two hours to complete. i was frustrated, upset and stressed. i seriously could feel my blood pressure increasing with each time i tapped the breaks.
as i watched each marta train cross over me on 400 zipping into town i asked myself, can it really be that bad?

i start every morning out on the #9 bus which i ride from in front of my house ever morning to the five points station. i get on the northbound train and ride it all the way to the end of the line at north springs. from there i get on another bus, the #140, which takes me all the way up to old milton parkway and my office. all told the trip takes me about 90 minutes each way. it’s a good 45 minutes longer in the morning and about a push in the evening, adding 45 minutes to my commute. and i wouldn’t give it up for the world.

i have learned a lot in the year i have been riding marta. first and foremost i have learned that for the most part all of the reasons people give for not riding marta – it doesn’t go anywhere, it isn’t safe, it’s not reliable are just myths. i have learned that if you are willing to ride a bus, you can get almost anywhere in fulton or dekalb on marta. marta is as reliable as driving; you can look back on my posts about marta over at my personal blog and it’s incredible how few of them have to do with problems or delays. sure they happen, but about as frequently as construction or an accident or a braves game would delay my commute.

so i have learned those things; that most of the issues people come up with for not riding marta are basically myths, but i have learned a lot more about myself too. i have for the last year on an almost daily basis been in the overwhelming minority on my commute. i can’t begin to stress how much this has changed my thinking and perspective on issues related to race and our society . i tried to capture it once in a post on my personal blog, but i don’t think i am a good enough writer to nail it:

it is with some level of dissatisfaction with myself that i must admit that i was very uncomfortable for a long period of time. some of it was basic fear. we have all heard the arguments for rational stereotyping – black men commit the majority of violent crime, ergo we are right to have our pulse quicken when we see them. yes i know it is a tad bit more complex but just stick with me, i am paraphrasing to try to get this out. some of it was just being uncomfortable being different. some of it was, i am convinced, fear that those on the trains and buses didn’t want me there – this was there space, and who was i to invade it.
i consider myself an enlightened guy, so it is with pain that i admit this. it is with pain that i admit that sometimes my heart can quicken a bit when i come out of the tunnel onto alabama street to catch my bus.

i have also been able to observe and participate in the human drama in a way that i just didn’t disconnected from the people around me in my car. the most enjoyable thing about marta for me is the overwhelming sense of community i feel, sharing a bus or a train with all these other people. it can’t be replicated. this sense of community and my feelings about race as they have been channeled through my experience on marta have even become the backdrop for a novel i am writing.

during the gas shortage, i learned how nice it is to not need gas. i can get anywhere in the city on marta with a little planning and during the gas shortage i got to laugh at my friends who were waiting in line for more than an hour trying to fill up their tanks. i fill my tank up once a month and during the gas shortage i stretched that even more.

oh and the time i find. i work on marta, i read, i meditate, i write. heck i am even writing this post as i sit in the front of the #140 riding up north point parkway.

i guess the most important thing i have learned though, is that it’s important to be open. for years i was closed to the idea of taking marta because i didn’t want to ride a bus. if the train had gone to my office i might have done it years ago. finally driven by the insanity of sitting in my car for hours on end, i took the plunge and i have never looked back.

if you have considered marta but dumped the idea because of one of those little myths or one bad experience, give us another chance. we’re out here riding every day. we’d love to see you. i have a feeling next november, i at least, will be writing my two year retrospective.

6 Comments so far

  1. arc of time » Blog Archive » metblogging! (pingback) on November 24th, 2008 @ 9:09 am

    […] posted a one year retrospective of my marta commute […]

  2. maigh on November 24th, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

    Good on ya. Hard to believe its already been a year…congrats for making it through with such perspective and positivity (if that wasn’t a word before, it is now).

    My 7 minute commute would be tippled if not more by taking MARTA, but if I find myself in a new job in another part of town, you can bet I’ll remember your tale.

  3. annie on November 24th, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

    I think this is the coolest experiment I’ve seen in a while. Love that it was life-changing for you, and hope that it made others consider mass transit for themselves.

  4. james hervey (jeherv) on November 25th, 2008 @ 8:15 am

    the ironic thing about this is that the night after i wrote this, my bus was late, causing me to miss my bus downtown (which was of course on time) and i had to wait 25 minutes in the rain at five points. still wouldn’t change it for the world.

  5. Will (atl_will) on November 25th, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

    Public transportation is still my biggest bitch about the ATL, I think. I’ve been spoiled by Chicago’s L system, for sure. To this day, despite having taken MARTA buses without error or incident, I’m somehow not enthused to get on the bus. If it was on rails, though, it’d be no problem.

    This has everything to do with me and next to nothing to do with buses, I think.

  6. erin on November 29th, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

    It’s good to find other peeps who love the MARTA. I’ve been train-ing it to work and back for a little over 3 years now, and I’m happy, too. My favorite benefit? It’s my own personal oasis/buffer between home and work – my twice daily 45-minute chance to read, listen to music, or even nap, if it’s been a really rough day. That’s a much, much more pleasant segue between work and home than sitting in the car, seething with hatred at the horrid traffic. Plus, you can see things you’d never see in a car – once, I caught an impromptu break dance competition between several strangers across the different platforms at Five Points. No lie!

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