by Sam Hieb
Down in Atlanta, plans are in place to rebrand the city’s transit system–the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority–MARTA–will will soon sport a new brand—‘The ATL.’
So why is this necessary? Depends on whom you ask. The obvious answer is it’s an effort to boost the city’s free falling ridership numbers. But if you ask a university professor, he might have totally different answer:
“It’s rooted in this racist history of suburban opposition to MARTA,” said Alex Karner, a planning professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied MARTA.
Karner said when MARTA was founded back in the 1960s, the system was supposed to connect the city to the suburbs. The problem was, people in the suburbs didn’t want it.
“There are stories of bumper stickers saying things like “Share Atlanta Crime, Support MARTA,’” Karner said. “And there are also people on the record at public meetings talking about people getting on buses to commit crime, to steal televisions, etc.”
Karner said it wasn’t just about fear of crime. This was after school integration in the city, when white people left metropolitan Atlanta by the thousands. The city that MARTA would have tied their suburbs to was now mostly black.
“And so the rejection of MARTA at the time was a way to cement the separation of the newly white suburbs from the black city of Atlanta,” Karner explained.
Whatevs. I guess Atlanta’s so desperate they’ll try anything—including building 21 additional miles of rail line (at a cost of $2.5 billion)—to get its ridership back to 1985 numbers.