The original article on "How to not be a MARTA hater" generated some discussion on social media that warranted a follow up. Namely, how MARTA's own staff might also need to consider how to not be haters themselves. The issue of MARTA's image, service capabilities and customer service have been long-standing issues, and it is extremely fair to say that MARTA will only see the most improvement if everyone is on board, including the local government, staff and the community.
The back story
To start with, the first article was based on snippets of conversation overheard during a commute. There was a man who was complaining and talking loudly while sitting on the floor in the Five Points station. Single tracking was in progress, and he asked one of the MARTA staff members present if she knew the upcoming train arrival time. I was actually a bit appalled that she answered rudely, "You'll have to wait for that sign to change."
Looking up, it was a non-functioning train arrival display. Having moved beyond using the signs, I got out my OneBusAway app that features real-time data on bus and train arrivals. No need to consult schedules that might be off or deal with faulty technology in the stations. I passed on the information to the man, and sure enough, the train arrived as the app reported.
It was hard to see the fail in customer service when easy training on part of all the staff and providing them with the appropriate tech tools (including their own MARTA On The Go app) to answer service questions seemed an easy fix. The situation was bothersome as well because bad customer service, even if the product isn't too bad, just makes the overall experience negative, and MARTA needs all the help it can get.
Bus drivers gone wild and other complaints
So, this same man who had asked for the train arrival was the one who was being vocal about MARTA's suckage. He specifically spoke of having to wait in the heat for buses and not having all the restrooms open in all the stations. Sure, many people understand that these conditions are for financial reasons, but the idea was to point out some of the extreme viewpoints of some riders.
The bottom line is that lack of funds is the reason behind many problems, and to prevent fare hikes and loss of service, strategies such as closing restrooms, not giving raises to employees and reducing frequency were implemented in the past several years (and have started to reverse).
And to be fair, the man and the rude MARTA staff person were equally creating problems. As some of the social media comments pointed out, MARTA employees have also been known to exhibit dumpy and delinquent behavior, especially it sounds like it is "MARTA Bus Drivers Gone Wild" on some routes.
I've personally seen the good and the bad, but perhaps because of my high volume of ridership, I have a larger perspective and one where the positive has outweighed the negative. Sure, those of us on the train kind-of chuckled when the man loudly talked about MARTA sucking. Seasoned riders know the pros and cons. But many people seem to cling to the idea that MARTA is awful (even if they aren't a regular rider) and ignore or don't give credit to MARTA for the positive things that are happening.
So, to be fair, here is the new list of how to not be a MARTA hater, including everyone involved:
- State of Georgia: Give MARTA some support
- Cobb County: Ditto.
- Gwinnett County: Ditto.
- Clayton County: Thank you. Hope you are voting yes in the fall.
- Voters: Vote pro-transit
- Media: Stop stressing all the negative stories and angles about MARTA that perpetuate faulty perceptions
- MARTA: Train or terminate employees as appropriate to provide better customer service and allow the many people in the community who want to help you, help you
- People of Atlanta: Stop dissing on the system and putting the blame just on MARTA when the transit agency has dealt with a history of complicated politics and lack of financial support.
- Commuters: Be pleasant and proactive.
- Code of Conduct Breakers: Just stay off the system. Otherwise, watch out, as this new generation of MARTA riders isn't going to let you hang around.