MARTA panhandler creates squirmy situation

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A MARTA train at North Springs station on Georgia 400, the northernmost stop on the system's Red Line. Credit Curtis Compton/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

MARTA signs Five Points April 9, 2015Monday’s train ride home was going along just fine … and then came Garnett Station. A man bulled his way into our car and immediately started yelling at us.

“HEY, ANY OF Y’ALL GOT ANY SPARE CHANGE? I KNOW Y’ALL GOT CHANGE! Y’ALL GONNA GIVE ME SOME CHANGE, MAN? I NEED SOME CHANGE!”

The young woman sitting beside me remained quiet as a mouse. She shook her head “no,” albeit timidly. This guy was looming right over her, so I give her major “grace under pressure” points. Then he lurched his way down the aisle, screaming his spare change demands.

People literally tried to shrink from his view so he wouldn’t start hollering in their general direction. The panhandler was not rewarded for his efforts and he pushed out of the train at West End, still haranguing folks who had exited the train. And our train car was the front car – the driver’s car. The guy felt perfectly comfortable yelling at passengers quite literally within shouting distance of the train operator.

If you can’t expect to not be harassed when seated one wall away from the driver, where can you expect to arrive at your destination without enduring a station-to-station screamfest?

I entered the man’s description into MARTA’s See & Say app on my phone – for all the good it did. After providing MARTA Police with everything about the guy except for the cut of his windbreaker, I got an error message: “THE MARTA SEE & SAY APP IS NOT WORKING.”

My phone is relatively new and has all kinds of bells and whistles and whatnot. So I expected my See & Say report to push through to, well, someone.

The harsh reality that MARTA still doesn’t have Wi-Fi on trains hit me at that moment, although word is that they’re trying to make that happen. Better that they fast-track that plan much sooner than later. Since MARTA is seeking to come off as “cool” to Atlanta’s younger commuters, here’s something to keep in mind: Nobody thinks that being aggressively panhandled by a screaming stranger is hip. But giving riders a way to quickly send you those See & Say incident reports that you want, MARTA? Now that would be totally awesome, especially since so many of your riders spend the trip gaping into their cellphones. (I’m guilty as charged, too.)

TELL US: Have you witnessed aggressive panhandling on MARTA? Did you respond in any way? How should passengers handle these scenarios?


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