As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week, an analysis of federal statistics suggests MARTA didn’t get a lasting boost in passengers from last spring’s collapse of the I-85 bridge in Atlanta.
Though ridership was up in April (following the March 30 collapse), it was down in May and June from the same months the previous year. In fact, MARTA ridership is down more than 2 percent for the first six months of 2017, compared to the same period last year. It’s part of a national trend in declining ridership, due in part to cheap gas and other factors.
But MARTA CEO Keith Parker is optimistic about the agency’s future. In a meeting with the AJC’s editorial board Monday, Parker said MARTA has positioned itself well for a rebound when gas prices rise.
“We’re now in our third year of cheap gas,” Parker told the editorial board. “We were increasing ridership a million riders a month going into 2015. Then gas prices started to go down, and our ridership along with it.”
During Parker’s five-year tenure, MARTA has improved its bottom line and now has more than $250 million in reserves. It’s preparing for expansions in Clayton County and Atlanta, and is trying to improve customer service with amenities like wi-fi and fresh-food markets.
As a result, Parker said MARTA ridership hasn’t slumped as much as other agencies across the country.
“When the turn (in ridership) goes upward, we’ll see a bigger spike” than other systems, Parker predicted.