MARTA targets nuisance customers in “Ride With Respect” campaign
Ken Watts | 9/10/2013, 10:46 a.m.
ATLANTA MARTA has new rules that crack down on “knucklehead behavior” aboard its trains and buses. By a unanimous vote, the MARTA Board of Directors on Sept. 9 approved a policy creating “Ride With Respect” - a Code of Conduct aimed at improving the overall customer exerience by targeting nuisance riders.
The new policy, which goes into effect November 9, carries penalties that include possible suspension from the transit system. Suspension periods range from 7 days to a year or even a permanent ban.
MARTA managers say Ride With Respect is based on years of complaints from riders and potential customers about rude, annoying and occasionally dangerous behavior of some passengers.
Frederick L. Daniels, Jr., Chairman of the MARTA Board said the policy was drafted with input from scores of community stakeholders.
“Moving forward MARTA will no longer tolerate bad behavior on our system,” Daniels said. “We are asking the community, elected officials and customers to join us in raising the bar and reinforcing the expectation that everyone deserves a safe, efficient and enjoyable ride on MARTA.”
Under the new code of conduct, prohibited activities include solicitation, selling goods or services, loud music, spitting, littering, eating on transit vehicles, drinking on transit vehicles without re-sealable drink containers, fighting and disruptive behavior – many of which are also violations of state law and could result in arrest.
Keith T. Parker, MARTA’s General Manager and CEO, said the policy – along with a more robust police presence, new vehicle security cameras and a mobile phone app to report problems – will make MARTA more attractive and help customers feel more comfortable.
News of the crackdown brought quick reaction from riders at the Decatur station.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Christie Vaughn who was traveling the east-west line to Edgewood Station in Atlanta.
“You have some riders who make a habit of invading everbody else’s space in one way or another. It’s necessary to clarify the rules and make all passengers feel safe.”
“People do crazy things,” said Christie’s husband Leon Vaughn. “They come on the trains with loud music or talk loud on their phones and don’t care who they disturb. Something has to be done about it.”
Frank Taylor, a recent transplant from West Palm Beach, Florida, said he had a scarey experience on a MARTA train.
“Two guys were fighting near me,” Taylor said. “One of them threw a punch that missed the other dude and hit me! By the time the cops got there they were gone.”
Suzanne Hugueley of Decatur said she’s fed up with a wide range of rude, intrusive behavior.
“I’m tired of people asking me for money and you don’t need to eat on the train.” she said.
But Quinn Eastman, an Emory University employee, said while the rules are necessary they may be tough to enforce.
“MARTA may find it challenging to apply them fairly throughout the system unless they hire a lot more police,” He said.
The American Civil Liberties Union also worries about “fair enforcement.”