MARTA patrons behaving badly may face suspension, ban
Ken Watts | 9/13/2013, 6:01 a.m.
MARTA is cracking down on “knucklehead behavior” aboard its trains and buses.
Starting Nov. 9, people who behave badly will face suspension from seven days to a year, and even a permanent ban, from the transit system.
On Sept. 9, MARTA’s board of directors unanimously approved a policy creating a “Ride With Respect” Code of Conduct aimed at improving the overall customer experience by targeting nuisance riders.
Board Chairman Frederick Daniels Jr. said the policy was drafted with input from scores of community stakeholders.
“Moving forward, MARTA will no longer tolerate bad behavior on our system,” he 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.”
The new code of conduct prohibits 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 the transit system more attractive and help customers feel more comfortable.
Christie Vaughn, a rider at the Decatur MARTA station, thinks the crackdown is a good idea.
“You have some riders who make a habit of invading everybody else’s space in one way or another,” said Vaughn, who was traveling the East-West line to Edgewood station on Monday. “It’s necessary to clarify the rules and make all passengers feel safe.”
Her husband, Leon Vaughn, said people do crazy things.
“They come on the trains with loud music or talk loud on their phones and don’t care who they disturb,” he said. “Something has to be done about it.”
Frank Taylor, a recent transplant from West Palm Beach, Fla., said he had a scary experience on a MARTA train.
“Two guys were fighting near me,” he 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 rude, intrusive behavior.
“I’m tired of people asking me for money, and you don’t need to eat on the train.”
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.”
Chad Brock, ACLU’s legislative counsel, said the ACLU is concerned about potential inconsistencies in how the rules are interpreted.
“For example, could an officer issue a citation on a noise violation if a person’s iPod is two decibels above the limit, resulting in the rider being suspended from the transit system for seven days without a way to get to work,” he asked.