ATLANTA — During one of Atlanta’s biggest and most exciting weekends in recent memory, MARTA’s rail ridership spiked dramatically as large numbers of hometown customers and out-of-town visitors skipped the traffic jams and instead chose transit to attend the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and a host of other events.
Beginning Friday April 5th when the Final Four events began until after the championship game on Monday, April 8th, MARTA saw an estimated 78 percent increase in rail ridership. During that period, there were about 1,140,000 total rail passenger boardings; about 500,000 more than on average days when no such events are taking place.
Passenger boardings include rail-to-rail transfers which are not counted by MARTA’s Breeze farecard system. These boardings generally add about 30 percent to the total, MARTA said.
In addition to the college basketball tournament, MARTA was also the transportation choice for thousands of others who flocked into the city to attend free concerts and to watch the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks who were playing home games. In preparation for the crowds, MARTA added extra buses and trains as well as redeployed police officers and station attendants.
Due to the extraordinary number of customers on the system, however, there were reports of long lines at some stations and unexpectedly long waits, indicating there’s room for improvement.
“We did a good job getting customers where they were going safely,” said Keith T. Parker, MARTA’s GM/CEO. “These are the kinds of large-scale events that really test our mettle and, most important, help us find ways we can do a better job of serving all of our customers every single day.”