ATLANTA — Faced with major declines in ridership, MARTA has joined nine other large transit agencies across the country seeking federal relief during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Congressional leaders, MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeff Parker said ridership is down by from 40 to 60 percent during the crisis.

Also, on Thursday, MARTA announced it is changing its service operations during the crisis. Bus customers will be required to enter and exit using the rear doors only, except for those who require the accessibility ramp. Because the Breeze farebox is located at the front door, MARTA is suspending fare collection on buses. For customers transferring to and from the rail system, fares will be paid at the rail stations.

MARTA is also closing public restrooms at low-utilization rail stations. Public restrooms will remain open at College Park, Doraville, Five Points, H.E. Holmes, Indian Creek, Lindbergh and North Springs rail stations.

Beginning March 30, MARTA reduced bus service by approximately 30 percent. All bus routes will continue to operate, but with fewer buses on most routes.

Updated bus and rail service information is available on www.itsmarta.com, MARTA’s On The Go app, @MARTASERVICE on Twitter, @MARTAtransit on Facebook and digital boards throughout the system.

The transit service is a commuter mainstay for hundreds of thousands of workers in the Metro Atlanta region. While the rail and bus lines serve only Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties, its North Springs rail station in Sandy Springs regularly services hundreds of commuters from Forsyth and Cherokee counties.

“Businesses are closed, and people are staying home and not spending money,” Parker said. “With decreased farebox and sales tax revenue, we will be unable to sustain full bus, rail and paratransit service for those customers who rely on us.”

The letter asks Congress to include $25 billion to transit agencies in its relief package. The letter is signed by transit directors in New York, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and a host of other major cities – all combined serving an area that produces 32 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

MARTA officials said that during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the transit system was forced to eliminate more than half its bus service, and train arrivals grew to 30 minutes apart at certain times of the day. The urgent Congressional request for financial assistance is an effort to stave off the need for such drastic service and staffing reductions.

MARTA has kept bus and rail service going during the crisis. The agency reported it has been thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing transit vehicles and encouraging passengers to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others to reduce the spread of the virus.

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