Public transit is an essential tool for many people to access employment and leisure. It also offers solutions to pressing problems for cities, including traffic congestion and carbon emissions. Atlanta’s public transportation system, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), helps the city tackle some of the problems, but faces its own challenges. Importantly, Atlanta is relatively spread out compared to other urban areas in the United States; Boston, a city of similar size, has a population density of 13,841/sq mi whereas Atlanta has a density of 3,360/sq mi. This means that Atlanta’s public transportation system has to extend much further to reach the same number of people.
Besides the total area that MARTA must service however, it continues to face other, less visible challenges. Perhaps at the forefront of these is economic equity in access to public transportation. A study from the Brookings Institute found that Atlanta receives a relatively low score compared to other American cities when analyzing the accessibility of jobs to the labor force. Largely, this is because many of Atlanta’s jobs lie in the suburbs outside of the coverage of its public transit system. Compounding this are factors of race and economic status. The Atlantic published a piece detailing the problems that America’s poor and minority populations have in accessing public transit, highlighting how important affordable transit is to economic mobility.
We are just starting to dive into Atlanta’s public transit system to better understand it and to explore some of these issues. Using data provided by the Atlanta Regional Commission, we have begun analysis on MARTA bus ridership at the stop-level using CartoDB. Check out some of findings below. You can access the full maps at the links provided:
Key stops shows the MARTA bus stops with the highest number of people getting on and off the bus. Many of the stops with highest ridership are connected to MARTA rail stations, and presumably are so high because of transfers between the rail and bus systems.
Under-Used Stops shows the stops with the lowest ridership values. We found that in over 800 of MARTA’s approximately 10,000 stops, almost nobody ever got on or off of the bus.