Saturday, March 21, 2015

MARTA Bus 196-4 Minute Walk From My House

When Terry and I began looking for a house to buy, before the economy tanked, one of our requirements was that it was accessible to public transportation. Being that I don't really enjoy driving and I don't want to have to depend on Terry 100% of the time, this was not a negotiable requirement for our new home. Our agent, Lily, found many homes on the MARTA line but most involved 45 minute bus rides which wouldn't have been all that bad if the trips didn't involve train rides that were equally as long and possibly longer.

Eventually, Lily discovered a community in Clayton County, right across the street from a bus stop which involved a 15 minute ride to the airport, 2 to 3 times an hour 7 days a week and the last bus was just after midnight. Though it was not MARTA, C-Tran had an agreement and contract with them and your paid ride would give you free access to the train and transfers if needed.
I used C-Tran more times than I could count and it was super reliable. If I were called in to cover someone's shift at work, I could always tell them exactly how long I would take to get there. When I worked at Cargo-Master, I didn't really need the bus because it was less than 2 miles from my house. When my layoff happened, I knew I needed to begin to take the bus again to find another job. Fortunately, I was able to collect unemployment because jobs at the time were as plentiful as a pocket full of gold. During the time of my job hunt, I noticed people with the county began to ride the bus with clipboards. The clipboards were used to evaluate the drivers, the frequency of pickups as well as many riders, including myself, were given verbal surveys.

I've been asked many times as to why I prefer to take the bus and train system rather than drive directly. There are many reasons. I don't like to drive, I don't find it relaxing. I don't have to deal with traffic. I also have a phobia of causing an accident or getting into a fight once someone rear ended me or something like that...The last time Terry and I got rear ended, I did get into an argument with Toya Andrews, the woman that hit us and it almost turned into a fight. I also don't want the expense of car upkeep, insurance and gas and all that stuff. I also like the fact that I can use the time to listen to music, write, knit or concentrate on something that I normally wouldn't have time to do at home.

Around the end of 2009, an announcement was given that the bus system in Clayton County would be no more. Rallies were held, people's ability to get to their jobs in town was now being tested. The 8 mile ride from my house to the Airport Marta Station would cost, basically costs $30. To get to work, this isn't exactly a sensible expense. March 31, 2010 came and it happened, the C-Tran bus stops were picked up over night and gone as if they never existed. Cutting off people from work. The decision to end the busses further complicated the crime situation in Clayton County, burglary and robberies seemed to spike even though they authorities claimed it was due to other circumstances.
Luckily, a few enterprising few decided to take advantage of the grim situation, many with good intentions and others with greed on their mind. Two independent "bus" lines popped up, including QuickTransit, but failed after a few months due to mechanical expenses on their equipment. Another system called Southside Transportation took the helm, being that they were actually a trucking company, they had their business already in place and it was easy for them to convert to a people moving company. Unfortunately, their business model just wasn't very friendly to people on a time table. I had called Southside many times and asked for a pick up, they told me to wait at the RaceTrac gas station and they would be there in a few minutes. While waiting at the gas station, I was approached by police in regards to why I'm loitering, drug dealers asking if I want something and panhandlers asking if I had money. By the time Southside arrived, I was already in a bad mood and to add insult to injury, they would be going to opposite direction of the station and I'd have to wait up to an hour in the van as they picked up other people with the same destination in mind.
I began working at Macaroni Grill, fortunately the manager had mercy on me and scheduled me for the same shifts as Terry so we would ride into work and back home together. We also gave two other co-workers rides back to Clayton County which worked out really well because they would give us a few bucks each in gas money. They also shared with me a few numbers for people that charged $3 or $4 from anywhere in Clayton County to the train...Two people, in particular, were the ones I ended up using for the longest time. Phil, worked from 5am-6pm Monday through Saturday and Eddie worked evenings everyday, except on Sunday when he covered the slack of Phil not working that day but Eddie never worked after 11pm. Eddie eventually ended up having an accident and rather than getting his van fixed and resuming his business, he decided to end it...I don't believe either he or Phil had an actual license for this sort of business.

Phil's van was ratty, uncomfortable and his manners were awful. He charged $4 and he was the epitome of greedy. If you called him, told him where you were, he would tell you that he'd be there in 20 minutes...45 minutes later you could call and he'd say that he's 15 minutes away. Rather than texting or calling you to let you know he'd be a little late, you are standing waiting and wondering why would shouldn't call someone else and if you did then cancelled, he would remember this the next time you needed him and charge you $2 on top of your $4 just because you cancelled on him. He would also yell at people for being to slow when getting in the van, pack so many people into the van and even make some sit in the cargo area where he had stowed or thrown blown tires and greasy discarded van parts. An older lady had called him, thinking he was going away from town, he picked her up and a block away from her house, she asked if he was going to wherever she was going and he said "NO, I'm going to College Park, your stop will be in about an hour so sit tight." The lady wanted to get out and wait for someone else or him to come back later but he refused to let her me, I saw this as kidnapping but I guess as long as she didn't make a stink about it, he didn't care. I always knew to call him an hour before I needed to be where he would drop me off. He wasn't the greatest driver either, he would cut people off, flip them off and on one occasion he drove up on a sidewalk because he was eating a hotdog and not paying attention to the road. I found taking Uber would be less of a hassle at times if Terry wasn't able to drive me to the airport...especially on Sundays.
Today is March 21, 2015. I work in Sandy Springs, Georgia and I'm scheduled to be there at 4:30pm. Terry is at work in Fayetteville, Georgia and will be there until at least 6pm. For the first time in many years, I will not have to rely on uber, which costs $11 to the airport, or Phil, which is just a hassle and emotionally draining. I will be walking down to the new MARTA bus stop (Bus 196) and paying nothing extra to take the bus to the train (Red Line) and the bus (Bus 5 OR Bus 87) to work. Am I excited for this? Sort of. It will save money for my commute to work. If I took uber and Marta, my daily commute total would be $16. If I rode with Phil to Marta, my commute cost would be $9. Now that a bus stop is down the street, my commute has been cut to $5 round trip...but I now invest in weekly passes so I pay $23.75 a week for unlimited MARTA rides.
Aside from my own personal feelings of public transportation and not having to deal with enterprising and unlicensed drivers or the more expensive and yet awesome UBER, I believe the fact that MARTA's new Clayton County lines will help give Clayton County residents the means of getting back out to the better paying jobs.

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