Operation Timely Trip, MARTA Army’s
original campaign, highlighted the
power behind this type of organizing. Of the Atlanta region’s roughly
10,000 bus stops, Berrebi said that
hardly any had route information sig-nage on site. MARTA Army members
adopted 350 of these stops, printed
laminated signs with route and schedule information and zip-tied them to
the stops’ signposts.
The operation improved passenger access to accurate bus information and
made the system easier to navigate.
Due to Operation Timely Trip’s initial
success, MARTA Army is looking to
deploy QR codes at stops to provide
riders with real-time information on
buses. The state of Georgia has even
taken notice and granted $3.8 million
to further improve bus stops throughout the region.
Another campaign, Operation Clean-Stop, sought to address the fact that
only one in 20 bus stops had a trash
can, meaning many suffered from
litter issues. The operation ultimately
crowdfunded enough money for bins
at 80 stops, which the city of Atlanta
Despite the model’s success in scaling up the organization, Berrebi did
admit that this quick growth is not
necessarily sustainable over the long
term. Like many advocacy organizations, MARTA Army hasn’t had a
problem raising excitement, but there
can be disagreements over what to do
with that excitement. As a result, Berrebi said MARTA Army would likely
need to become a more formal body
to effectively address those problems
in the future.
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Nonetheless, MARTA Army’s experience can help other transit advocacy
groups gain footing in their own regions. The group grew from hyperlocal
efforts that then moved to influence
the entire Atlanta region. It also made
a conscious decision not to focus on
broader policy, but on what people
most care about: their neighborhoods.
Another crucial factor for a successful
transit army has been maintaining a
broad, regional awareness of efforts
and campaigns. MARTA Army needed
MARTA’s support to get started, and
continues to depend on media coverage both to expand its membership
and maintain pressure on the transit
This type of public awareness integrates the role of mass transit into the
local identity by portraying transit as
a positive and necessary part of every
neighborhood’s fabric, convincing
the public that they can and should
invest in their transportation system.
Showing residents that they can
actively take part in transit issues —
and, by extension, their neighborhood
— highlights the benefits of transit
and, ideally, increases support for or
involvement in expanding it.
As they continue to grow their efforts,
MARTA Army is looking to use their
resources to help similar efforts get
off the ground elsewhere. Its advocacy strategy is not tied to any particular location: any group can adopt its
“open source” model and adapt it to
their own transit system and city. n
By Andrew Carpenter, tech reporter, Mobility Lab
This article is adapted with permission from one
that appeared on the Mobility Lab website on
February 8, 2017.