Targeting Unruly Behavior, MARTA Board Approves Stricter Rider Code

Sep 9, 2013

Keith Parker

MARTA's board Monday unanimously approved a stricter code of conduct for riders. It’s part of the transit agency's new 'Ride with Respect' campaign.

MARTA CEO Keith Parker wants to crack down on what he calls “knucklehead behavior.” He said the new code, which can be found in PDF here, allows MARTA for the first time to suspend and ban troublesome riders.

“We want people to just behave themselves," said Parker, who took over as MARTA's chief executive last October. "What our customers have told us over and over again is MARTA has been way too lenient. That we have let people get away with uncivil behavior so now is the time for us to start really stepping up the whole accountable part of this equation.”

The aim is to cut down on panhandling, CD peddling, loud music, littering, and eating and drinking.

Some, however, are already concerned about overreach. Chad Brock of the Georgia ACLU wonders how much discretion MARTA officers will have in enforcing the new code.

“Accommodations for diabetics for example. To perhaps to be able to have access to food if need be. You've had situations where trains have been stuck for an extended period of time. Would they be able to use some discretion before a suspension is issued?”

Brock also raised concerns about the appeals process.

Under the new code, a person’s first citation can result in a suspension of up to 14 days. The person would have six days to appeal to a MARTA-appointed board, during which time the rider still would be allowed to use the system.

Parker emphasized details of the appeals process remain under review. He said so far the focus has centered on how best to educate riders on appropriate behavior.

“We're going to have to let the policy roll out, see how things begin to unfold and then adjust accordingly, adjust as necessary but we think justice will be served very fairly and appropriately as we move forward.”

Parker couldn’t put a dollar figure on the administrative cost for the new appeals board or how many citations and appeals MARTA expects.

The code goes into effect November 9th.