One reason I love working Downtown is that the streets on any average weekday have an almost Manhattan-like energy. But when big events blow through town, as they often do, pedestrians flood the crosswalks and drivers start blaring horns, and it really feels like the Big City.
My favorite people-watching day is, of course, the Friday before Labor Day, when the alternate universes of college football and DragonCon collide. Families in head-to-toe Clemson gear queue up at Starbucks next to orcs and lusty wenches, and almost everyone is on foot (or hoof).
It doesn’t take a ride on the overstuffed Peachtree Center escalator to know that MARTA makes all of these events work. According to the transit agency, last year’s Labor Day Saturday saw about 208,400 rail system entries—double what the system sees on a typical Saturday. That’s like half the population of the City of Atlanta hopping on MARTA in a single day. (And that’s without taking into account bus trips, or to-from airport trips on either side of that Saturday.)
MARTA use will likely be higher this year, with DragonCon poised to pass the 50,000-attendee mark and a whole extra football game at the Dome thrown into the mix. Don't forget about Black Gay Pride, the Braves-Phillies series, and the Decatur Book Festival, all of which will rely heavily on MARTA to move people.
The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates this weekend’s events will generate more than $70 million for the city and bring in more than 230,000 visitors, and MARTA is a key ingredient. "MARTA is appealing for meeting planners because it is a convenient, efficient, and inexpensive method of transportation for attendees," said Cookie Smoak, the ACVB's director of convention services.
That's MARTA in a nutshell: convenient, efficient, and inexpensive—and fantastic for people watching.
Above: The Green Lantern, holding a Steatery hot dog, demonstrates the economic impact of DragonCon