MARTA debuted plans for its new rail cars Friday, December 17th. With amenities like cell phone charging ports and luggage space, the project will attempt to move Atlanta’s public transportation rail system into the 21st century.
This project was born out of a collaboration with Hungarian manufacturer, Stadler, who won the contract from MARTA in 2019. Stadler officially got started on the rail cars in January 2020. The company will manufacture the railcars in their plant in Salt Lake City before shipping them to Atlanta in order to go into service in 2025, a year before Atlanta plays host to a round of the 2026 World Cup.
Stadler has a long history of building trains in large European cities which include Minsk, Barcelona, Berlin, Glasgow, and Liverpool. MARTA has invested $646 million into this new venture- a necessity for a rapidly growing city.
MARTA will replace its entire heavy rail fleet over the next several years with 224 railcars (56 four-car train sets).
“For us, it was really important to know who was using the train and then to listen to their voices- it is important to listen to the voice of the customer,” Jonas Bonderer, commercial program director for Stadler, told The Atlanta Voice. “You listen to their hopes, their dreams, and their emotions. We had customer involvement throughout the design.”
The new MARTA rail cars now include electric outlets for e-bikes, rails, and even ladders for those who need it. The new minimalist design includes suitcase compartments (a necessity for residents and visitors traveling back and forth to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport), cell phone charging stations, and E-bike charging stations.
There will also be a lead car redesign that includes a “smile”. This “smile” design helps passengers verify which rail line they are on with the designated rail-line color showcased on the “smile”.
The aisles will also be more expensive with a European-influenced push button to open the cabin doors.
“We move people and this train is a representation of that,” Collie Greenwood MARTA General Manager and CEO said.
The MARTA re-invention has been a long topic of conversation for the city. Every election touches on the topic. Being a vital conversation, not even COVID-19 could stop its development.
“We had to adapt extensively, but technology and the infrastructure we had built before covid made us able to have the meetings and move development. We had delays and challenges along the way, but covid was not a reason to stop- we had to move forward together,” said Bonderer.