By David Wickert, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(CNT) City News And Talk #atlanta-ga
MARTA will pay Uber to drive some metro Atlanta residents to the polls on Election Day to kick off a yearlong pilot project with the ride-hailing service.
MARTA has suspended dozens of bus routes amid the coronavirus pandemic and has beefed up service on most remaining routes. It’s an effort to promote social distancing and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But it’s also made travel harder for thousands of residents who rely on public transportation to get around. And the suspended bus routes normally provide access to 99 polling locations, posing a serious obstacle for many residents who want to vote.
MARTA will address that by paying Uber to take some residents to the polls. To qualify, they must be traveling to one of the 99 affected polling places.
MARTA will give customers a $16 voucher for a trip to and from the polls ($8 each way). The customer would be responsible for any amount over the $8 per trip.
The voucher would be valid from 5 a.m. until midnight Nov. 3 (Election Day). MARTA says it will use “geo-fencing” technology to ensure the vouchers are used for their intended purposes.
Customers can visit www.itsmarta.com/MARTAConnect for a list of eligible polling places and for more information.
After Election Day, the service will be available to customers affected by planned or unplanned service disruptions on the rail system that require supplemental bus transportation. For those disruptions, MARTA will provide an Uber voucher of $3 to $10 to cover transportation to the next rail station so customers can continue their trip.
MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker said the app-based service would help keep riders moving when the system is undergoing repairs or “unforeseen service issues arise.”
Launching the service on Election Day is the latest move designed to help MARTA customers and employees vote. The advocacy group MARTA Army has created an online map of early voting and ballot drop box locations accessible by transit to assist MARTA customers.
In August, MARTA allowed local nonprofit groups to register voters at 14 rail stations. It has used signs and messages to encourage customers to vote. And last week MARTA announced it will provide an additional four hours of paid time off to encourage more than 4,000 permanent full-time employees to vote.
“Voter participation is vital to the health of our democracy,” Parker said in announcing the additional time off. “MARTA wants to do all we can to ensure that our employees and customers exercise their right to vote.”