To the chagrin of Atlanta mobility advocates, various downtown agencies, and even the city’s mayor, MARTA is continuing to move forward with plans to launch redevelopment of its largest and busiest transit hub next month. But that work might not be as restrictive to regular customers and downtown dwellers as previously thought.

As 11Alive News reports, MARTA engineers are currently studying ways to leave at least one entrance to the Five Points MARTA station open to allow for street-level access to the facility during what’s expected to be four years of construction. Previous plans have called for walling off the bustling hub—apart from a brief reopening period during Atlanta’s FIFA World Cup matches in two years—in an effort to keep pedestrians and users safe at street level as the station’s large concrete canopy and pillars are removed.

Keli Davis, MARTA’s director of facilities, told the news station the agency is responding to widespread concerns by pivoting its plans and conducting engineering studies and working with the project’s contractor to possibly improve station access while not diminishing safety.

Davis stressed that a solution involving reengineering will take time, and that Five Points is still slated to be closed starting July 29 without street access, allowing for the $230-million overhaul to begin.

Any entrance reopening won’t come until sometime after that closure date, Davis told 11Alive.

Another potential change, per Davis, could be a temporary elevator added at Five Points to accommodate riders with disabilities during construction.

According to MARTA’s initial plans, any customer that requires an elevator to transfer between the North and East lines, and the South and West lines, would need to exit trains at either Georgia State or Peachtree Center stations and board a shuttle to transfer between.

What’s not expected to change, as of now: Come late July, all Five Points bus routes will be rerouted to either Georgia State, King Memorial, or Civic Center stations. All Five Points restrooms will close. And StationSoccer, MARTA Market, and the station’s community garden will temporarily shut down during construction, while access tunnels to the Richard B. Russell Federal Building and Underground Atlanta will also close.

A refined preview depicting how the opened-up transit hub could look and function. Courtesy of MARTA

MARTA’s goal is to turn the bunker-like, 1970s transit hub into what the agency describes as a vibrant, centralized city center with smoother access to trains and buses. However, powerful downtown groups including Central Atlanta Progress have called on MARTA to slam the brakes on those plans and consider a redesign, while Mayor Andre Dickens has asked MARTA to keep Five Points station open until an ongoing audit of the agency is complete.

Collie Greenwood, MARTA general manager and CEO, responded in a letter last week that all plaza-level closures are meant to protect riders and that altering the construction schedule would jeopardize federal funding for future MARTA projects and others around the city.

Meanwhile, the general public seems torn: An Urbanize Atlanta poll asking readers if MARTA should proceed with its Five Points redevelopment as planned has garnered nearly 700 votes as of this writing, with more "Yes" votes than some urbanists might expect. 


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• Downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)