MARTA’s campaign to gather public input and determine exactly what Atlantans want from their future heavy-rail transit system—and how they want it to look—is continuing in a highly visual way.

This week, MARTA launched efforts to collect public votes for exterior graphic designs of its next generation of railcars, set to debut in about two years.

The next phase of the “Your Ride, You Decide” initiative lets voters pick from four options (with an alternate design for each) that range from minimal to flashy and somewhat befuddling.

MARTA entered a contract in 2019 to purchase $646 million worth of modernized new railcars from longtime manufacturer Stadler—marking the largest procurement deal ever for the train builder and transit agency. Many of MARTA’s 300 current railcars date to the agency’s 1970s beginnings and are prone to breakdowns. 

Earlier this year, MARTA’s first crowdsourcing feedback campaign garnered 17,000 votes and some 700 comments pertaining to the trains’ interior designs and features. Above all, MARTA found, riders want digital maps, next-station and destination displays, and ADA-accessible seating and signage inside trains.

As a result of that input, as MARTA general manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker noted in a statement this week: “[P]assenger seats will be more accommodating, railcars will offer more options for those who are standing, there will be specially marked areas for bikes and strollers, and dedicated spaces for wheelchairs will optimize entry and exit points.

“Other design elements,” Parker continued, “[will] include an open gangway so riders can move freely between railcars and convenient charging stations.”

Now it’s time to decide what MARTA’s next-gen railcars will look like as they zip around the city.

Overall, the designs are meant to reflect MARTA’s traditional colors and the “dynamism and movement” of trains, according to the agency. 

The “Minimalist” option is a stretched MARTA logo that aims to evoke speed. The “Flowing Ribbon” also denotes forward momentum. The “Neighborhoods” option is composed of “outwardly spreading colors to indicate neighborhoods,” while “Tracks” is designed to echo a city’s street grids.

Flowing Ribbons: Option ACourtesy of MARTA

As of this writing, voting was very close, with “Flowing Ribbons: Option A” holding a slight lead. (Our 2 cents: If you vote for “Neighborhoods: Option A,” somebody should revoke your Breeze Card!)

MARTA’s first new railcar is expected to arrive in 2023. The agency also plans to have teams in rail stations conducting in-person surveys with riders.

Have a quick look at voting options in the gallery above, and head over here to cast your vote, or to learn more about the logic behind each design.

• New rail cars are bound for Atlanta, and MARTA wants your 2 cents (Urbanize Atlanta)