In an agreement described as “historic” at the time, MARTA entered a contract in November 2019 to purchase $646 million worth of new rail cars from longtime manufacturer Stadler.

The deal marked the largest procurement for either organization and what MARTA officials called a milestone of their capital improvement campaign, an effort to boost customer satisfaction and slash delays. Many of MARTA’s 300 current rail cars, after all, date to the agency’s 1970s beginnings and are prone to breakdowns. 

Although the first of those modernized trains is expected to debut in Atlanta in 2023, they remain works in progress.

As such, MARTA's now seeking public input to help determine exactly what Atlantans want from their future heavy-rail transit system.

First on the docket: interior design.

Potential seating arrangements and features of modernized rail cars. Courtesy of MARTA/Stadler US

As part of an initiative called “Your Ride You Decide,” MARTA is collecting the 2 cents of daily riders, occasional patrons, and potential future customers to inform what interior features its new fleet will have. A similar campaign for rail-car exteriors is expected to launch in coming months, per a MARTA announcement today.

Some aspects of the interiors are set in stone, like an open gangway for each pair of cars.

But voters are encouraged to express their priorities for other options pertaining to bike areas, ADA accessibility, luggage storage, handrails and stanchions, general seating arrangements, and more.

Courtesy of MARTA/Stadler US

Courtesy of MARTA/Stadler US

The new fleet will offer charging stations, electronic signage, and beefed-up video surveillance, among other features.

Overall, the rail cars are expected to “provide a safer, more efficient ride, improving reliability and reducing rail delays caused by the aging fleet,” MARTA general manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker said in a prepared statement. “We also want these trains to be comfortable, look good, and have all the bells and whistles that make riding convenient and enjoyable.”

The deal marks the first time MARTA has bought new rail cars since 2003 and only the fourth time in agency history. Switzerland-based Stadler has built trains in Europe since 1942, with U.S. operations now in Utah.

MARTA expects its new fleet to be rolled out between 2023 and 2028, with a pilot car zipping around Atlanta next year.

Exterior MARTA mockups. Public input for exterior designs will be sought later this year. Courtesy of MARTA/Stadler US

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