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Does Riding Transit Make You More Civic-Minded?

1:01 PM PST on February 7, 2013

Civic pride, attachment to community -- what does that have to do with how you get around? According to a recent study commissioned by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, possibly quite a bit.

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A survey of more than 800 residents from the 10-county Atlanta area found those who use MARTA reported a stronger connection to their community. A total of 51 percent of MARTA riders reported they felt a strong connection to the Atlanta region, compared with just 23 percent of those who do not use the transit service. In addition, 72 percent of MARTA riders said they had a strong connection to their neighborhood, compared to 65 percent of drivers.

It's easy to imagine how daily strolls to the transit station and riding around the city in the shared space of a train car could inspire feelings of community -- even in a town like Atlanta, which isn't known as a transit haven.

Many of the newspaper's interviewees testified to that effect:

Some MARTA riders say riding the buses and trains exposes them to more people and places, as opposed to the isolated transport of riding in a car.

“I meet people from everywhere — Ethiopia, Jamaica, Canada, Michigan,” said Angel Lemond, 23, who commutes from Riverdale to classes at Georgia Perimeter College. “I talk probably every day with somebody just to pass the time on the train.”

But the paper said there was still a question of cause and effect. Does MARTA make people more civic-minded or do more civic-oriented people gravitate toward MARTA?

Either way, the AJC said strengthening the "social fabric" might be one more benefit transit provides to the region. Unfortunately, MARTA customers are now facing a third fare increase in just four years.

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