This Transit Riders Union Resisted Their City's War On The Black And Poor

looking out from a bus
Zain Murdock
February 7, 2024

Weeks before the 1996 Olympics began, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported on visitors boarding “the largest mass transit experiment in Atlanta’s history.” 

But while the $443 million improvements sought to boost tourism and ridership, it also targeted Black residents.

That same year, Atlanta’s Poor People’s Survival Movement (PPSM) was cooperatively distributing food to Black families. But as the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) made capitalistic, anti-Black moves, members organized to create an Atlanta Transit Riders Union.

While MARTA ripped out seats and installed new software, it also planned on increasing fares and removing routes going through poor, Black areas. 

And since the lack of access to transportation, housing, and food are all root causes of crime, the city could then blame and criminalize people for the living conditions it had created.

In response, organizers led mass meetings and spread the word in print to get residents to join the movement. 

They succeeded, delaying fare increases for years. But today, resistance is still needed — and happening.

Fear-mongering about MARTA expansion attracting crime as Black residents gain access continues. Atlanta’s constructing Cop City and criminalizing dissent ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Politicians and institutions sacrifice the livelihood of low-income residents for capitalistic gain.

But, just as the PPSM proved, when a city abandons our communities, we will not abandon each other.

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