Did MARTA freebie backfire? Fight video raises questions

A train leaves the Kensington MARTA station in Decatur on Thursday May 17th, 2012. PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

A train leaves the Kensington MARTA station in Decatur on Thursday May 17th, 2012. PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

MARTA was trying to do the community a solid a few weeks ago when it offered free rides on Labor Day.

It was a gesture of thanks to loyal riders and — the agency hoped — a way to entice new passengers aboard. But apparently no good deed goes unpunished.

A video posted Sept. 15 on Youtube shows fight that broke out on a train packed with passengers on Labor Day. Some riders hooted and egged on two young men who circled each other warily, their chests literally bared after they flung their T-shirts aside. Other riders cowered in the back of the train and tried to steer clear of the melee.

It’s unclear what started the brawl. At one point it’s three fighters against one.

Several punches and kicks are landed on the unaided fighter who falls to the floor, but he quickly jumps back up. Some inaudible smack-talk resumes and then the video ends.

It appears no one was seriously injured. But this is exactly the sort of image MARTA’s trying to shed with its “Ride with Respect” campaign targeting obnoxious behavior and panhandling, and the introduction of its See & Say app for smartphones, which passengers are encouraged to use to report problems to MARTA police.

(Note, the app doesn’t work when the train is underground, as it appears to be in this video, because there is no Wi-Fi service in the tunnels. However, MARTA is working on an agreement that would bring free Wi-Fi to all tunnels and stations within the next few years).

We’re expecting an official response soon from MARTA to questions about whether the agency deems the free ride campaign a success, whether more crime was reported that day or whether the fight was an aberration.

But tell me, riders, was it a success in your eyes? Or did MARTA invite problems when it invited all passengers?

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