If you follow the @marta_explorer Instagram account, you are already familiar with its colorful, artfully blurred images of trains, buses, stations and stops, as well as the captions consistent in theme and tone—a friendly voice sharing how they got to and from coffee, a night on the town or a weekday commute—always from a first person point of view. Maybe you, too, have wondered about the account’s “explorer” avatar: a mysterious, smiling cartoon man with spiky hair. Who exactly is the voice of MARTA?
Meet Adam Shumaker, Downtown Atlanta resident of over a decade. A Georgia State alum turned CNN video journalist turned freelancer, Shumaker caught MARTA’s eye after he shot pictures of the transit system for Central Atlanta Progress. Then, when pictures of Shumaker and his wife taking the train to their wedding ceremony surfaced, he reached a whole new level of MARTA notoriety. The transit authority approached him with an opportunity: instead of a corporate marketing campaign, could he simply record how MARTA played a role in his daily life for an Instagram audience?
“I’m a natural advocate of MARTA,” Shumaker said, “and they trusted me to run with it.”
During Dump The Pump month, in which transportation management authorities like CAP are offering commuters incentives to try transit in lieu of driving, we talked to Shumaker about how one might become a “natural advocate” of transit, or at least consider the benefits of it.
When Shumaker first came to Downtown as a Georgia State student, he endured a long commute from Gwinnett County, which later prompted him, as a resident and worker, to live Downtown for a much briefer commute. A growing stack of MARTA tokens (in the days before Breeze cards) and the realization of how inconvenient it had become to retrieve, drive and re-park his car were the nudges toward a transit lifestyle. Years later, he technically still owns a car—but it sits in his parents’ driveway back in Gwinnett County, unused.
Shumaker credits Downtown for his transportation lifestyle overhaul: “There are so many connections here—bus, rail, the Streetcar. It’s the beauty of Downtown that no other neighborhood has. MARTA Explorer would not be as dynamic if I didn’t live Downtown.”
But MARTA Explorer isn’t just focused on Downtown. On the contrary, Shumaker chronicles just how far MARTA can take him and his wife on their daily explorations of the city, whether it’s a new coffee shop in College Park or the Atlanta Jazz Festival in Midtown.
When asked about who he keeps in mind as a target audience, Shumaker was quick to reemphasize the goal of the Instagram account: “Honestly, I’m not targeting any one person or group; I’m just showing my life as an example. I’m showing that [using MARTA] is possible at all times of day.”
Image and honest responses to the concerns potential riders have are certainly priorities, however. “I try to illustrate how safe and clean MARTA is in a matter-of-fact way,” he explained. “And I’m not shaming non-users. Instead, you can see how it works for [me] and consider how it could work for you.”
Other concerns that many potential transit users have are convenience and reliability. Can transit get you where you need to go, and on time? With some planning ahead, familiarity with bus and rail schedules and the gift of technology, firsthand experience has shown Shumaker that this is possible.
“I think bus routes are often overlooked,” he said, “and technology makes things so much easier. I often love to hang out and grab a coffee or drink and watch the MARTA app to see when the next bus is on its way. Transfer points are an opportunity to get to know an area better.”
Of course, short wait times and accurate arrival times are of great importance to commuters, but Shumaker has many positive things to say about what can happen when we slow down and, yes, explore.
“Transit doesn’t always take me door to door, and that’s ok: I’m open to exploring where transit ends,” he said. “Riding transit has completely changed my experience of the city. Instead of spending most of my time in my car, not experiencing anything, I get to explore a real city with great streets.”
Instead of always focusing on going, Shumaker emphasized the world of possibilities that come from stopping. “Really, it’s about making stops. In a car, I’m worried about where to stop and where to park. Now, I can sort of ‘stop and smell the roses,’” he laughed. “And trust me: coffee tastes better when you walk and catch transit than when you drink it in a car.”
The MARTA Explorer Instagram is a testament to those opportunities that await all of us who are going somewhere but are willing to take a look around when we arrive at our stop.
Interested in trying transit? If you are a Downtown commuter who uses transit no more than once a week, you can register for our Dump the Pump incentive program. Beyond the month of June, CAP continues to work with Downtown commuters through our Connect Downtown alternative commute program. Learn about all of the commute options that service Downtown commuters by exploring our website.