Atlanta’s transit agency hopes to bring a fresh scent to its stations. MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, has found that some of its elevators have been used as urinals, and smell like it.

At the recent State of MARTA breakfast, MARTA CEO Keith Parker told a story about how a visitor from New York told him that MARTA needs to see how they clean the elevators in NYC. “We heard them and came up with an idea on how we can do things better,” said Parker.

So in a pilot program, the agency installed a urine detection device (UDD) in an elevator in one of its Midtown stations. The detector system has 10 small sensors on each side of the elevator at its base. If a person relieves her or himself, the sensors sound the alarm, and the MARTA police will be there in seconds to catch the offender in the act. Improved lighting and a camera installed as part of the program will help police document any urination violations.

What has been almost a daily problem dropped to one reported infraction during the one-month testing program. An arrest was made in that incident. Warning signs (see image at right) that accompany the detector may have helped deter potential violators during the pilot program.

"If you've ever been in a Porta Potty, that's what it smelled like before," said MARTA Director of Elevators/Escalators Tom Beebe. He told GPN that MARTA plans to begin installing sensors in other elevators, with the goal to have them in all 111 Marta elevators at a cost of about $1 million. “We will place the UDDs in all public use elevators that number about 89. Some of our elevator units are in headquarters, administrative and maintenance buildings.” 

In the photo at the right: the elevator at the North Ave. MARTA train station.   

Lift Components, from Leicester, England, is providing the UDD system to MARTA. It's going to cost the agency about $10,000 to outfit each elevator with the urine detection device.

To help solve the odor problem, MARTA recently reopened public restrooms at four of its 38 stations. The majority of restrooms were closed in 2010 due to budget constraints. Those that remained open had limited hours and required an attendant with a key.

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