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Commuters, Olympic Visitors Compete for Parking As Games Approach

July 16, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The first race of the Atlanta Olympics is over. The early birds won.

Commuters battled with out-of-towners for precious parking spaces at rapid rail stations Monday, the start of what is expected to be Olympic-related traffic troubles.

The earlier you got there, the better.

With officials closing off downtown to nearly all cars once the games begin Friday, a crush of commuters already were flocking to the public transit systems.

Some workers who opted instead for a special shuttle bus service to carry them downtown faced delays as long as two hours, and early arrivals were not so lucky.

``I’m furious,″ said Margaret Callier, who waited in a Cobb County parking lot from 4:15 a.m. to 5:25 a.m. before she caught a ride.

Bob Murphy, vice president of Harmon Brothers Charter Service, which is running the buses, said the system was overwhelmed with early riders on its first day.

``Most people showed up between 5 and 6:30 (a.m.),″ he said. ``It wasn’t spread out between 5 and 8:30, as we thought.″ Buses will be added to heavily traveled routes Tuesday in hopes of solving the problem, he added.

Despite the crush of commuters who left their cars outside the downtown Olympic ring, traffic remained moderately heavy headed into the city. Still, most freeways were running smoothly, said Karlene Barron of the state Transportation Management Center.

Parking lots quickly filled up at six rail stations on the north and northeast sides of the metro area, said Laura Gillig, a spokeswoman for the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

``Today’s (Monday) really the day we’re expecting crunch day,″ she said.

Plenty of parking space was still available at MARTA stations on the east side of town, but passengers there said they don’t expect their good luck to carry them through the week.

``Once people find out there’s spaces here, you won’t be able to find a space,″ said MARTA rider Margaret Lee of Decatur.

MARTA’s ridership, normally about 500,000 on a commuting day, has been increasing steadily for about two weeks.

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