Atlanta's Yellow Line Has Some Asians Seeing Red

There are seven colors in a rainbow and 64 in a box of crayons. So why, some people in Atlanta are asking, did the transit authority have to pick yellow?

"Hotlanta" is living up to its name this winter as Asian-Americans and the city's transit officials debate the decision to rename a train route into the heart of the city's Asian community. It used to be called "Doraville," now it's the "yellow line."

Activists say the name shows a lack of sensitivity by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), which changed the line's name on Oct. 1. MARTA officials plan to meet on Friday with a group of Asian-Americans to discuss their concerns about the color-coded system.

Some advocates say the city should spend an as yet undetermined amount of taxpayer money to change the color to ... wait for it ... gold.

"Our thought is, why don't you change it to gold? It's really more of a 'why not?' question. Why not change it?" said Helen Kim, director of advocacy and education at the nonprofit Pan Asian Center for Community Services.

Kim said the "offensive term" could be easily erased from the line's 18 stops by renaming it all over again.

"They don't need to redo the maps, it could literally be a sticker that goes over the map," Kim said. "I'd like to see the numbers — what is the cost?"

Cara Hodgson, a MARTA spokeswoman, said the transit agency is in the process of determining costs associated with the possibility of changing the line's name for the second time in less than six months.

"We just don't have a number yet," Hodgson said. "We're working on it as we speak."

She said the line was originally named Doraville because that was the station at the end of the line.

"In changing to color-coded rail lines, MARTA wanted to enhance the ease of navigating the system and better align with industry trends," a statement from the transit agency read. "MARTA researched transit maps from throughout the world and found that many national and international systems use primary colors including yellow. Based on this research, MARTA decided to use primary colors."

MARTA also has a red line, a green line and a blue line. Several other cities — including San Francisco, Tokyo and Washington — utilize yellow within their color-coded systems.

Transit officials say they are looking forward to an "open and constructive dialogue" on Friday, but some critics think the growing controversy is political correctness gone off the rails.

"It's not a term, it's a color," said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank based in Phoenix.

"Should we outlaw yellow jackets, yellow traffic lights? How about the white nights of summer solstice? This is manufactured offense when clearly no offense is intended."

Not all Asian-Americans in the city are offended. Among them is Gary Gung, co-owner of Atlanta's Amigo Electronics.

"What difference does it make if it's yellow, gold or black?" he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Make the issue about the economy or something else more important."

Wendell Cox, senior fellow for transportation policy at the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Chicago, noted that a former MARTA employee, John Yasutake, voiced concerns regarding the name change during a staff meeting on Sept. 1, a month before the name change.

"This is much bigger than political correctness," Cox said. "The point is, if MARTA had been doing its job, this would never have happened. People inside MARTA raised this issue.

"The fact is, it hurts people when they perceive that they are being called names, regardless whether they are Asian, African-Americans or Latinos. I would certainly hope that MARTA will recognize the error in its ways."