GRTA seeks to improve service by shifting bus stops in urban core, adding wi-fi and location app

By David Pendered

GRTA is implementing its long-studied plans to improve service on every route of its Xpress Commuter Coach Service and has posted staff throughout Downtown Atlanta and Midtown to help passengers adjust to changes in the locations of bus stops.

GRTA bus

GRTA is making major changes in routes this week in an effort to attract more riders. GRTA also has added wi-fi on buses and created an app to help riders plan their trips. File/Credit: GRTA

The service changes were approved in May by the board that oversees GRTA. They took effect Tuesday. GRTA has attempted to make sure its customers were aware of the changes well before they took effect the first work-day after Labor Day.

“Our staff has been working hard to ensure all of our customers are aware of the impacts to their route,” GRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said in a statement. “We are committed to making this change a positive experience for our riders and will be on-hand to provide a smooth transition to their new commute.”

According to GRTA, highlights of the service adjustments include:

  • “Expanded service hours and trip frequencies on high-demand routes
  • “Streamlined routing patterns through Downtown Atlanta, designed to allow buses to move through the city more quickly and reliably
  • “New pay-as-you-exit policy in the afternoon where customers pay when they get off the coach at their park-and-ride lot instead of as they board designed to get customers on the bus and out of town faster
  • “Direct service to Perimeter Center from Cumming.
GRTA app

GRTA’s mobile app aims to provide customers with the necessary information to make timely commutes on the Xpress bus system. Credit: itunes.apple.com

“We are excited about the improved Xpress service and I am confident that our customers will experience a better commute,” Tomlinson said. “Long term, these improvements will lead to greater ridership and a more valuable service for metro Atlanta commuters.”

The route changes that took effect Tuesday were approved in May by the board that oversees GRTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

GRTA provides about 2 million trips per year to commuters in 12 counties in metro Atlanta. GRTA serves passengers from a total of 44 counties, some of whom travel into the GRTA service district and park at one of GRTA’s 30 park-and-ride lots.

Technology upgrades are part of the service enhancements GRTA is implementing in an effort to boost a ridership seems to have plateaued. GRTA h

GRTA has equipped all of its coaches with free wi-fi.

GRTA bus runs redlight

GRTA’s new routes are intended, in part, to ensure that bus drivers don’t block intersection, follow the law and are courteous toward vehicles, bicyclists and and pedestrians. File/Credit: David Pendered

In addition, a new mobile app provides passengers with real-time service information and location of the bus the passenger is awaiting. The app serves both Android and Apple devices. It was launched May 9 and operates under the version released at its launch, according to its page on iTunes.

Reviews of the app are a mixed bag, according to the few reviews posted on Apple’s iTunes page.

A five-star review by JavaChip$&@ observed:

  • “I’ve been riding Xpress/GRTA for a couple years now. It’s been pretty frustrating for a bus to be late and not have any idea when (or if) the bus will show up.
  • “I’ve used the app for a day now and I’m already completely hooked. Well done!”

A one-star review by Doug is Doug indicates three separate observations:

  • “Update after two months: App doesn’t appear to work anymore.
  • “Update after a month: This app is so slow and buggy that using it is almost worse than not having it available at all! I sincerely hope you wrote a performance guarantee into your contract for this.
  • “Original review: So glad to have this service, and I will use the app every day. But it’s slow & buggy, and the UX is a mess. Wish you would just make your data available to existing transit apps that work better.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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