Countdown to start for public comment on GRTA’s first major overhaul of bus service

By David Pendered

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with later data.

Starting next week, the public will have its final chance to comment on GRTA’s first major overhaul since its bus service started in 2004. GRTA plans to implement new bus routes that affect all service corridors on Sept. 6.

GRTA bus

GRTA’s Xpress bus service is due for its first major overhaul of routes since service started in 2004. File/Credit: GRTA

“These changes are to make service more effective, to respond to things that our existing customers have been asking for,” GRTA spokesman Matt Markham said Monday. “They also will set us up, for the long term, to be more responsive to the needs of commuters across metro Atlanta.”

Public comment is open from March 21 through April 19. Public hearings are scheduled on March 29 and March 31. Information on the proposals is to be available March 21 on GRTA’s Xpress website.

GRTA has been working toward these changes since January 2014.

GRTA hired a consultant, Nelson\Nygaard, to devise ways to improve service within budget constraints. The firm produced a vision that GRTA’s board adopted in August 2015. The vision is weighted toward:

  • Enhanced frequency from park and ride lots;
  • Longer hours of service to Downtown and Midtown;
  • New service routes to the Perimeter business district;
  • Simplifying routes by having all routes have a consistent pattern of “stops” in Midtown and Downtown Atlanta.
GRTA's public hearings

GRTA has scheduled two public hearings for proposed bus service changes. One is in Downtown Atlanta and one is in Midtown. Credit: GRTA, David Pendered

GRTA had a vision, but no handy means to implement it. GRTA brought in Parsons Brinkerhoff to help develop the operational aspects to make the changes.

Parsons Brinkerhoff presented a report on March 9 to the board that oversees GRTA.

“We’ve been working on the operational plan – where the bus stops go, what the final routing will be, getting the operational plan out for public comment,” Markham said. “The final step will be board adoption.”

The consultant’s 23-page report contains 10 pages of maps that provide details of proposed changes to bus routes on corridors leading into jobs centers in Downtown Atlanta, Midtown, and the Perimeter business district.

The report makes a long-term recommendation for flattening the fare structure. Among the proposals are raising the one-way fare for routes 408 and 410 by 25 cents, to $4, and reducing the 31-ride pass by $5, to $125. The changes are presented on pages 17 and 18 of the report.

In addition, the proposal calls for passengers to pay their fares at the end of the trip. The goal is to hasten the rate of passengers boarding the bus. The notion is that some passengers don’t have their payment readily available when they board, but will have it hand when they step off the bus.

Here are highlights of route changes proposed for the job centers:

GRTA, downtown service changes

GRTA plans to eliminate service in the western area of Downtown Atlanta and reroute service in the eastern area. Credit: GRTA

Downtown Atlanta

  • New routes will operate mainly along two parallel streets: Peachtree Center Avenue and Courtland Street;
  • All routes will continue have access to MARTA rail stations;
  • Stops near Centennial Park and Spring, Marietta and Forsyth streets are being relocated because buses get stuck driving on those narrow streets, making them run late. Passengers will have to walk a bit farther to a stop.

Midtown

  • Common service patterns for all routes, where practical and feasible;
  • Stops located about every two blocks, as needed, near jobs centers;
  • Maintain connections with MARTA, Gwinnett County Transit, Cobb County Transit at MARTA’s Civic Center, North Avenue, Midtown, and Arts Center rail stations.

Perimeter business district

  • Common service patterns for all routes, where practical and feasible;
  • Stops located about every two blocks, as needed, near jobs centers;
  • Maintain connections with MARTA, Gwinnett County Transit, Cobb County Transit at MARTA’s Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, and Medical Center rail stations.
GRTA plans to locate stops every two blocks in Midtown, as needed, and maintain stops at MARTA stations where passengers shift to other transit systems. Credit: GRTA

GRTA plans to locate stops every two blocks in Midtown, as needed, and maintain stops at MARTA stations where passengers shift to other transit systems. Credit: GRTA

GRTA service changes, perimeter

GRTA intends to realign service in the Perimeter business district and maintain stops at MARTA stations where passengers transfer to other systems. Credit: GRTA

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.

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.