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First sign of the ATL: Xpress bus system moving to Breeze cards in 2018

By David Pendered

The Xpress commuter bus system that operates in 12 metro counties is phasing out its magnetic ticket system as of Dec. 31 and shifting to the Breeze card. The move is an early step in the effort to unify the transit systems that serve metro Atlanta.

GRTA bus

Fares on Xpress buses will be collected via Breeze cards and cash, once magnetic tickets are phased out on Dec. 31. File/Credit: GRTA

“Moving to Breeze is part of our efforts to build a better regional transit experience for our riders,” Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, said in a statement.

“Passengers can travel on MARTA, CobbLinc and Gwinnett County Transit using one Breeze Card,” Tomlinson said. “Use of one card offers more convenience and management for our passengers because they can track use of their cards via their online accounts.”

The shift comes as Tomlinson is delivering presentations to county officials on the ATL, the newly created Atlanta Regional Transit Link Authority. Tomlinson serves as interim director of the ATL and also directs SRTA and GRTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

The timeline for the conversion calls for Xpress magnetic tickets to be sold through Aug. 31. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, no Xpress magnetic tickets will be accepted. Cash will continue to be accepted.

Passengers will be able to continue buying the same passes (31-day, 10 ride and roundtrip discounts) on Breeze, Fares will not be affected by the conversion, according to SRTA.

SRTA contends passengers will notice a number of improvements to their riding experience after the system shifts to Breeze cards. Passengers are expected to board more quickly, reducing or eliminating the waiting line. Riders who lose a Breeze card will not lose money, because the value is stored in the system rather than the card. The Breeze card allows Xpress and MARTA riders to transfer between systems for free, up to four transfers in any three-hour period.

chris tomlinson, edit

Chris Tomlinson

Xpress, now operated by SRTA, provides 27 routes in 12 metro counties and transports more than 1.8 million a year, according the SRTA. The routes serve major employment centers in Downtown Atlanta, Midtown, and the Perimeter Center.

When Tomlinson delivered his presentation on the ATL to GRTA’s board of directors on May 10, he observed the ATL will improve transit service in metro Atlanta even if voters do not approve any additional funding for transit. The legislation that created the ATL authorizes voters to consider increasing transit funding in their area.

By way of explaining the service improvements, Tomlinson said buses operated by various entities are to be managed so that they arrive at shared stations at about the same time. This will result in, for instance, buses managed by MARTA and CCT arriving at a shared station at close to the same time, so that passengers can continue their commute more expeditiously.

The scenario spoke directly to the legendary trip Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) took in 2013 from Kennesaw State University to Gwinnett Arena. The trip took more than three hours and he encountered multiple payment systems that are used by CCT, MARTA and Gwinnett County Transit. Brandon said each system was clean and well operated, but that spending more than three hours to make the trip was not an efficient way to move commuters around the region.

For more information visit this page on SRTA’s website.


David Pendered

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.


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  1. Carl Holt May 24, 2018 2:47 pm

    MARTA has to continue to shoulder the burden of funding O&M of the BreezeCard system.Report

  2. No Half Measures May 27, 2018 4:55 am

    I am amazed that this isn’t already the case. GRTA should have done this AGES ago, it certainly shouldn’t have been dependent on new legislation. Same goes for the idea of coordinating bus arrival times for better transfers. What about the new law made that more feasible than it was before? It’s a completely common sense thing to do, it’s dumb that it wasn’t already happening.

    I fear the half measure of the silly “ATL” bureaucracy will do nothing but result in incredibly minor things like this that should have been done already.Report

  3. Prince Jereme May 29, 2018 11:36 am

    Interestingly enough, the Xpress Buses already have the Breeze Card reader installed. I’ve been using it since 2016.Report


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