MARTA moves ahead with bus rapid transit line in Atlanta

MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would operate in bus-only lanes for 85% of its route.

Combined ShapeCaption
MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would operate in bus-only lanes for 85% of its route.

Summerhill line would include region’s first rapid buses — but not its last

MARTA is moving forward with plans for its first bus rapid transit line — a type of transit expected to spread across metro Atlanta in coming years.

The Summerhill line along Hank Aaron Drive and Capitol Avenue in Atlanta would connect the southside Beltline trail to the Georgia Capitol, Five Points station and City Hall. It would operate mostly in bus-only lanes, would have priority at traffic signals and would otherwise keep passengers moving faster than a regular bus.

MARTA is finishing the final design for the project and will begin construction next year. The line would open in 2025. In the meantime, it’s sharing its plans and seeking feedback from neighborhood residents.

The Summerhill line would be the region’s first taste of bus rapid transit, but it won’t be the last. Similar projects are planned elsewhere in Atlanta, in Clayton and Gwinnett counties and along the top of the Perimeter.

“I’m excited about the bus rapid transit project,” said Atlanta resident Tejas Kotak, who attended a Tuesday night meeting for neighborhood residents. “I think it’s rather important that MARTA gets it right.”

Bus rapid transit mimics rail lines — buses operate in exclusive lanes, with limited stops and other features that keep passengers moving.

The $68 million Summerhill line would feature 16 stops along a 5-mile round trip between the Beltline and Five Points. It would operate in bus-only lanes for 85% of the route, though it would run in mixed traffic through parts of downtown.

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MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would run from the southside Atlanta Beltline trail to Five Points station.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would run from the southside Atlanta Beltline trail to Five Points station.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Combined ShapeCaption
MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would run from the southside Atlanta Beltline trail to Five Points station.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

The buses would run every 10 minutes at rush hour and every 15 minutes at other times. It would take 12 to 15 minutes to travel from one end of the route to the other.

Passengers would pay at vending machines before boarding at stations that include real-time passenger information, seats, maps, security cameras and other amenities.

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MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would feature 16 stations with real-time passenger information, seating, cameras and other amenities.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would feature 16 stations with real-time passenger information, seating, cameras and other amenities.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Combined ShapeCaption
MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would feature 16 stations with real-time passenger information, seating, cameras and other amenities.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Though it would not connect directly with any rail station, the Summerhill line would run near the Georgia State, Five Points and Garnett stations. Passengers would need to walk a short distance to get to the rail stations.

That concerns the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association.

“This BRT route cannot succeed in isolation,” the association wrote in a letter to MARTA prepared Tuesday night. “It needs to be planned to connect with other transit lines and expanded to serve other destinations.”

Combined ShapeCaption
MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would operate in bus-only lanes for 85 percent of its route.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would operate in bus-only lanes for 85 percent of its route.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Combined ShapeCaption
MARTA's Summerhill bus rapid transit line would operate in bus-only lanes for 85 percent of its route.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

The association is also concerned that operating in mixed traffic in some areas will slow buses, and it wants MARTA to consider eliminating some of the proposed stations. It would also like to see other improvements along the route.

The project includes bike lanes and pedestrian improvements. Deputy project manager Mark Fahey told residents Tuesday night that MARTA will work with Atlanta officials and others to make sidewalk, lighting, crosswalk and other improvements.

Several residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they wanted more input on the design of the buses and other aspects of the new service.

“Tell me what I’m getting with this system,” Capitol View resident Brian Sumlin said.