Micro-transit in Norcross area set to begin in September

In Norcross the route hits places like the Georgia Department of Labor, the Amazon Distribution Center and a shopping plaza.

Credit: City of Norcross

Credit: City of Norcross

In Norcross the route hits places like the Georgia Department of Labor, the Amazon Distribution Center and a shopping plaza.

After a contentious Norcross City Council meeting on the issue last month, a government-backed ride share service is set to begin in September in and around the city.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners unanimously granted final approval to a contract with the city and the Gateway85 Community Improvement District to fund the Southwest Gwinnett Microtransit Pilot.

The contract provides four micro-transit buses that each carry nine passengers. The buses will operate on demand, providing curb-to-curb service within an area that includes the Target on Holcomb Bridge Road, the Global Mall, the Walmart on Jimmy Carter Boulevard and the Amazon distribution center off Interstate 85. About 36,500 people live in the zone, according the the Gwinnett County Department of Transportation.

Passengers can use the Ride Gwinnett app or call to book $3 rides.

The buses will operate Monday through Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., according to the county.

It will cost an estimated $1.3 million to run the program through July 2025, with the county and Gateway85 CID each paying 44%, or more than $565,000. Norcross will pay the remaining 12%, about $154,000, after the city council narrowly approved the contract amid concerns about the cost.

The county commission is planning to place a penny sales tax on the November ballot that would fund most of a $17 billion transit expansion plan, including micro-transit zones that would eventually cover all of Gwinnett.

The Norcross-area micro-transit zone includes the two lowest-income census tracts in Gwinnett County, said District 1 Commissioner Kirkland Carden, who represents most of the area. People without transit options could use the service to get to school, work, medical appointments and other places, he said.

“This is economic development,” Carden told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This is people who desperately need it.”

Micro-transit zones already operate in the Snellville and Lawrenceville areas. Gwinnett has also received grant funding to implement a zone in the area of Buford and Suwanee.

After the Norcross City Council voted to contribute less to the pilot project than originally planned, Carden said he met with county and CID officials to get them to make up the difference.

All the county commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting thanked city and Gateway85 CID officials for their collaboration.

“This is really going to impact a lot of southwest Gwinnett county,” Norcross Mayor Pro Tempore Bruce Gaynor said. “We can be all proud of ourselves for having gotten to this point.”

Carden is running for re-election in November. When he was first elected four years ago to the county commission, most of the Norcross area was not in his district. He nevertheless cast the vote as a fulfillment of a campaign promise to expand transit services to people in need.

“This is going to be good for Gwinnettians,” Carden said. “This is a test run for what can happen if voters choose to approve the referendum later this year.”

The Norcross area has a large Hispanic population and many Hispanic-run businesses and restaurants. The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce worked with Gateway85 CID to advocate for micro-transit, said Antonio Molina, a representative of the business organization.

“Our community needs it badly,” Molina said. “Hopefully this is just the beginning of something great.”