Clayton chairman: Bus rapid transit ‘a good alternative’ for county

MARTA eyes rapid buses for East Point-to-Lovejoy line

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

MARTA says Indianapolis offers the kind of rapid bus service metro Atlanta residents can expect.

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week, MARTA cites bus rapid transit in Indianapolis as the kind of service metro Atlanta residents can expect as the agency builds similar transit lines here in coming years.

MARTA led a delegation of Clayton County officials to Indiana last week to check out the service. At least one Clayton County official was impressed.

“I like what I saw,” County Commission Chairman Jeffrey Turner told the AJC. “I do believe it’s a good alternative for Clayton County.”

Bus rapid transit is designed to mimic rail lines. Passengers board at stations and pay before they board. The buses operate mostly in exclusive lanes, which allow them to bypass traffic.

MARTA says bus rapid transit is almost as fast as light rail but costs substantially less. Rail supporters say it’s the better choice in the long run to encourage the dense urban development Atlanta needs to accommodate hundreds of thousands of new residents in coming years.

MARTA plans to build at least one bus rapid transit line in Clayton County, from College Park station to Southlake Mall. The Federal Transit Administration has accepted that project into its funding pipeline. If all goes well, the $338 million line could open in December 2026.

MARTA had planned a commuter rail line between East Point station and Lovejoy. But those plans seemed to fall apart last year when the Norfolk Southern railroad refused to allow the passenger line in its corridor.

Now MARTA is trying to sell Clayton officials on a bus rapid transit line along the route. The agency took a Clayton delegation to Indianapolis to see how bus rapid transit works.

Turner said he was impressed.

“It was very informative and insightful,” he said of the trip. “You can always talk about bus rapid transit and read up on it and see the videos. But when you actually see it in person, it gives you a different perspective.”

Turner said the community still must talk through the project to reach agreement on what’s best. A MARTA briefing document obtained by the AJC suggests public outreach could begin in October.

“At the end of the day, it’s about making sure the project is done right,” Turner said.

The briefing said bus rapid transit on the East Point-to-Lovejoy Corridor would cost $582 million — far less than the $2.4 billion cost of building commuter rail outside the Norfolk Southern corridor. The line could be completed in 2030.

The briefing says commuter rail is “likely not achievable” and support for bus rapid transit “needs to be built.”

You can read more about bus rapid transit in Indianapolis and in metro Atlanta here.