New Chamblee-to-Athens commuter bus among region’s transit priorities

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

A new commuter bus route from MARTA’s Chamblee station to Athens is among the region’s priorities for possible state funding.

On Thursday the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority approved a list of 17 projects to submit to the governor’s office and the General Assembly for possible state funding next year. The list also includes major transit lines such as the proposed Clifton Corridor and Campbellton Road line in Atlanta, new transfer centers in Cobb County and new buses for Douglas County.

There’s no guarantee any of the projects will receive state funding. But the General Assembly in recent years has shown it’s willing to spend money on public transportation. Earlier this year it included $6 million in the state budget to renovate MARTA’s Bankhead station, and in 2018 it included $100 million in the state bond package for bus rapid transit on Ga. 400.

Three years ago lawmakers also created the regional transit authority, known informally as the ATL Board. The board oversees transit planning and funding in a 13-county area. Among other things, it’s charged with recommending projects for state funding.

It produced its first list of nine projects last year. Except for the Bankhead station renovation, none received funding. On Thursday it added 17 more projects to its list of priorities:

The list includes three new MARTA high-capacity transit lines: the Clifton Corridor light-rail line, the Campbellton Road line (which could be light rail or bus rapid transit) and a proposed bus rapid transit line in Clayton County. The list also includes MARTA station renovations and roofing repairs.

It includes proposed Cumberland and Marietta transfer centers in Cobb County and four Douglas County projects: commuter vanpool vehicles, fixed-route vehicles, paratransit vehicles and bus shelters/passenger amenities. It also includes a pilot program for on-demand transit service to supplement MARTA service for overnight workers in the area of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The list includes five Gwinnett County projects: a Gwinnett Place transit center, buses for a new route between Georgia Gwinnett College and Snellville, a Buford/Suwanee on-demand transit zone, a Dacula/Lawrenceville on-demand transit zone and a commuter bus route to Athens.

Many details of the Athens route — including cost-sharing arrangements among various jurisdictions — must be determined. But it would run every 60 minutes on weekdays from the Chamblee station, stopping at various park-and-ride lots along I-85 and Ga. 316. Construction is expected to start in 2023.

A decision on which — if any — of the projects receive state funding is months away. Gov. Brian Kemp will propose a new budget in January, and the General Assembly will approve a final version in the spring.