Fulton offers free MARTA rides to county workers after I-85 collapse

This southbound MARTA train was full but not over crowded as it headed south from North Springs station. Passengers on both the Red and Blues lines were saying parking lots were full. A portion of I-85 remains closed because of Thursday’s fire and bridge collapse. Fulton County plans to provide free rides for employees and jurors. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC File Photo

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This southbound MARTA train was full but not over crowded as it headed south from North Springs station. Passengers on both the Red and Blues lines were saying parking lots were full. A portion of I-85 remains closed because of Thursday’s fire and bridge collapse. Fulton County plans to provide free rides for employees and jurors. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC File Photo

In an effort to keep cars off the road in the aftermath of the collapse of a portion of I-85, Fulton County plans to fully subsidize MARTA and GRTA rides for county employees for two months, until the road is repaired.

The Georgia Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it expected I-85 to reopen June 15. A section of the interstate has been closed since a massive Thursday evening fire destroyed part of the highway.

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The Georgia Department of Transportation said demolition work at the site is about 80 percent complete.

Fulton County also will allow more flexible work time and has created remote workspaces for employees. In addition,MARTA passes will be made available to jurors who must come downtown.

“We’re doing our part to try to keep people off the roads, and we hope other large employers and service organizations will follow our example,” said Commissioner Liz Hausmann, who represents part of North Fulton. “I hope members of our community who have never used MARTA or GRTA take advantage of that.”

Brian Carr, a spokesman for the Midtown Alliance, said nine companies had reached out to enroll in that organization’s discounted pass program.

The details of Fulton’s plan are still being finalized, but Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said employees should be able to access the free passes in the coming days.

About 500 of the county's 4,500 employees commute to work on MARTA now, Eaves said, adding that he hopes to double that number. Dick Anderson, the county manager, said providing two months of fully subsidized MARTA and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority express bus passes likely will cost the county $100,000. He expects the passes for jurors will cost between $25,000 and $30,000.

“There’s a cost for it, but there’s also a benefit,” Eaves said.

Anderson said some of the cost may be paid for with federal funds.

Everyone who receives a jury summons should receive a separate letter that includes a Breeze ticket with two rides, said Todd Long, Fulton’s chief operations officer. He hopes that will encourage more county residents to consider using public transportation, whether or not they have to report for jury duty. Between 800 and 1,000 people come downtown weekly for jury duty.

“I do believe this is an opportunity for Fulton County and its citizens to do things somewhat differently going forward,” said Gail Tusan, chief judge of the Fulton County Superior Court.

Eaves said he had asked Central Atlanta Progress to station some downtown ambassadors at the Five Points MARTA station to help new MARTA riders navigate their way around downtown.

In addition to encouraging employees and jurors to use public transportation, Fulton leaders announced:

  • Flex time: Employees, after conversations with their managers, will be able to start as early as 6 a.m. or as late as 10 a.m. to better distribute cars outside of rush hour.
  • Telecommuting: Fulton workers will have more flexibility to work from home.
  • Flexible workspace: The county has opened up desks in North Fulton at the Johns Creek Environmental Campus and the Maxwell Road office to allow about 50 workers to work remotely.

The benefits will be available to all county employees, regardless of where they live in the metro area.

Additionally, Anderson reiterated that many of the services that residents might come downtown for can be handled online, or at Fulton’s north and south annexes, at 7741 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs and 5600 Stonewall Tell Road in College Park.

Hausmann urged commuters who are still driving downtown to “pack your patience” and consider other options as they travel to and from Atlanta.

“It’s going to be a pain. We know that,” Long said. “Our function as government is to try to make that pain as least as possible.”