Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 20, 2018.
The facts about the transit plan still stand. But since then, Gwinnett has called a public referendum on joining MARTA for March 19. If approved, this plan would be the basis for new projects.
You can also read up-to-date coverage of the upcoming MARTA referendum at The AJC’s comprehensive voter’s guide. Early voting starts Feb. 25.
Yes, Gwinnett’s transit plan — the comprehensive study meant to guide Georgia’s second-largest county well into the future — includes a bit of the heavy rail that’s long been a topic of conversation.
And yes, the plan includes a key stretch of bus rapid transit near the bustling I-85 corridor.
But officials say there’s much, much more than that, too.
“We really are working to make it a balanced plan, geographically and also in terms of different modes that we provide,” said Gwinnett DOT director Alan Chapman, who is spearheading the project.
Most people have heard at least a little bit about the main proposals, like laying down roughly four miles of rail to connect a new “multimodal hub” on Jimmy Carter Boulevard with the Doraville MARTA station and the plan to offer bus rapid transit (BRT) — or “light rail on rubber tires,” as they call it — between that same hub and the Infinite Energy Center.
But here’s a closer look at what else is in Gwinnett’s $5.4 billion transit plan.
Keep in mind the plan is not yet finalized, and county officials are still taking public comment at a handful of upcoming meetings and community events. The plan also would need to be adopted by the county commission, and its implementation is largely dependent on residents’ approval of a yet-to-be-scheduled referendum on a new 30-year, transit-funding sales tax.
• In addition to the initial BRT route planned between Norcross and the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, BRT could also eventually extend east near Ga. 316 and into downtown Lawrenceville.
It could also stretch north down Pleasant Hill Road then west through Berkeley Lake and Peachtree Corners.
• In the Snellville area, plans call for the early implementation of local bus routes down U.S. 78 into DeKalb County, perhaps to the Indian Creek MARTA station. Those routes could later be converted into bus rapid transit, Chapman said — “probably early in the long-range part of the plan.”
There are also plans for a new park-and-ride (and corresponding Express bus service) further east in Loganville.
• There’s also the idea of creating an extensive corridor for rapid bus service, which is different from bus rapid transit in that it doesn’t operate in dedicated lanes.
A possible loop would stretch from Snellville down Ga. 124 to Lawrenceville, then down Ga. 20 to Buford. It would cross I-85 and I-985 near the Mall of Georgia before swinging back around down the I-85 corridor through the Suwanee and Duluth areas.
One arm of the route would then swing back south through Lilburn and back to Snellville. The other could run down Ga. 141 through Peachtree Corners — and then north up Holcomb Bridge Road and into Fulton County and the Ga. 400 area.
• New park-and-rides are also planned along Ga. 316 near Dacula and Lawrenceville.
“There’s a lot of traffic entering Gwinnett on 316, and it continues to build. So we’d like to catch people early and get them either on our or GRTA’s express buses at each location,” Chapman said. In all, six new park-and-rides are proposed throughout the county.
• Gwinnett’s transit plan also proposes a substantial “Direct Connect” system. Cristina Pastore — a consultant with Kimley Horn, which has helped Gwinnett fashion its transit plan — explained that offering as “a little bit of a hybrid between an Express service and more local service.”
“It basically connects multiple different park-and-rides and goes and picks people up like an Express route does, but it terminates at a rail station, and it actually runs in both directions throughout the day,” Pastore said.
The long-term map included in Gwinnett’s plan calls for such routes up parts of Ga. 316, I-85 and I-985 toward the new multimodal transit hub near Norcross. Another route could stretch from a new Peachtree Corners park-and-ride to Doraville and the Perimeter area.
• Plans also call for creating and expanding what officials are calling flex service — an on-demand bus service (think the size of hotel shuttles) that would pick up riders within a certain area in order to connect them with the larger transit system.
Short-term plans call for flex zones near Buford and Snellville. Eventually, they would include parts of the Lawrenceville, Dacula, Grayson, Suwanee and Duluth areas, too.
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