Gainesville-to-Atlanta train, all aboard!

One of the tantalizing “what-ifs” surrounding a possible Amtrak station in Doraville is the potential for Gainesville to gain instant train access to the Atlanta airport.

If, as some suggest, the old GM auto assembly plant can be redeveloped to include an Amtrak station, it would link intercity passenger rail to the existing Doraville MARTA station. Local MARTA and Xpress bus service, too.

Amtrak’s Crescent Line stops through Gainesville and Atlanta every day on its way from New York City to New Orleans. A train departs Gainesville at 6:58 a.m. and arrives in Atlanta at 8:13 a.m. (a trip to Doraville would probably arrive sooner at about 8 a.m.).

Going outbound, the train departs Atlanta at 8:04 p.m. and arrives in Gainesville at 8:59 p.m.

“With the trains coming in so early in the morning and leaving late at night, it’s not ideal for commuting,” said Lee Biola, president of Citizens for Progressive Transit. “But it would work if you’re going on an airport trip. You could arrange your flights to match up with those trains.”

Let’s take a closer look at just the morning trip.

Upon arriving in Doraville, a passenger could board a MARTA train bound for the airport at — perhaps the 8:04 a.m. if they’re fleet-footed. If not, then they could catch the 8:14 or 8:25 a.m. train. Even if they caught the latest of those three, the MARTA train would reach the airport by 9:06 a.m. All totaled, the commute from Gainesville would be a maximum of 2 hours and 8 minutes long, or perhaps as short as an hour and 45 minutes if the two train arrivals and departures were closely synchronized.

By comparison, it takes about an hour and a half to drive from Gainesville to the airport, even longer in morning rush-hour traffic. But the train would not only bypass traffic, it would alleviate long-term parking concerns.

The round-trip fare on Amtrak is $32. (MARTA, of course, would be $2.50 each way).

It starts to look like a pretty viable option for North Georgia travelers.

Those who would be involved in making the station a reality caution that it’s only an idea. Any discussions have been very informal.

Egbert Perry, CEO of The Integral Group LLC, leads a development team that purchased the old GM plant just off I-285 between Buford Highway and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. He said this week that the 165-acre site could accommodate a multimodal station. Norfolk Southern, Amtrak, MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation would have to work together to get funding and draw up plans.