Metro Atlanta trains and buses: One agency to rule them all?

MARTA is one of several agencies that provide transit service in metro Atlanta.
MARTA is one of several agencies that provide transit service in metro Atlanta.

Frustrated by having to transfer between buses or trains operated by different metro Atlanta transit systems? Confused about which bus operated by which agency takes you where?

Two legislative committees feel your pain.

The state House and Senate are both studying the possibility of consolidating the region’s alphabet soup of agencies that provide local and regional transit service. Some – like CobbLinc and Gwinnett County Transit – serve single counties. Others – like MARTA – serve multiple counties. Still others – like the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority – provide service across much of the region.

Some lawmakers believe they can find efficiencies – and customers would get better service – if those agencies were combined or at least better coordinated.

“You go downtown today. You’ll see a GRTA bus, a MARTA bus, a Gwinnett Transit bus,” state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, said Monday. “How much are we confusing the public? Which bus are you supposed to ride?”

Beach spoke after the final meeting of the Senate Regional Transit Solutions Study Committee. Its House counterpart will hold its final meeting Wednesday. Both are expected to produce recommendations before the legislative session begins in January.

It’s not clear what the final recommendations will look like, and how much will be done – if anything – to consolidate agencies in the upcoming session.

The chairman of the Senate committee, Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, doesn’t believe elected officials should design some master transit agency. Instead, he favors bringing in a consultant to work with the existing players to move the consolidation process forward.

But Gooch believes it must move forward.

“There’s too many moving parts,” Gooch said at Monday’s meeting. “There has to be savings. There has to be opportunities we haven’t discovered.”