Fulton County transit study details where bus, rail might go

4:55 p.m Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 Local
Expansion of transit options in Fulton County could include more bus service. AJC FILE PHOTO.

From MARTA-like heavy rail to a flex bus that changes its route depending on the day, residents in the north and south parts of Fulton County are warming to the idea of expanding transit in their cities.

The only questions are what kind, and where it should go.

Residents have answered the second half of the question, telling planners in a series of public meetings where they’d most like to hop on a bus or train. Now, it’s up to those leaders to match the transit method with the location.

They expect to finish the process by the end of the year, coming up with a list of recommendations to match the locations where residents say they’d like to travel.

GDOT says “says no idea is off the table” to explore solutions for heavy traffic

Residents in north Fulton want to see public transit options on Ga. 400, I-285, Old Milton Parkway, Windward Parkway and Holcomb Bridge, among other locations. In south Fulton, public transit is preferred on I-85, South Fulton Parkway, Fulton Industrial Boulevard, Camp Creek Parkway and Roosevelt Highway, to name a few.

At a Thursday meeting of Fulton County mayors, the Atlanta Regional Commission’s division manager of mobility services, Cain Williamson, said he and the consultants who are conducting the study had made a list of what might make sense on each corridor.

On Ga. 400, for example, it might be an extension of MARTA’s heavy rail. Light rail, which has less capacity and often runs with other traffic — like the Atlanta streetcar — is a possibility. So is bus rapid transit, buses that run on fixed routes.

But on Fulton Industrial Boulevard, bus rapid transit or frequent local bus service might make the most sense.

Through the end of October, cities will be holding a second round of public meetings to talk to residents more about what they might want, and what makes sense.

Jere Wood, the mayor of Roswell, said he doesn’t think there’s a subject in metro Atlanta more important than transit. When a bridge collapse on I-85 shut down parts of that highway for more than a month, he said, it showed residents how important MARTA really is. He expects construction work at the Ga. 400-I-285 interchange to do so, as well.

“Traffic’s going to get real bad,” Wood said. “We really do have a window of opportunity, with traffic getting worse.”

Fulton began the study after voters agreed last fall to pay a three-quarters-of-a-penny sales tax over five years to fund road, sidewalk and other transportation improvements outside Atlanta. Between April and July, the county collected nearly $31 million for its cities. They expect to collect as much as $655 million over the term of the tax.

A number of projects have already begun, including new sidewalks and bike lanes on Dogwood Drive in Hapeville, and plans in Johns Creek to widen McGinnis Ferry Road.

Whatever Fulton decides to do with transit, the $655 million will not be used for it. Instead, Fulton has the option to use a quarter-of-a-penny tax to fund transit in the near future, with the option to spend more of its new penny tax allotment for transit in the coming years.

Atlanta residents passed two separate transportation taxes last year, as well. The city expects to raise $2.5 billion over 40 years to fund MARTA expansion in Atlanta using a half-penny tax. A four-tenths of a penny tax over five years will raise more than $300 million for other transportation projects.

MARTA board chairman Robbie Ashe said some transit money has already been allocated. He said plans for bus rapid transit on Northside Drive are underway, and there have already been “significant enhancements” to bus service in the city.

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NORTH FULTON:

Ga. 400…..Heavy rail, light rail or bus rapid transit

I-285…..Light rail or bus rapid transit

Holcomb Bridge Road…..Bus rapid transit, frequent local bus service or local bus service

Old Milton Parkway…..Bus rapid transit, frequent local bus service or local bus service

Highway 141…..Bus rapid transit, frequent local bus service or local bus service

Highway 9…..Bus rapid transit, frequent local bus service or local bus service

Abernathy/Johnson Ferry Road…..Frequent local bus service or local bus service

Windward Parkway…..Local bus or flex bus

I-85…..Heavy rail, light rail or bus rapid transit

Roosevelt Highway/Highway 29…..Heavy rail, light rail or bus rapid transit

South Fulton Parkway…..Heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit or frequent local bus service

Hapeville Connection…..Heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit or frequent local bus service

Fulton Industrial Boulevard…..Bus rapid transit, frequent local bus service or local bus service

Camp Creek Parkway…..Frequent local bus service or local bus service

Flat Shoals Road…..Frequent local bus service, local bus service or flex bus

Highway 74…..Frequent local bus service, local bus service or flex bus

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