MARTA unveils light rail and two rapid bus options for Clifton Corridor

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“It’s a great project,” Rowan said. “We don’t want to focus too much on the (transit) mode. It’s about moving people around and getting people out of vehicles.

The Clifton Corridor proposals are the latest proof that MARTA is in expansion mode for the first time in two decades. This expansion was made possible when Clayton County voters approved a new transit sales tax in 2014, with Atlanta voters following suit two years later.

In Atlanta, MARTA is moving forward with a rapid bus route along Hank Aaron Drive/Capitol Avenue and along Campbellton Road. It also plans to expand the Atlanta Streetcar east of Beltline Market and Ponce City.

The Clifton Corridor line would be the next big thing. It would connect Emory and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the existing MARTA rail network.

MARTA has long planned to build a railway line along the corridor. But that plan was thwarted by CSX Railroad’s reluctance to allow passenger rail travel along its right-of-way in the area.

But the railroad recently changed its mind and MARTA plans to build the new transit line primarily in the CSX right-of-way. This would make construction easier and cheaper.

But MARTA is also reconsidering its plans for rail along the corridor. The agency has adopted bus rapid transit as a cheaper alternative to rail.

Although it does not yet exist in the Atlanta metro area, bus rapid transit is proliferating across the United States. It’s designed to mimic train lines – passengers board at stations, pay in advance, and get real-time arrival information. The rapid bus lines also operate mostly in exclusive lanes, which means they travel much faster than regular local bus lines.

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In July MARTA said it would take 20-30 minutes for the rapid buses to travel the Clifton route, compared to 15-26 minutes for the train. But bus rapid transit would cost much less than rail (up to $860 million versus up to $3.1 billion) and it could be built faster (five to seven years versus eight to 10 years).

Last summer, MARTA unveiled 10 possible combinations of routes and transit types for the Clifton Corridor. On Tuesday, he narrowed the options down to three.

Two of the remaining options are bus rapid transit. Both would connect Lindbergh to Avondale, although one would add an “arterial rapid transit” route to Decatur. MARTA project manager Bryan Hobbs said the Decatur spur would operate in regular traffic on Clairemont Avenue, but would still be faster and offer more amenities than regular bus service.

The light rail line would connect Lindbergh to Avondale.

Hobbs said extending the main transit line to Avondale instead of Decatur made sense due to residents’ concerns about traffic on Clairemont, loss of trees and other impacts from the Decatur Road. He said an arterial rapid transit line would have fewer impacts but still provide improved transit service in Decatur.

MARTA wants feedback on her three proposed options. After making a final selection, he will begin more detailed design work and eventually apply for federal funding.

If all goes well, the line could open as early as 2036.


MARTA will discuss its plans for the Clifton Corridor Transit Line at 6:30 p.m. Thursday on Zoom: https://tinyurl.com/43yst32n. Call number: 301-715-8592. Meeting ID: 835 3599 3231. Passcode: 074658.

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