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GRTA Commuter Service to Begin June 20

Xpress bus routes will take Dacula area commuters to downtown Atlanta.

Beginning Monday, local commuters will have a new option for getting to and from downtown Atlanta.

The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s (GRTA) Xpress service launches June 20. About a dozen people were on hand for the June 13 informational meeting in which GRTA spokesman Rob Alexander answered questions regarding routes, fares and other service related questions.

“We pride ourselves very much on having personal customer service,” Alexander said as he distributed information to the group of potential GRTA customers.

One of those potential customers, Dacula resident Gloria Palmer, has been using commuter bus service for four years. Palmer currently commutes 30 minutes each way to and from the park and ride at Highway 20 and I-985 and says she is looking forward to traveling just five minutes from her home to catch a bus.

“What a blessing,” she said.

Palmer, who works in the Summit Building downtown, was so pleased to learn of the new Xpress service, she immediately began spreading the word.

“I told everybody I knew,” she said.

Diane Zimmerman also looks forward to using the commuter bus service.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s going to get traffic off the road.”

Zimmerman said she currently travels to Sugarloaf Parkway and I-85 to catch the Gwinnett Transit bus to downtown Atlanta. Her commute, she said, takes anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes each way.

was also present for the June 13 meeting. Wilbanks said during the planning phase, but expressed support for the service.

“If we can take traffic off the expressway, we need to do that,” Wilbanks said.

Not everyone at Monday night’s meeting was as supportive about the new commuter service.

“You're going to bring 400 cars into our city,” said Dacula resident Ken Martin. “Four hundred cars in this town – it’s going to screw things up.”

Martin said he was worried about the effect excess traffic will have on area roads. He also expressed concern that GRTA is paying tax dollars to Hebron Baptist Church to lease the spots.

Alexander explained the authority was receiving a service in exchange for the funds and not simply giving money to the church.

GRTA is leasing a total of 400 parking spaces from . The leased spaces will be in the lot bordered by Hebron Church Road, Dacula Road and Fence Road. . The authority plans to make some minor improvements to the lot including sidewalk work, a handicap accessible ramp and minor modifications to the existing shelter. The modifications are expected to cost less than $3,000.

GRTA had originally planned to construct a park and ride facility at Cedars Road. Alexander said the authority does not plan to build a new lot at this time, but will develop the Cedars Road property at some point in the future.

For now, commuters will be able to board the Xpress bus at the Hebron Church parking lot. The current proposed timetable shows departure times beginning at 5:20 a.m. on weekdays. Buses will depart every half hour until 7:50 a.m. with stops including Williams Street at Harris Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at Courtland Street (Georgia State Capitol). Afternoon service begins at 3:25 p.m. with departures every half hour until 5:55 p.m. Buses will depart from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Courtland Street (Georgia State Capitol) with stops including the Ivan Allen Jr. Building at Spring Street (westbound at the W Hotel) and Five Points MARTA station (see images for details).

A one-way trip will cost $4, a round-trip will be $7, 10 one-way trips will be sold for $35 or riders may purchase a 31-day pass with unlimited trips for $125. GRTA will also provide free MARTA transfers to those commuting to midtown.

Customers may pay with exact cash, a MARTA Breeze Card or GRTA fare pass (blue zone). Gwinnett County Transit passes will not be accepted, nor will operators provide change.

Customers may also sign up for GRTA’s RideSmart service. Participants are eligible for a free taxi ride in the event of an emergency or unscheduled overtime that causes the commuter to be unable to use the transit service.

“It’s a good safety for you in case you need to get back in the middle of the day,” Alexander said.

Eligible commuters may visit the RideSmart website for additional details.

For more information about the Xpress service, contact GRTA by email at customerservice@XpressGA.com or call the Regional Customer Service Center at 404-463-GRTA (-4782). You can also get GRTA service alerts on Twitter at twitter.com/xpressga.

Karen A June 14, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I am so excited that commuter bus service to Atlanta is finally coming to Dacula! I commute 40 miles one way to work in Atlanta, and I calculated that the bus ticket price will be HALF of what I have been paying in gas alone. That does not include what I will be saving on wear and tear on my car engine, oil changes, tires, parking fees, etc. Plus, I will call my insurance company to get a policy adjustment since I won't be using my car for commuting all of those miles. Bus service takes cars off the highway, improves the air quality, and is SAFER! I have already had one commuting accident when an inattentive driver slammed into my car and totaled it. Fortunately nobody was seriously injured. To sum it up, gas savings, car mileage and maintenance savings, car insurance savings, increased safety, and peace of mind are a no-brainer. We Don't need to pave more, we need smart commuting options like this bus service.
Jimmy Orr June 14, 2011 at 09:43 PM
Karen, spoken like a "true advocate" of mass transit. FYI, express bus transit, which by the way I am in favor of, does require pavement. It don't run on tracks. However, mass transit via rail is another matter. If mass rail transit is so neccessary, why can't it operate without ongoing taxpayer funded subsidies to "prop up" its ongoing operating & maintenance costs? The intent of my comment though is to express my displeasure at GRTA for not presenting their plan for a pickup point at Hebron to Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks and the City Council of Dacula first. GRTA owes both Mr. Mayor and the city council a letter of apology. It was disgusting that Mayor Wilbanks and the City of Dacula Council members did not know of GRTA's plan beforehand and had to learn of same via the news media.
Karen A June 15, 2011 at 03:10 AM
Jimmy, Bus or rail, both require public support, and the issue iswhat combination of solutions will solve our traffic problems? I've been commuting from Dacula to Atlanta for years, and despite many lanes added over the years, congestion has overwhelmed 316 and I-85. I would love rail service, Athens to Atlanta, with a stop in Dacula, but commuter bus service is the next best thing. I pay taxes and I vote that some of them go to developing and supporting more mass transit alternatives. Our air quality in the summer is horrible, the congestion on the roads for 3 hours in the morning and then 3 hours in the evening stifles any desire to go outside of Dacula to shop or dine. The positives of using the commuter bus or maybe one day the train, outweigh the negatives for me. For the bus, half the cost of gas, a tenth of the mileage on my vehicle, savings on car maintenance, tires, in-town parking costs, and insurance. I called my car insurance company today and I will have a $300 reduction on a 6 mo. policy when I commute on the bus starting next week. We built our house in Dacula 27 years ago and I wish we still had the quiet country roads, but we don't. Mass transit solutions must be part of our lifestyle solutions. I am sorry that GRTA and Xpress didn't coordinate with Mayor Wilbanks, but in the end, Dacula residents will benefit with the bus service, so I say get over it and move forward to build bridges, not alienate the City and further.
Jimmy Orr June 15, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Karen, there is absolutely nothing for me to get over. I will say this though. I have forgot more about public transit than you will ever know. My daddy's public transit company was investor owned and operated for profit under the auspicies of our market drive system of free enterprise. Translated, this meant his company was not on the government dole via grants and subsidies. If space permitted, I could tell what caused the demise of his company and other investor owned for profit public transit systems throughout Georgia at the time, including Atlanta Transit. As for moving forward and building bridges, that is exactly what I plan to do. Build bridges, roads, and interchanges to offer our citizens a more flexible means of transportation. I make no apologies about being a asphalt, concrete, and rebar man. There will be no developer's choo choos built on my watch. Not if I can help it and convince my fellow citizens likewise.
Karen A June 15, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Mr. Orr, I am afraid that I was not clear in the last line of my statement. I was not directing the 'get over it' comment to you, but to the City. My wish is that the City of Dacula build a "bridge" of better communication with GRTA in the further development of public transit options. I do not know you, and you do not know me, so neither of us is in a position to judge the other's knowledge or experience. Over the years I have lived here, the more roads that are built or widened have just resulted in more cars, congestion, pollution, accidents, ruined landscapes and a reduced quality of life for all of us stuck in traffic. The rail lines in the northeast and on the west coast do a great job moving commuters and travelers, and I think it is high time Georgia develop a comprehensive passenger rail system statewide. We have paved more than enough roads. I believe that the development of mass transit rail options for Georgia requires a combination of public and private funding. I will vote yes to a tax to develop rail.
Jim Regan June 15, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Karen: You forgot the stress level reduction you will enjoy not having to drive to downtown ATL. I rode the express bus for 3 years, it was great. I actually studied for over a year for a professional exam, without the bus, study time would have been difficult to fit into my schedule. I met many nice people and had many great conversations. I agree with Jimmy this is the future of mass transit - HOV lanes and express bus service that is flexible and takes you directly to your destination. If GDOT would install HOV lanes on I-285 and GRTA establish express routes to the Perimeter Mall area more people could ride.
Karen A June 15, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Jim, I agree completely about the stress reduction, and I did include safety and peace of mind in my comments above. I am so looking forward to reading and meeting new people when I start commuting by bus next Monday. I agree also that more HOV lanes are part of the solution, along with developing a statewide rail system.
Jim Regan June 15, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Karen: Rail is too expensive to constuct and we don't have the population density in GA to support the operation. Rail works in Europe and Japan only because of the population density. It works in some regions of the northeast also, but AMTRAK was created because private rail passenger industry could not operate at breakeven, much less at a profit. AMTRAK has always been subsidized, so I don't recommend that as a model we pursue. America evolved into a car nation because of our low popluation density and size, so unless we want to pay significantly higher taxes I'm afraid the auto will remain our most prevelant transportation mode.
MDG June 15, 2011 at 03:49 PM
I am very happy the GRTA Express is coming to Dacula. For many years I've traveled from my home to the Gwinnett Transit location at Buford. When I sit back and think about the miles saved on my car, the costs of fuel, and time for my wife and me traveling each way... The local bus stop will be a welcomed change. Roads and Transit are investments by the taxpayers, both requiring front-end investments and ongoing expenses and funding to keep them functional. Transportation choices are there, each of us has to choose which one we are willing to utilize ("you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink") - I and many others choose to ride the bus. I understand everyone's displeasure for GRTA for not presenting their plan to Mayor Wilbanks and the Council, but I leave that healing to those parties, and let's move on.
Diane June 15, 2011 at 04:22 PM
I think the mayor is a member at Hebron. Maybe he should ask them.
John Cook June 15, 2011 at 04:32 PM
I don't understand why the express bus service is not publicized more widely. It is a popular service with those who are aware. The reason the GRTA meeting only had only about 12 people attending is because the City was not aware. GRTA missed an opportunity for free publicity via the City website. The Light Rail proposed for Gwinnett is not the rapid rail that we are accustomed to having. It is an electric bus trolley; the "rail" is overhead power wires. It will run down the center of existing roads, where possible. I have asked about accidents in intersections and cars in turn lanes. It seems that the Light Rail bus will wait for these obstructions to clear, delaying the "train" along with the rest of traffic. The average construction cost is $70 million per mile. Money will be saved by running the electric bus trains on existing roads, but why not run natural gas busses and save the cost of putting ugly overhead wires along the route? The cost/benefit ratio doesn't seem efficient to run the wires.
Jim Regan June 15, 2011 at 04:42 PM
John: Maybe the problem with natural gas buses is that they don't require a construction companies to install wires, so the local politicians can 't direct contracts to local construction companies. Just a thought.
Caren June 25, 2011 at 04:14 PM
I am so happy about the new Xpress Route 416 to downtown Atlanta. I rode it for the first time Friday (6/24) morning. I would been there Monday (6/21) had I known about the new 416. My husband happened to see the bus on his way to work Thursday Morning. I was using the Discover Mills park and ride. This is much much more convenient. On Friday, there was just two of us on the 6:50a bus and on the way home I was the only rider. I wish there was a way to publicize so that more people will use it. I don't want to see it go away!!

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