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GRTA Representative Briefs Council on Park and Ride Plans

City officials learned of park and ride after plans made public.

When the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) announced plans for , city officials were taken completely by surprise.

and members of the Dacula City Council did not learn about GRTA plans until days after the agency had reached an agreement with Hebron to lease 400 parking spaces at a cost of $10 per space per month.

On April 28, GRTA spokesman Jim Ritchey apologized for not notifying city leaders before the news was made public.

“Mayor, I do apologize that you learned about this service before we’d come to see you,” Ritchey said.

Wilbanks admitted he was aggravated the city wasn’t consulted before the agreement was reached, but said he had no objections to the service being located within the city limits.

GRTA had initially intended to build the lot near Highway 316 and Cedars Road. When those plans did not work out, GRTA began looking for property to lease.

“Fortunately has agreed to let us use that lot right on Fence Road,” Ritchey said.

According to Ritchey, the commuter buses will travel solely on Fence Road between the Hebron lot and Highway 316. Ritchey expects the park and ride to have minimal impact on local traffic (see video).

Commuters using the Hebron lot, located at 202 Hebron Church Road adjacent to Hebron Baptist Church, will be able to take route 416 to downtown. The route will offer five morning departure times and six return trips. Fares will be $4 one-way or $125 a month, Ritchey said.

Councilman Tim Montgomery said the Xpress plan was good, but that rail would be better.

“A better concept is to continue to use the roads that we’ve got and take this Xpress concept to rail,” Montgomery said. “I just don’t understand why people can’t get on board with the concept that every other major city in the country has used commuter rail to get people in and out of the city.”

Montgomery questioned whether the Xpress bus service was a temporary measure until rail becomes politically viable.

“The cost of having these Xpress buses is not nearly as efficient as the cost of moving people with commuter rail,” he said.

Ritchey explained that commuter rail service is not a practical option due to the costs involved and the fact that railroad companies do not have capacity to share with commuter rail service.

“To triple track this railroad is essentially what it would take to use it,” Ritchey said. Ritchey added the Xpress service could be used to build a market that would eventually justify the costs associated with commuter rail.

“Would I love to see that commuter rail? Absolutely. But this is the step that helps us get there,” Ritchey said.

In addition to the Hebron lot, GRTA is also constructing a and doubling the size of the park and ride at I-985 and Highway 20 in Buford.

Two routes will leave from the Hamilton Mill lot, which is located at 3220 Sardis Church Road next to Walmart. Route 413 to downtown will have six morning departure times and a total of seven afternoon and evening departure times. Route 411 to midtown, which currently begins at the Mall of Georgia, will start at the Hamilton Mill lot and include a stop at the Mall of Georgia.

The 900-space Hamilton Mill lot is currently under construction and is expected to open in mid-July.

Both park and ride facilities are part of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Congestion Reduction Demonstration program. The $147 million Congestion Reduction Demonstration program, or CRD, is a pilot program funded with a $110 million federal grant and $37 million in state matching funds. As part of the program, the and transit service will be expanded.

Jimmy Orr April 29, 2011 at 08:27 PM
I wonder if Councilman Montgomery understands that rail, whether commuter rail, heavy rail (MARTA), or light rail (streetcars), is expensive to build and maintain. Once operational, these public transit hogs would require being fed at the public trough by taxpayer funded subsidies to fund their ongoing operational & maintenance costs. I also wonder if he has ever given thought to if the CSX Transportation Corporation could make a profit hauling passengers from Point A to Point B, they would be in the business of doing so. Don't count on TSPLOST 2012 for funding if our ten county regional transportation district contains a serious chunk of money for rail projects as it (TSPLOST) is not a done deal. There is the possibilty the issue may not reach the ballot box. There is this thing called gridlock which given some of the projects on the "wish list", might not be a bad thing.
North Georgia Weather April 29, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Rail? You MUST be kidding. I agree with you Jimmy, NO RAIL/NO AIRPORT. I had to drive downtown yesterday, it took me 1:15 to do it. Would I do the Park and Ride? Sure. I would think that could pretty much fund itself. But rail requires WAY too much infrastructure to build and maintain and therefore way too costly. I don't think I would vote for and SPLOST this time. Too much pork barrel going into that, just like every bill that goes through Congress. They'll sneak all kinds of things in that we just don't need to be doing right now. Now if they'd take the SPLOST money and use it to pay off our debt, I would most certainly vote for it. We just cannot spend anymore.

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