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.