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MARTA hosting public engagement meetings next week on bus network redesign

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MARTA hosting public engagement meetings next week on bus network redesign

FILE PHOTO: A MARTA bus at the Decatur, GA MARTA station. File Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt
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Atlanta, GA — The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) will hold four public meetings next week to gather feedback on imagined scenarios, which will inform a redesign of the bus network. MARTA riders and potential customers will be asked if they prefer to have buses arrive more frequently on fewer routes or less frequently on more routes, according to a press release.

The concepts that will be presented at the meetings are hypothetical scenarios and are designed to generate conversation and debate about how the transit system can best serve its riders and the region. The concepts that will be discussed are not MARTA’s proposed plans for the bus network redesign.

MARTA first announced a desire to reimagine its bus network last year and these meetings are an important step

in determining what riders want from their bus system. All current MARTA bus routes remain intact and operational, and all service areas will be part of any redesigned network.

“This is valuable for people to understand that this is looking at the entire network,” MARTA Assistant General Manager of Planning Heather Alhadeff said during a press conference on Nov. 5. “No stone will go unturned, no bus route will be ignored, everything’s being looked at. Whatever we end up with at the end of this process, it will be budget neutral.”

MARTA is looking for efficiencies, focusing on improving regional connectivity, and coordinating with other transit services.

“That’s the ultimate goal of the redesign,” Alhadeff said. “[During the meetings] we’re going to have these two concepts, these are not the recommended plan. We’re starting with two hypothetical scenarios, and we want people to react and give us feedback on those scenarios. It’s that feedback that will help us shape what a recommended plan should be.”

MARTA will hold various stakeholder engagement opportunities this winter and anticipates having a draft proposal in spring 2022, with the final service changes going into effect toward the end of 2022. Alhadeff said the process will drive the schedule, and the timeline is flexible.

At the upcoming meetings, participants will look at two contrasting views of what the network could be. The options will look at ridership and coverage.

“If your goal is to provide service on a ridership goal, then you’re putting high frequency on very specific routes, but it’s not all routes,” Alhadeff said. “Now on the coverage example, you’re taking the same number of buses, and you’re spreading them out to a larger geography. The tradeoff is you have fewer buses running, so they’re not as frequent.”

One of the consultants working on the redesign determined that the current system is 65% ridership and 30% coverage. The ultimate question MARTA will be asking stakeholders is where on the spectrum of ridership and coverage the system should move.

The baseline data MARTA is using when looking at the routes is from August 2019, in which MARTA had 110 routes and eight of them had 15-minute frequency or better during peak times.

In the ridership example — which reduces the number of routes, but increases frequency — there would be 52 routes, but 25 routes have 15-minute frequency or better. This scenario would have less peak times and more frequency all day long.

The ridership concept would connect the busiest parts of the region with the best possible bus service. On average, people can get to more places sooner with this concept. The frequency times would vary from 10-30 minutes, according to the bus network redesign website.

The coverage example would have up to 108 routes, but there would be eight routes with 15-minute frequency or better. In this scenario, there would also be new service in some new areas.

This concept would expand the network to cover more area, but the bus frequency would vary as MARTA can’t afford to increase frequencies with so many routes, the redesign website says. The frequency times would vary from 15 minutes to up to one hour in some areas.

Meetings will be held in-person and masks are required. All meetings will be streamed on MARTA’s YouTube page. The meetings are scheduled as follows:

– Tuesday, Nov. 9, from 11 a.m to 12:30 p.m., and 6-7:30 p.m. at the Andrew and Walter Young Family YMCA, 2222 Campbellton Road in Atlanta. The YMCA is located along MARTA route 83.

– Thursday, Nov. 11, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Decatur Conference Center, 130 Clairemont Ave. in Decatur. The conference center is along MARTA route 36 and is five-minute walk from the Decatur Station.

– Saturday, Nov. 13, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Stage Door Theatre, 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody. The theatre is along MARTA route 150.

MARTA will hold interactive virtual meetings in December, with additional public outreach and technical workshops planned before the bus network redesign proposal is released next spring. The transit system will also have surveys open until mid-January on the project website.

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