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Bus line or light rail is the future of MARTA in Clifton corridor

Decatur Metro ATL

Bus line or light rail is the future of MARTA in Clifton corridor

A map showing bus and light rail plans for the Clifton Corridor

By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor 

Atlanta, GA  — MARTA is narrowing down options for a transportation plan that’s more than a decade in the making – connecting Lindbergh Center station to DeKalb County by way of the Clifton Road corridor. 

Heavy rail lines currently exist on a north-south and east-west axis in metro Atlanta, limiting connections between Lindbergh and Decatur. The Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative would provide access to a major health center of the city including the Center for Disease Control, Emory University and several hospitals. 

By 2031, bus transit or light rail will make that connection.  

MARTA is studying 10 alternatives, including four bus rapid transit (BRT) and six light rail transit (LRT) alternatives. BRT is a rail-like service operating on dedicated lanes, whereas LRT is a transit service that operates on embedded tracks. See examples of BRT and LRT in other cities here

BRT is less expensive, could be implemented faster, and has a lower potential for adverse environmental effects. LRT could cost up to $3 billion and would require more infrastructure, including a build-out of a maintenance facility. Both would feature stops in proximity to commercial centers and major intersections. 

The final destination is still undecided. The line will end at the Decatur Marta station, the Avondale Marta station, or both. While Avondale has more activity centers with retail, grocery and healthcare, Decatur has a higher population below poverty level and more educational facilities, according to a presentation. 

In a series of public meetings, MARTA is seeking feedback from stakeholders. They’re also asking residents to take an online survey, completed by 300 participants to date. The survey is open until Aug. 30. 

All of this input will be important in deciding on the plan going forward, said MARTA Project Manager Bryan Hobbs in a July 27 meeting. 

Hosted by Druid Hills Civic Association, participants asked about how the project would affect pedestrian and bike traffic, new development and established businesses like the YMCA. 

Hobbs said two LRT alternatives near Emory University are a CSX Railroad Right-of-Way, a rapid corridor at ground level protected from other traffic, or an underground path along Clifton Road and dedicated transitway across Emory’s campus. This option has the highest anticipated capital cost. 

MARTA began studying the Clifton corridor in 2008. Since then, funding for the project has changed direction several times. In 2016, voters passed a referendum to invest in public transportation with a penny tax. Now the project may be eligible for city and federal funding.   

MARTA officials will narrow down the options to three choices in the next set of community engagement meetings this fall. The plan could be adopted by MARTA board members in 2023. 

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