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MARTA presents bus rapid transit options, not moving forward with light rail in Clifton Corridor

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MARTA presents bus rapid transit options, not moving forward with light rail in Clifton Corridor

MARTA Decatur Transit Station, Downtown Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Atlanta, GA — MARTA is presenting options for bus rapid transit and arterial rapid transit in the Clifton Corridor during public forums this week. MARTA was also looking at adding light rail in the area but is not moving forward with that option because light rail is too expensive. 

Here is the meeting schedule for this week:

– A virtual forum will be hosted on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. To register, click here.

– An in-person open house will be held on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at North Decatur Presbyterian Church, 611 Medlock Road in Decatur. To register, click here.

The Clifton Corridor project aims to connect Decatur to the Lindbergh Center station, with key stops at major institutions along the way. The project would provide a route between the Lindbergh Center station and the Avondale station. 

“The Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative is MARTA’s proposed new high-capacity transit service that would provide a connection between two existing heavy rail lines through a major employment and institutional corridor in the Atlanta region,” the project website states.

Stops would include Emory University, Emory University Hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston campus, and the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

MARTA is also considering adding a shuttle from Emory University Hospital to the Atlanta VA Medical Center and adding a stop at the Decatur station. 

During a public meeting in November 2022, MARTA unveiled three proposals to get the job done: One would consist of light rail and the other two would involve bus rapid transit.

The bus rapid transit options are as follows:

— Alternative 1A: Bus rapid transit with dedicated lanes connecting Lindbergh to the Avondale station. This would include elevated crossings at Clairemont Avenue and Scott Boulevard at North Decatur Road. It may also include a reversible lane along North Decatur Road between Clairemont Avenue and Scott Boulevard to minimize the project’s footprint.

For this option, the travel time would be about 31 minutes from Lindbergh to Avondale within the dedicated right of way. 

— Alternative 1B: Bus rapid transit with a dedicated guideway between the Lindbergh and Avondale stations that would be considered Arterial Rapid Transit, which means it would mix with regular traffic. But it would have advantages over the MARTA buses people are used to encountering on local roads. It would include shorter wait times, signal priority and enhanced station amenities. It would not require widening or dedicated transit lanes. According to MARTA, the arterial rapid transit would operate at 15-minute frequencies or less and the stops would include amenities people are used to seeing at transit stations, like seating and arrival screens.

“The biggest difference here is we’re considering additional transit service, which we’re calling ART right now, to Decatur,” project manager Bryan Hobbs said. “Combined this an 84% dedicated right of way corridor because you now have what [we] consider on Clairemont Avenue, mixed traffic, which would be ART.” 

The travel time from Lindbergh to Avondale would be 31 minutes, and from Lindbergh to Decatur it would be 27 minutes. This option includes a second Arterial Rapid Transit route from downtown Decatur to Lindbergh. Only the Arterial Rapid Transit section from Decatur to North Decatur / Clairemont will run through mixed traffic, which will go onto dedicated BRT lanes to Lindbergh. 

The light rail option would’ve connected the Lindbergh and Avondale stations. This option would include a possible reversible transit lane along North Decatur Road between Clairemont Avenue and Scott Boulevard to minimize footprint. 

MARTA, however, currently can only fund about half of the project. The city of Atlanta is funding part of the project, which does not include the project area in DeKalb County. The project could be completed from the Lindbergh station to just past the Clifton station. But MARTA still needs funding for the portion of the project between the North Decatur/Clairemont station to the Avondale station. 

“This is because the operations required for light rail with the infrastructure is much more intensive than you talk about with the BRT route,” Hobbs said. “The same holds true when you talk about annual operating costs because it is a different mode and a different vehicle. It requires a little more to operate.” 

Light rail would not offer direct service from Lindbergh to Decatur. It also has the lowest anticipated cost-effectiveness of the three options and is the least likely alternative to receive federal funding. 

The BRT and ART options will move forward for refinement, Hobbs said. 

“That leaves LRT, [alternative two], being removed from further consideration on this project, so as we continue to move forward, 1A, 1B will be the only alternatives that we will continue to move forward,” he added. 

The MARTA board could adopt the plan for the Clifton Corridor in May. If the MARTA board adopts a plan in the spring, the next step will be assessing the environmental impact of the project, which could take 12 to 18 months.

For more information, click here.

Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt contributed to this story. 

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