A new rapid bus line in Atlanta will not only introduce modern transit technology to the city, but will better connect a south Atlanta neighborhood to Midtown. The project was recently awarded a hefty federal grant to help pay for its $50 million price tag.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the city and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) a $12.6 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The money will be applied toward the planning, design, engineering and capital costs associated with the Summerhill Bus Rapid Transit project, a $48.6 million, 9.4-mile bus rapid transit north-south route connecting landmarks like the Georgia State Capitol and Atlanta’s city hall.
The route would also connect the up-and-coming Summerhill neighborhood with the bustling Midtown neighborhood.
“There are nearly 100,000 jobs located along this corridor. So it’s going to be a tremendous opportunity to connect residents with job opportunities,” said Ben Limmer, assistant general manager with MARTA, which anticipates about 8,500 riders a day, with buses operating every 10 minutes. The new line, which is expected to take about 16 minutes from one end to the other, is expected to open in 2024.
“Midtown is just a very dense area, and there’s a lot of residential and retail developments sprouting up on that eastern edge of Midtown,” said Limmer, noting that the Summerhill neighborhood is undergoing tremendous growth with six million square feet of retail, commercial and residential mixed-use development coming online in the coming years.
“This TIGER grant is more than an investment in our city’s infrastructure, it is a long overdue investment in an often-overlooked area of our City,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a statement. “The dividends paid by investing in south Atlanta will boost our economy and lift up communities long-waiting for opportunity. This news is further evidence of what can be accomplished when we reach across partisan and governmental lines to work together for a common good.”
The new development in Summerhill is projected to bring roughly $1 billion in investment into south Atlanta, according to city reports, spurring the need for more transit options.
“We have local bus lines throughout the corridor, but they don’t necessarily travel north and south,” Limmer explained.
Details for the new Summerhill BRT, as bus rapid transits are casually known, are still being worked out, but will likely include low- or no-emissions transit vehicles, as well as coordinated traffic signaling that gives priority to transit vehicles. MARTA is also exploring “Q jump lanes,” which allow transit vehicles to get head start at red lights.
“We’re looking to do a mix of exclusive, and or operating in mixed traffic. We’re looking to use six bus-rapid-transit vehicles, which will likely be the longer articulated buses,” said Limmer.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.