Though many residents would welcome a Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) commuter rail expansion into Gwinnett County, some local officials may be warming to a mass transit alternative that could cost substantially less: bus rapid transit.
As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported, a 2015 poll found half of likely Gwinnett voters would pay a 1-cent sales tax to bring MARTA to Georgia’s second-largest county.
On Tuesday, commissioners got a briefing that showed Gwinnett could build a bus rapid transit system for a tenth of the price of a MARTA expansion.
Currently, there are no bus rapid transit systems in Georgia. But Cobb County plans a $500 million BRT system along U.S. 41, and cities elsewhere – including Los Angeles, Cleveland and Raleigh – have embraced it.
At Tuesday’s briefing, Gwinnett Transportation Director Alan Chapman provided cost estimates for mass transit systems stretching from the Doraville MARTA station along I-85 to the Mall of Georgia and along Ga. 316 to Lawrenceville. A bus rapid transit system would cost about $660 million, light rail would cost nearly $3.4 billion and MARTA-style heavy rail would cost more than $7 billion.
Chapman also said building a bus rapid transit system could take five to nine years, while a rail system could take substantially longer.