TRANSIT: Gwinnett County, Ga., could get bus rapid transit for fraction of MARTA cost

May 5, 2016

Officials have touted bus rapid transit as an alternative to commuter rail expansion

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.