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Atlanta Regional Commission calls for major transit expansion with ‘long-range’ vision

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Vision: Metro Atlanta’s new transit agency, The ATL, would tackle bus, streetcar, train projects

Conceptual designs for new transit buses shown with The ATL’s recently adopted logo.
Conceptual designs for new transit buses shown with The ATL’s recently adopted logo.

Gwinnett County voters are on the cusp of approving or denying massively consequential legislation that could lead to the introduction (or not) of Atlanta’s MARTA system in the northeastern suburbs.

In March, Gwinnettians will elect to adopt or shoot down the idea of linking the MARTA transit agency with the region’s most populous suburban county.

But that vote isn’t the only effort to grow metro Atlanta’s transit network in a way that could join other OTP communities with the city proper—and bolster transit within the city itself.

On Wednesday, the Atlanta Regional Commission board okayed a “long-range” transit vision that suggests, among other proposals, an expansion of the light rail system that cost the city nearly $100 million to build and has been underutilized since its inception.

The ARC’s vision, called Concept 3, “incorporates their top priority transit projects without considering available funding,” according to a news release.

The updated vision, which was originally created in 2008 and has been developed with the help of local governments, merely provides guidelines for growth that the organization believes would most benefit the region’s transit.

Atlanta Regional Commission

The vision outlines substantial improvements to the Atlanta Streetcar, which would boost the downtown and Sweet Auburn system in a way that creates new crosstown routes and strings a light rail network along the Beltline—an initiative already partially mapped out in the More MARTA expansion plan.

It also recommends boosting regional bus-rapid transit lines in the northern and southern parts of Fulton, bringing new lines along Piedmont and Roswell roads and along Roosevelt Highway and South Fulton Industrial Boulevard.

ARC’s vision also proposes a new heavy rail line—branching from MARTA’s main cruciform train system—connecting the Doraville station with Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Gwinnett.

Other projects suggested in the ARC plan include:

Clayton County: Commuter rail to Lovejoy; bus-rapid transit on U.S Highway 41

Cobb County: A bus-rapid transit line to connect Kennesaw State University and the Arts Center MARTA station

DeKalb County: Light rail on Clifton Corridor between Lindbergh and Avondale MARTA stations

Regional: Light rail line on the top end of I-285, from Vinings in Cobb to Doraville in DeKalb.

“Transit has helped shape metro Atlanta and fuel our region’s growth,” said ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker, in a prepared statement. “[The plan] presents an exciting vision of how an expanded transit network can provide new transportation options, improve mobility across the region, and maintain our economic competitiveness.”

The full Concept 3 vision highlights 50 potential projects that could grow the transit networks of metro Atlanta with the help of local goverments and The ATL, the region’s new transit authority.

An interactive map showing the full scope can be found here.

This story was updated on January 24, 2019 at 10:58 a.m. to clarify that Concept 3 is not a plan, but rather a vision that could help develop plans in the future.