MARTA’s plans to lace parts of the metro with new bus-rapid transit routes have taken a key step forward south of downtown Atlanta.

MARTA’s board on Thursday approved plans to solicit design proposals for the Clayton Southlake BRT project, a means of southside and regional connectivity that’s been in the pipeline for several years. It’s expected to cost roughly $338 million, which MARTA officials say is less expensive than commuter rail for a system expansion that can be delivered more quickly.

With board permission to move forward, MARTA plans to seek final design ideas for the full 15 and 1/2-mile BRT route alignment that could include a direct connection to Atlanta’s airport.

Initial plans call for at least 13 stations along the BRT line with “rail-like amenities” including level boarding, digital signage, and off-board fare payment, according to the transit agency.

MARTA’s alignment calls for BRT to run south of the airport from Fulton County into Clayton County along bus route 196, which MARTA notes has the sixth highest ridership across the agency’s system.  

Service would link College Park to Riverdale, Southern Medical Center, Southlake Mall, and several residential neighborhoods, among other destinations in western and central Clayton County.

The BRT route in question in northern Clayton and southern Fulton counties. White circles represent proposed transit stations. Courtesy of MARTA

MARTA’s goal is to operate more than 50 percent of the BRT route in new dedicated lanes for buses that don’t allow private vehicles. That percentage could grow, however, as Clayton Southlake BRT development progresses and an amended, locally preferred alternative is considered in early spring, per agency officials.

MARTA will now seek proposals for engineering and architectural services for two specific segments—one north of Interstate 285, the other south of the interstate loop. The former segment could include a direct BRT link to MARTA’s College Park station or its Airport station.

The current timeline for the Clayton Southlake BRT project schedules final designs and construction to take place across the next two years, with service beginning sometime in 2026.

How a Clayton County BRT stop could look and function. MARTA

As part of transit upgrades in Clayton County, MARTA is also planning to build a major transportation hub at a former K-Mart distribution center that would support 31 regional bus routes and create hundreds of jobs, per the agency. The facility would include aspects such as a wellness center for employees and a police precinct with a firing range.

Meanwhile, closer to Atlanta’s core, MARTA is currently building the metro’s first BRT line through downtown, Summerhill, and Peoplestown with expectations of opening that five-mile route in 2025.


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