MARTA’s recently unveiled plans for a bus-rapid transit system in Southwest Atlanta have encountered pushback from high places and will now be the subject of a communal discussion.

Four Atlanta City Councilmembers will be hosting a town hall this afternoon in response to MARTA’s $130-million BRT vision for a six-mile section of Campbellton Road. That plan, according to the councilmembers, represents a “lack of $200 million in promised [light-rail transit] investment” on the city’s Southwest side, as phrased in a city press release.

The town hall is scheduled for 5 p.m. today at Mount Carmel Baptist Church (2755 Campbellton Road SW). Councilmembers Marci Collier Overstreet, Antonio Lewis, Andrea L. Boone, and Keisha Sean Waites are hosting, with a goal of informing “constituents as to MARTA’s recently released plan to build a [BRT] line instead of light rail.”

Some longtime Southwest Atlanta residents have been critical of MARTA’s decision to favor BRT over the rail service they’ve waited decades for. Light rail would be a more permanent system that’s more likely to attract businesses and other economic development, they feel. 

Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, another critic, took to Twitter on Friday to call MARTA’s plans “an insult to SW Atlanta.”

MARTA made its BRT plans for Campbellton Road—one facet of MARTA 2040, a multi-billion-dollar system expansion—official during a virtual public presentation last week. The system would stretch between the Barge Road park-and-ride parking lot and MARTA’s Oakland City train station.

As part of their reasoning, MARTA officials said BRT could be installed three years faster than rail service and would not require any driveways to be closed along the route. It would also be significantly cheaper, costing $130 million to build (versus $340 million for light rail) and $4.8 million to operate annually (versus $12.5 million), according to the transit agency.

MARTA says a center-running BRT system is recommended for the Campbellton Road corridor "based on the results of [an] alternatives analysis and feedback received from the community."MARTA 2040

The AJC quoted one neighborhood leader during last week’s meeting who sided with MARTA in saying the cheaper, efficient, more flexible system should be welcomed.

MARTA says it collected nearly 1,000 surveys last summer asking nearby residents, business owners, and frequent MARTA riders which they’d prefer to see built in the corridor: a fixed light-rail system, or BRT with mostly dedicated lanes?

The results showed 45 percent preferring BRT and 43 percent leaning toward light rail, according to MARTA. (Word around the comments section campfire, however, is that the survey read like propaganda for BRT.)

MARTA 2040

Either option on Campbellton Road would save riders time.

A trip along the full route on BRT would take 18 minutes, or two minutes slower than rail, with 92 percent of the route in dedicated center lanes. That’s 35 percent faster than the route's current bus line, the transit agency found.

The Campbellton Road line would be funded by the half-penny sales tax voters approved for MARTA in 2016, which is expected to generate $2.7 billion. (Some 29 miles of light rail projects across the city are still in the works as part of that program.) The MARTA board could approve the Campbellton Road BRT plans in March. Doing so would add the project to a BRT wish list that includes lines in Clayton County, up Ga. Highway 400, and eventually, along the top-end Perimeter of Interstate 285.

MARTA says Campbellton Road’s BRT system would open sometime in 2028, serving roughly 6,000 riders daily. Plans call for nine transit stops, five miles of bike lanes, and seven miles of sidewalks alongside BRT lanes, too.

Recent MARTA news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)