Atlanta could soon be witnessing a massive change to MARTA’s bus system. Or one that keeps fairly close to the status quo. It’s up to Atlantans to decide, the agency says.
MARTA is putting its bus system under a microscope to optimize the network, part of long-term vision “MARTA 2040” that aims to make best use of the agency’s resources. Step one of that process examines MARTA’s priorities when it comes to routing buses around Atlanta.
Service changes as part of the MARTA NextGen Bus project, as the initiative is called, are expected to go into effect next year.
Big picture, the transit agency is re-examining why bus lines are routed the way they are, how they function in relation to the rest of the system, where routes run, and who the transit system serves now and should serve soon.
One strategy for changes: gear bus routes for coverage.
This covers the most area possible and reaches the most destinations at the expense of more frequent service, MARTA officials say. It would cover areas where ridership is relatively low and land use may be a poor fit for transit.
The opposite end of the spectrum focuses on maximizing ridership.
The ridership model serves “places that are continuously dense, walkable, linear, and with a mix of uses—and where demographics suggest individual people are likely to ride.”
As MARTA officials acknowledge, both options entail sacrifices.
Coverage sacrifices efficiency—something transit wonks call “productivity.” The authors of the study, it should be noted, have determined that MARTA currently “spends about 60 percent of its bus operating budget on high-ridership services, and 35 percent toward coverage, with 5 percent being duplicate services.”
Other options for optimizing the system do exist. Ideas include spreading out bus stops in walkable areas, timing connections better among infrequent lines, and routing some lines beyond rail stations, instead of having every bus stop at a rail station.
Public meetings started last week and continue with a second meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. MARTA is also requesting feedback through an online survey.
Access MARTA’s survey, note the next meeting’s Zoom link, and find more information than you’d probably want to know right here.
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