MARTA’s planned expansion of bus rapid transit south of the airport could entail more than a means of quickly getting in and out of Atlanta.

The Federal Transit Administration has awarded MARTA a $970,000 grant to study the viability of building transit-oriented developments along a BRT route that would snake from the airport, into south Fulton County, and to key locations across Clayton County. Large sections of the route would function as fully dedicated BRT lanes.

MARTA will use the grant money to conduct a planning study for TODs at 12 stations along the Clayton Southlake Bus Rapid Transit line, which would span 15 miles, the agency says. 

In recent years, MARTA has succeeded in partnering with developers to build TOD communities around the Edgewood/Candler Park, Avondale, and King Memorial stations, with other mixed-use hubs in the works. Continuing that development trend along the Clayton Southlake BRT route would follow through on MARTA’s “commitment to get smarter on how a transit line can enhance the communities it serves,” according to a recent announcement.

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

The TOD study will weigh challenges and opportunities related to economic development on the BRT route, along with critical issues such as healthcare, jobs, education, affordable housing, and food availability.

Another purpose will be to examine land uses at the dozen proposed bus stations “and make recommendations to allow for the various jurisdictions to have a path, with MARTA, to remove some of the barriers to achieving the desired outcomes,” according to MARTA officials.

The BRT investment is expected to cost upwards of $300 million but provide a crucial, high-capacity link for transit-dependent riders in one of metro Atlanta’s busiest corridors for transit use. MARTA says the BRT system will shave 20 minutes off the trip from Southlake Mall to College Park, where riders can connect with MARTA rail and the airport.

Key points in between would include Southern Regional Medical Center, Riverdale Town Center, and “numerous apartment complexes and retail developments,” per MARTA.

The Clayton Southlake BRT route is the first of several projects MARTA says it will push forward as part of its MARTA 2040 program—the largest expansion in agency history—with requested funding from the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program, or CIG.

Last year, the FTA cleared the bus rapid transit route on Atlanta’s southside to enter the project development phase of the CIG program.

MARTA’s goal is to begin construction on the Clayton Southlake BRT system by mid-2024 and launch operations in 2026. The Clayton County Board of Commissioners also voted in November to move the BRT project forward.

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