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County gets new operator for bus system

By Billy Corriher

In a booming suburban area like Clayton County, solutions to traffic congestion problems are hard to come by. But while Gov. Sonny Perdue is looking to make it easier for commuters to use the interstate highways, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which operates Clayton County's bus system, is trying to get more people out of their cars and riding on buses to curtail congestion.

Jonesboro resident Yolanda Linzy said she's been using Clayton County's bus system, C-TRAN, since it was created in October 2001. She frequently uses the bus to get to her job in Atlanta, but she's annoyed that it still takes her a long time to get there.

"It takes too long, usually an hour and a half," she said. "You've got to go all the way to the airport, and then you've got to wait before you can transfer (to the MARTA rail system)."

But even with the long ride, Linzy said the $1.50 fare to Atlanta isn't a bad deal, and riding C-TRAN beats trying to fight commuter traffic.

And the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which manages C-TRAN with Clayton County, decided on Wednesday to obtain a new service provider that it hopes will provide more efficient service for Clayton County residents.

The GRTA Board of Directors voted to sign a $14.5 million contract with First Transit, a private transportation contractor. William Mackey, spokesman for GRTA, said the board chose the company after it was evaluated and rated for its cost and services.

The GRTA's previous contract with MARTA would have cost $18 million for three years.

Mackey said the change from MARTA to First Transit will go into effect on July 1, but riders shouldn't notice any change in service.

"About the only difference the riders will see is the drivers might change," he said.

Since its inception, C-TRAN has been operated by MARTA, and Clayton County Public Transit Coordinator Richard Bray said that changing the system's service provider was not a result of dissatisfaction with MARTA.

"I think (getting a new service provider) was just a question of how we could do things more efficiently, more effectively," he said.

Bray also said the new contract wouldn't affect the launch this summer of express bus service from Clayton County to Atlanta, which would make Linzy's commute to Atlanta much easier.

"It's a hassle now," she said. "I'd love it if they had a direct route to Atlanta."