By Greg Gelpi
Traveling by bus just got a little quicker.
The Georgia Regional Transit Authority began operating its Xpress bus system at 6 this morning.
The commuter bus system will connect the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton to downtown Atlanta with stops at the Clayton County Justice Center, Southlake Mall, MARTA Five Points Station and McGill Boulevard MARTA Station.
Riding on the Xpress will be faster because the buses have a limited number of stops compared to the frequent stops of traditional buses, said John Keys, the GRTA manager of external affairs. The Xpress buses will also be quicker because they will use the HOV lanes of the interstate system.
"The whole idea is to get on streets with alternative transportation for folks as soon as possible," Keys said.
The Xpress bus service is part of the Atlanta Regional Commission's broader project entitled Mobility 2030, a $50 billion transportation plan for metro Atlanta for the next 25 years.
Keys said there has been pressure from the federal government to find solutions to the area's traffic problems. Mobility 2030 includes plans for a commuter rail system, but railway systems take years and even decades.
Part of the short-term plan is to expand the HOV lanes to about 10 to 15 miles outside of the Interstate 285 loop. The HOV lanes will have barrier separations to prevent "hopping" in and out of the lane, he said.
Xpress route 440 will begin at the Park and Ride Lot at AMS on U.S. Highway 41/19 (Tara Boulevard). There will be five morning buses, with the first bus leaving at 6 a.m. The route is projected to take a little over an hour, with the bus arriving at the Five Points Station at 6:53 a.m. and at the McGill Station at 7:01 a.m. It will start a return trip from McGill Station at 7:07 a.m. and be back at AMS by 8 a.m. The second bus leaves AMS at 6:35 a.m., the third at 7:05 a.m., the fourth at 7:35 a.m. and the fifth and final morning bus will leave at 8:05 a.m.
During the rest of the morning and the early afternoon hours, the Xpress buses will start and end their routes at the Clayton Justice Center.
The evening routes will begin leaving the McGill Station at 4 p.m., and continue at 35-minute intervals up to 6:05 p.m. Arrival times at AMS will be from 5:01 p.m. to 7:06 p.m. The buses will continue to make return trips to Atlanta until 7:12 p.m., when the final bus of the evening leaves AMS.
Fares are $3 for one-way, $5 for round trip, $40 for a 20-trip ticket, and $80 for a 31-day ticket. Bus to rail transfers are available from the driver on routes that connect to MARTA rail stations. Bus-to-bus transfers are available as well and are good on all public bus services in the Xpress service area. Parking at all Park and Ride lots will be free.
The Xpress bus service is open to the public, and all coaches are equipped with wheelchair lifts. For more information on the new bus service, call (404)463-4782 or visit www.xpressga.org.