GRTA thanks first-year Xpress riders

By Justin Boron

Steve and Maria Gold say they have taken the Xpress bus from day one. That would give the Jonesboro couple almost 400 rides to Atlanta in effort to escape their car and get a stress-free ride to work.

Gold said it saves him $30 to$40 a week in gas a week.

But if relaxation and extra money weren't enough, the couple, along with dozens of other riders on Tuesday, got a thank you from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

Officials for GRTA, which runs the commuter bus service, handed out donuts, coffee, and commemorative pins marking the first year of the service as they wished commuters bon voyage.

The breakfast was part of the agency's week-long Xpress customer appreciation push across metro Atlanta.

A little more than a year into its Clayton County service, GRTA officials say the Tara Boulevard route it calls "the big enchilada" has provided at least 80,000 rides. The gross ridership is the highest in the metro Atlanta area.

Clayton County was one of the earliest to get the bus service, which picks up commuters at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton and the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro before carrying them to several spots in downtown Atlanta.

Sitting in an almost full bus, Gold said the service is a great improvement to an area struggling through traffic congestion.

"We needed it 20 years ago," he said.

Gisela Rolle, 30, of Lovejoy said she has taken the bus since she moved to the area from New York last month.

"I used to take the express bus in (New York)," she said. "This express is a lot more comfortable.

"It has nice comfortable chairs, the (air conditioning) is on full blast," she said.

GRTA also has plans to open up another Xpress bus route in Riverdale.

The nine Xpress routes in the region serve downtown Atlanta from Cumming, Conyers, McDonough, Hampton, Jonesboro, Newnan, Douglasville and Powder Springs. Xpress also serves Peachtree Parkway between the Doraville MARTA station and Johns Creek, the Perimeter area from Cumming, and connects Douglasville with the Cumberland/Galleria and Windward areas.

For more route and fare information, visit www.grta.org.