By Joel Hall
After more than a month of weather-related, construction delays, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority's (GRTA's) newest Xpress Park-and-Ride lot in Jonesboro will accept its first passengers on Monday.
According to GRTA Communications Director William Mecke, the agency will open its new Park-and Ride lot to the public Monday, shifting the Clayton County stop of its 440 Xpress bus (from Hampton to downtown Atlanta) from the Harold R. Banke Justice Center to a new location -- next to the Mrs. Winners & Arby's, near the corner of Smith Street and Tara Boulevard.
The new Park-and-Ride lot will also serve as a stop on the 441 bus route, which shuttles passengers from Hampton to midtown Atlanta.
Mecke said the new lot in Jonesboro will have 601 parking spaces, as well as many features not available at the justice center, such as larger passenger shelters and message boards displaying information on expected bus arrival and departure times.
"Basically, we were borrowing space from the justice center," Mecke said. "The courts down there were using it, and they were kind enough to share it with us. It was always in the plan to have something more permanent. By building a dedicated facility, you get a little better quality of service. It will have their [GRTA's] message boards and the shelters will be a little bigger than [at] the justice center."
Mecke said the 440 service, starting at the Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) in Hampton, will no longer stop at the justice center. The bus will, instead, stop at the new Jonesboro location, prior to heading into downtown Atlanta.
The 441 route, he said, will continue to start at the AMS in Hampton and make stops at the justice center and the new Jonesboro location, prior to heading to midtown Atlanta.
Mecke said both the 440 and 441 will follow there current schedules, meaning the first 440 bus will leave the new Jonesboro lot at approximately 5:45 a.m., and the 441 will leave the new Jonesboro lot shortly after 5:30 a.m.
The one-way fare will be $3 and a round-trip fare will cost $5. Twenty one-way ride passes; 40 one-way ride passes; and a 31-day, unlimited-use pass are available for $45, $85, and $80, respectively, he said.
Mecke said that with the expected end of Clayton County's C-TRAN bus service coming March 31, GRTA officials expect that as many as 3,500 riders a day could spill over to Xpress bus service. He said GRTA is making moves to adjust to the expected increase in ridership by preparing to add three additional Clayton County Xpress bus routes.
On Tuesday, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners accepted a GRTA proposal, in which Clayton will give GRTA $2.4 million and 18 of its 24 regular C-TRAN buses to operate three new Xpress bus routes.
The routes, expected to begin after March 31, will service trips from Jonesboro to the Lakewood/Ft. McPherson MARTA station; from Clayton State University to the Lakewood/Ft. McPherson MARTA station; and from Riverdale to the College Park MARTA station.
Mecke said the plans for the new routes, however, first require the approval of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). "Right now, we have the capacity for 500 riders between [the Xpress buses which leave from] Jonesboro and Riverdale," Mecke said. "[Without the new routes,] we wouldn't be able to carry everybody and we would be leaving people at the station, which wouldn't be a good thing. Assuming the FTA approves this, we should be able to get those new routes up, and increase the capacity."
Xpress bus passes can be purchased at any MARTA Breeze Card station, the MARTA RideStores at the Five Points and Lindbergh MARTA stations, at GRTA's main offices at 245 Peachtree Center Ave., and online at www.xpressga.com.
One-way and two-way trips can be paid for with exact cash at the bus fare box.