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MARTA puts forward bus rapid transit option for connecting Lindbergh to Avondale

The first of three planned public forums was held Monday night.

ATLANTA — MARTA on Tuesday put forward a plan to connect the Lindbergh and Avondale heavy-rail stations with a bus rapid transit (BRT) network through a crucial corridor that includes the CDC, Emory and Children's Egleston Hospital. 

The transit agency announced that they would be advancing two potential BRT plans for the Clifton Corridor, the culmination of a long culling selection process for the route - which ends with eliminating a light rail alternative.

Light rail had at one point been the proposed form of the project to run through the corridor.

MARTA has favored BRT for several recent expansion developments - with one system implementation underway in Summerhill and another planned for the Campbellton Corridor.

RELATED: MARTA addresses City Council committee on alleged budget shortfall | What we learned

The agency has generally argued BRT argues a quicker path to project completion, and at far less cost, than light rail systems while largely replicating most of the advantages of light rail. 

A MARTA presentation ahead of the decision on Monday night included documents that said BRT could handle 250-800 riders an hour, take riders from Lindbergh to Avondale in 31 minutes, and come in for $1-1.4 billion. 

The materials contrasted with light rail, which they said would complete the Lindbergh-Avondale trip in 29 minutes, service 350-1,100 riders per hour, and cost $2.4-2.9 billion.

The proposed route would include stops at Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill/Briarcliff, the CDC, and Clifton. An expansion on that - which materials highlight as "currently unfunded" - would include North Decatur/Clairmont, Scott Blvd., Emory Decatur, North Decatur/DeKalb Industrial, Irvin Way (optional), DeKalb Industrial/N. Arcadia, and then Avondale.

An additional alternative would split off a separate arterial rapid transit (ART) route south from North Decatur/Clairmont to include Maediris Dr., Clairemont Ave./Scott Blvd., and then Decatur.

See the maps below or at MARTA's site here

In a statement, MARTA Assistant General Manager of Planning Shelley Peart said BRT was also favorable in the competitive environment for federal grant money - which the project will need to be completed.

“BRT makes sense for this corridor, providing fast, efficient transit in dedicated bus lanes,” Peart said. “More and more transit expansion projects across the country are considering BRT due to its ability to provide rail-like service more quickly, with less impact, and at a lower capital cost. Those features improve the project’s overall rating and therefore its competitiveness for federal funding, which we’ve known since this project’s inception would be critical to its completion.”

The decision to implement BRT instead of light rail along Campbellton Road was met with strong debate but won over some skeptics.

“Sometimes the Mercedes isn't the best," community member Sherry Williams told 11Alive last summer. "Sometimes you're better with a Lincoln or a Lexus."

That came a few months after the light rail advocate had declared at a February meeting, “If you want to start World War Three on Campbellton Road, bring it on."

MARTA has additional public forums planned for this week to discuss the Clifton Corridor, including a virtual one on Thursday, Feb. 16 and an open house on Saturday, Feb. 18.

You can register for the virtual forum here and the open house here.

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