Currently MARTA operates 2 distinct tiers of service, rail and local bus. There is a significant gap between those services that the 2016 Comprehensive Operations Analysis proposes to fix, by creating different levels of bus service; Arterial Rapid Transit (ART), Express, Frequent Local, Supporting Local, Community and Circulator.
The idea is create attract more riders from ‘lifestyle’ transit markets, using the tried approach.
Arterial Rapid Transit is envisioned as being a network of frequent routes on existing high density arterial corridors serving ‘lifestyle’ transit markets where residents will respond positively to enhanced transit product. ART will bridge the gap between the speed of rail and the convenience of local bus. Similar to rail it will serve as principal network spines. ART will have headways of 10 minutes or less, further spaced stops (which will allow buses to travel faster), signal priority, queue jump lanes at intersections, dedicated lanes, off-board fare collection, level platform boarding and all-door boarding (both will decrease dwell time at stops.) Corridors selected for ART will feature linear alignments with higher densities of residents, retail, jobs. Transit oriented development (TOD) should be leveraged around these corridors as a way to decrease congestion and increase ridership. 60’ articulated buses are recommended to operate on these routes.
Express routes are long distance that utilize freeways and Metro Atlanta’s growing network of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes; to provide fast connections between park-and-ride lots and transit centers to employment destinations or rail stations. The Express tier serves a variety of purposes from simple point-to-point commutes to longer distance rapid transit. Routes with greater all-day demand offer connections to intersecting transit services. GRTA already provides an example of Express service.
Frequent Local routes will focus on corridors that support frequencies of at least 15 minutes all day. Along with rail and ART, this tier will complete the ‘Frequent Network,’ envisioned as a “collection of transit services that consumers can use spontaneously, without consulting a schedule and planning their arrival at the stop/station. This level of convenience is important in developing a constituency of transit passengers that can feel comfortable using the transit network rather than just individual stops.” Frequent Local will use 40’ buses, along major corridors.
Supporting Local are the majority of the network. The routes will provide connections to employment centers, transit centers, activity centers, etc. They are the lifeline to transit dependent residents, while also providing connections to the Frequent Network. Supporting Local will maintain frequencies of 30–60 minutes, depending on market support. Additional peak period frequencies will be added to routes showing strong market support. Supporting Local is what MARTA buses have historically focused on to provide connections to rail stations. Under the COA, Supporting Local will provide access to a far broader Frequent Network, than just rail service.
Community and Circulators are shorter distance, local routes that connect residents to community retail, education, and transit stations. This service will be different from Supporting Local through the use of smaller and/or specially branded buses.