A proposed express bus route between Buckhead and Cobb County, an idea pitched as a solution to the neighborhood’s commuter cut-through traffic, is now in the official metro Atlanta regional transit plan.

Assuming the project remains in the Regional Transit Plan for its formal adoption by the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, whose board vote is expected in December, it would become eligible for state and federal funding. An opportunity for some state funding could come next year, but many planning details about the bus route have yet to be worked out, the CID board was told at its Sept. 23 meeting.

A possible express bus route between Cobb County and Buckhead is shown as the blue line on this map included in the proposal’s entry in the 2020 ATL Regional Transit Plan.

Traffic between Cobb and Buckhead has long been a neighborhood issue, but advocacy for the current bus service arose in 2018 from the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, an umbrella group of neighborhood associations, when chair Mary Norwood began calling for a new MARTA subway line. That idea boiled down to a less expensive concept of an express commuter bus route that would avoid using residential streets. The CID, a self-taxing group of commercial property owners, and Livable Buckhead, a nonprofit whose services include alternative commuting options, got on board with the idea.

The bus concept’s inclusion in the ATL’s transit plan was announced to the CID board by Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead.

Details of the route are yet to be determined, Starling said, including the terminuses and whether it would use I-75 or I-85 to go through Buckhead. The specific route included in the ATL plan runs between Tower Place complex on Buckhead’s Piedmont Road and the Marietta Transfer Center Park-and-Ride on South Marietta Parkway in Cobb. That route uses I-75 in Cobb, the top end of I-285 and I-85 in Buckhead. The use of existing toll lanes on I-75 and toll lanes planned on I-285 could speed the route’s service.

The route could include a terminus farther north in Cobb: the Town Center Park-and-Ride on Big Shanty Road in Kennesaw. Also to be determined is exactly how such a route would circulate in Buckhead’s business district and how it would connect with the local Buc shuttle. That local shuttle itself is undergoing a reinvention into an on-demand, Uber-style service in a plan delayed by the pandemic.

“We’ve got to figure those pieces out,” Starling said.

The ATL plan filing proposes making the route part of the State Road and Tollway Authority’s existing “Xpress” commuter bus service, but that is not a requirement.

Starling estimated annual costs of such a route at $436,000. The filing in the ATL plan has it budgeted at $11,137,500 for operations and maintenance costs, which would be over a period of at least 10 years.

The first funding opportunity, Starling said, would be next year through a state bond program that is partly paid for by taxes on ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The project is in the transit plan under the name “Northwest Corridor-Buckhead Express Bus Service,” project number 179.

The ATL is accepting public comments about the regional transit plan and projects within it through Oct. 19 and is holding a series of virtual meetings in October. For more information, see atltransit.ga.gov/districtdownloads.

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