Tomorrow, Clayton County voters will decide whether or not to approve a 1% sales tax hike that will expand MARTA services to the south Atlanta county. For their trouble, they’d see more bus routes and an escrow account for future light-rail or “high capacity transit options” drawn from that 1%. Clayton will be awarded two voting members of the MARTA board, who will join the five each from the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County. Bus service would begin in March of 2015 and MARTA wants to remind you some will be nice buses.
Like the rest of MARTA’s bus fleet, Clayton County’s proposed routes will operate from 5:00 AM to 1:00 AM on weekdays, shutting down at 12:30 on weekends. By December of 2015, there will be eight bus routes, culminating in ten by 2020. By 2022, high capacity transit (presumably rail) will be extended to the county seat of Jonesboro, with hopes to be in the early stages of high capacity transit for Lovejoy by 2025. The whole system will connect Clayton to the airport and downtown. The proposed map can be found here.
The much-derided transit service has a history of difficult expansion votes; tomorrow’s election may determine if changing demographics and transit preferences will allow an expansion in our generation. In 2010, Clayton County voters approved a non-binding referendum to join MARTA. In 2012, they voted out two county commissioners who had reduced bus service in the county, indicating “their preference for more transit options”, per the pro-referendum Sierra Club. This is in keeping with national trends favoring urban centers and “walkable” cities. If you want to cheer on those trends, join the Friends of Clayton Transit from 7:00-11:00 PM tomorrow at Riverdale Town Center.
The short analysis is this: Clayton County voters will make a decision for their future tomorrow. The future of busses could appear within months. Rail or BRT will take a little bit longer.