Atlanta is often referred to as the Capital of the South. It is the home to some the world’s most successful companies including The Coca-Cola Company. There are nearly five and a half million residents in the Atlanta metropolitan area. One metro Atlanta community has left some of its residents literally stranded. Clayton County just south of Atlanta made the decision to terminate its public transportation service called C-Tran.
The five member board of the Clayton County Commission voted 4-1 to end C-Tran on March 31, 2010. The Commissioners that voted to terminate the bus service citing lack of funding in the county’s budget. C-Tran has an annual operating budget of about $10 million a year with less than $3 million dollars in annual revenue. Some local and state leaders tried to intervene to save C-Tran. They were able to introduce a bill in the Georgia General Assembly that would allow Clayton County to put funding for public transportation with a one cent sales tax on a countywide referendum. If residents voted for to establish a sales tax funding of public transportation, it would take about a year to go into affect. Georgia House Bill 1218, The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 successfully passed but it did not break the Clayton County Commission’s resolve to eliminate C-Tran. Bus service in Clayton County ended at 11:59 p.m. on March 31, 2010.
C-Tran bus service connected residents without personal transportation to the rest of metro Atlanta. C-Tran buses operated out of the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport which is located in Clayton County. The airport was the transfer point between C-Tran and MARTA, Atlanta’s mass transit authority. On MARTA, riders could access most of metro Atlanta via bus or rail service and connect to other regional transportation systems.
It’s now almost a month after C-Tran ended and residents are still struggling to find rides to work, school and other destinations. A small network of transportation companies have stepped in to help residents stranded by the public transportation vacuum in Clayton County. One company, Southside Transportation was issued an emergency operating permit from the Georgia Public Service Commission, the governing authority for public transportation in the area. The company operates two 15 passenger vans that have picked up two of C-Tran’s former routes. Customer needing a ride must call (404) 201-8345 about 20 minutes in advance for pick ups along C-Tran’s former 503 and 504 bus routes. The fare for transport to the College Park MARTA rail station is $2 one way.
Xpress is another alternative that commuters with a typical work schedule can take advantage of. Xpress is a bus service provided by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. It operates a commuter service in metro Atlanta as an alternative to driving vehicles with one passenger. Xpress offers three routes to and from Clayton County. Xpress makes five to six trips in the morning, transporting passengers one way to downtown Atlanta from 530 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and makes two to Three reverse trips back to Clayton County. In the Afternoon it runs five to six trips from Atlanta back to Clayton County from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and makes two to Three reverse trips to Atlanta. The service runs Monday through Friday. One way fare is $3 and round trip is $5 on Xpress.
Patricia T. of Riverdale, is a former C-Tran rider. She says that everyday she has to plan her commute to and from her two jobs. Patricia’s full-time job is in College Park which borders Riverdale, but it might as well be on the other side of town. Another problem for Patricia is that she works the overnight shift from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. In order for her to get to work she has to call Southside Transportation and catch their last pick up at about 8:30 p.m. she must walk about a mile and a half to the nearest pick up location. By the time she arrives at work, she is about three and a half hours early. Patricia says, “I usually read a book or take a quick nap in the break room until my shift starts.” Patricia is also an usher for the Atlanta Braves. When there is an evening game she usually leaves there heading to her regular job after 10 p.m. Patricia says that she is considering moving out of Clayton County. “Southside Transportation doesn’t run on the weekends. I have to use another service, but they have been down with mechanical problems for a week now,” says Patricia. She goes on to say, “I work the Braves games most weekends, so sometimes I have to call a taxi. It’s getting very expensive.” Patricia is one of an estimated 8,500 riders that must find alternate ways to get around Clayton County.
In February MARTA conducted a survey of C-Tran riders after Clayton County voted to eliminate bus service. According to the survey 75% of the riders polled said they may lose their job because of lack of transportation. Only 12% of riders own a vehicle. The survey also found that 91% of riders said they would support a one cent sales tax to fund public transportation.
Many employees of UPS, Federal Express, Delta Airlines and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport live in Clayton County because of its proximity to their jobs. Some of those workers used C-Tran for transportation. Those kinds of jobs do not have an option for telecommuting. There is a major push to get residents to join carpools and vanpools. Ride Smart is a commuter service in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) that match riders with carpools and vanpools. The service even offers incentives for its participants including a Guaranteed Ride Home. Riders in the program have 5 free rides home in the event of an emergency or an unscheduled event. Participation in the program is free and available to residents that telecommute, use public transportation, vanpools, carpools, bike or walk.
Until there is some kind of mass transit service, residents of Clayton County, Georgia must continue to find alternate means of transportation. It’s not easy, and most of the alternatives are not guaranteed.
For more information:
Southside Transportation (404) 201-8345
Ride Smart: https://www.myridesmart.com/html/index.htm