GRTA marks 10 years of Xpress Bus service
by Sarah Fay Campbell
It’s the 10th anniversary of the Xpress Bus system, and officials from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority are traveling to park-and-ride lots around the region to greet bus riders and thank them for using the service.
Coweta’s Xpress Bus route began in November 2004. The buses travel multiple times each morning and afternoon between Newnan and both downtown and midtown Atlanta. They leave at the GRTA Park and Ride lot on Hollz Parkway, off Hwy. 34 East.
GRTA is also taking a comprehensive look at the entire service, and seeking input from both riders and non-riders about what they like and don’t like about the system and what they’d like to see in the future.
This full-scale evaluation of existing service and strategic exploration of future opportunities has been dubbed “Direct Xpress.”
There was a survey of riders in April and “there will be additional public outreach as we go through this,” said Matt Markham, chief external affairs officer for GRTA.
As part of the evaluation, “we will look at where other park-and-ride lots might make sense,” Markham said.
There has long been talk of an additional park-and-ride lot in Coweta, either near Interstate 85 Exit 51 (Sharpsburg) or Exit 56 (Palmetto).
“There are a lot of places around the 13 counties” that Xpress serves “that want more park and rides,” said Kirk Fjelstul, GRTA’s acting executive director. Coweta “is an area where there are a lot of riders.” Whether Coweta will be chosen for a new park and ride will “really depend” on the results of Direct Xpress.
Coweta County, along with many other counties, pledged initial funding to get the Xpress service up and running. In return for an investment of $850,000, Coweta got an additional $10.4 million in funding for road projects.
A few years ago, Xpress faced a funding crunch. The federal funds that were used to start the system were running out. This was around the same time the Transportation Investment Act was passed, and regions around the state had to craft a list of projects to be funded with a transportation-specific sales tax. Regions served by Xpress included significant funding for the buses in their project lists. But the transportation sales tax failed miserably in all regions in the metro-Atlanta area, leaving no dedicated funding source for Xpress.
“Then the general assembly and the governor picked up funding for it,” said Fjelstul. “So now we are a part of the state budget and have been fully funded by the state for three years.”
Xpress costs $4 one way or $7 for a round trip. Multi-trip or multi-day passes are available for a slight discount.
The fares paid by riders cover about one-third of the total cost of running the system. That’s actually “extremely high” in the public transit world, said Fjelstul.
Last week, Kirk Fjelstul, Markham, and Director of Vehicle Maintenance Mark Nice were at the Newnan Park and Ride handing out insulated lunch bags, pens and candy.
“This was really just a way to celebrate 10 years and thank the customers,” said Fjelstul.
“Everybody has really enjoyed it,” said Markham.
“I think it’s awesome that we have Xpress,” said LaWanda Kent, who has been riding the bus for “a number of years.”
Linda Ruddy, JoAnn Wallace and Connie McKoy have been riding for several years and have become friends. They got Fjelstul to take a picture of them together with their driver, Tyiece Davis.
“We’re bus buddies,” said Ruddy. They often go to dinner together after arriving at the park-and-ride lot.
For more information about Xpress and details on the local routes, check out Xpressga.com.
To find out more about the Direct Xpress study, visit directxpress.xpressga.com.