An idea of possibly building a monorail along Buford Highway in Brookhaven didn’t get much support from a city councilmember’s commissioned study.
Councilmember Joe Gebbia used his $10,000 discretionary fund last year to pay for a traffic study by Gresham, Smith and Partners to look at alternative modes of transportation in the city, especially “last mile connectivity” that takes commuter from the MARTA station to near their homes or offices.
The study, completed in June, is expected to be presented to the City Council in the near future, Gebbia said.
“It was not a very expensive study. It was peripheral,” Gebbia said. “But I wanted to start the conversation and use this as a pivot point to look at mass transit options in the city.”
The study looked at population, demographics, right-of-way expenses, potential for future development, including at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station, and much more in determining what were some ways to ease congestion in the city. A costly monorail system – for example, the 3.9-mile network in Las Vegas built with private funds that cost about $89 million per mile — is not recommended for Brookhaven at this time, according to the study.
“Given the current and planned future land uses in the study area, which do not yet meet acceptable thresholds for this type of transit, as well as the ongoing discussions to revisit the city’s land use planning framework, including its community character areas, it is not possible to ascertain the viability of other non-bus transit alternatives, including any aerial systems,” the study says.
The study says Brookhaven residents do use public transportation more often than others in metro Atlanta or across the state and also have shorter commute times. About 37.6 percent of Brookhaven commuters have one-way commute times of 30 minutes or more, compared to 48.3 percent for metro Atlanta workers and 39.4 percent of all Georgia workers, the study says. Nearly 11 percent of Brookhaven residents use transit to get to work compared to about 3.2 percent of the population in metro Atlanta and 2.2 percent throughout Georgia, according to the study.
The study’s short-term recommendation centers on the MARTA station and suggests adding a circular bus route from the station to the south side of the city.
The bus would connect the MARTA station with neighborhoods along North Druid Hills Road, a portion of Buford Highway including Corporate Park, the redeveloping Executive Park area, the newly developing office and health care facilities by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and new residential and mixed-use developments within and near the Executive Park area, west of North Druid Hills Road. The bus would make about a dozen stops.
Pickup and drop off sites would be as close to job sites, residential areas and medical facilities as possible. The route would operate clockwise in the morning and counter clockwise in the afternoon about every 15 minutes, allowing commuters to also catch MARTA.
Implementing this recommendation includes purchasing three 23-24 passenger-seat buses at a cost of about $72,500 each. Operating expenses are estimated at between $244,000 and $286,000 a year and cost to install shelters, benches and concrete pads at the stops would cost about $222,000.
The city could also contact this transit service with three buses for about $289,000 to $315,000 annually, the study states.
A less costly way to create connectivity to the MARTA station is for the city to partner with MARTA and private on-demand services, such as Uber and Lyft. Last year, MARTA partnered with Uber to cover that last mile of service MARTA doesn’t reach.
A car service route could begin at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station and proceed to Apple Valley Road. The vehicles would then turn right onto Apple Valley Road and proceed to the traffic signal at North Druid Hills Road.
Turning left on North Druid Hills Road, the vehicles would proceed south to Briarwood Road, where they would turn left and continue southeast to Buford Highway. The vehicles would then turn right and go south on Buford Highway to Corporate Boulevard, then turn right and proceed to the southbound service road paralleling I-85.
The vehicles would then continue south to the I-85/North Druid Hills Road exit ramp and turn left on North Druid Hills Road. The vehicles would make a loop within Executive Park, then proceed across North Druid Hills Road at Tullie Road and serve the new CHOA development at the corner of North Druid Hills Road and Tullie Road.
The vehicles would then proceed along the northbound service road paralleling I-85 to the underpass where a left turn is permitted. Vehicles then would continue along the southbound I-85 service road to Corporate Boulevard, then and return back to the MARTA station via Briarwood Drive and North Druid Hills Road.