While GCRTA branded the BRT service like many agencies do, one thing stands out: it sold the naming rights. Originally slated to be named the Silver Line, the name was changed to the HealthLine after two medical institutions along the corridor – Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital – bought the naming rights. "They're paying us between $18 and $25 million over 25 years for those rights. So, they can call it anything they want!" Calabrese says with a laugh. "I think we're the first system in the nation to sell the naming rights to the system. We have naming rights for the vehicles, for the system and then we also with our two partners, the two hospitals, are selling naming rights to individual stations along the corridor. The combination of the system naming rights and the station naming rights could gross us anywhere between $18 and 25 million."
Plans for the Future
Up to this point, the HealthLine hasn't been expanded at all. Calabrese says there are discussions but no solid plans at this time. However, GCRTA is working with the cities of Cleveland and Lake Wood, a city west of Cleveland, to take some of the technology and characteristics of Bus Rapid Transit on a future project called the Cliffton Transit Enhancement Project that is currently in design right now. "We're currently looking for funding. It's not directly attached to [the HealthLine], but it takes a lot of what we learned there to do something similar but not to the greatest detail as we did on Euclid because we just feel the money won't be available," Calabrese says.
In Atlanta, Route 121 along the Memorial Drive corridor, was a cause of congestion. On Sept. 27, 2010, the MARTA Q service began implementation to help alleviate some of that congestion.
"Essentially it was a service to enhance or provide an advantage for buses traveling on one of our heavily used corridors, Route 121," explains Johnny Dunning, Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority senior director of planning. "The planning for this has been a journey. We've actually been planning this for the last three or four years."
MARTA received federal funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) for the capital construction as well as the first three years of operation for the project.
Dunning describes the process as a journey because the project was slated to be in operation as early as 2009, if not the end of 2008. MARTA partnered with the Georgia Department of Transportation, which was working on a major interchange improvement project in the corridor as well, which helped with the MARTA Q project, but it slowed things down a bit.
The Memorial Drive corridor is approximately 8 miles long and the Q operates two services: The Q Express and the Q Limited. The Q Express runs between MARTA's Kensington Station and a free 150-car park-and-ride lot at Goldsmith Road and Memorial Drive. The Express only stops twice along the way at North Hairston Road and again at Georgia Perimeter College. The Q Limited also runs north along Memorial Drive from Kensington Station, but branches off at North Hairston Road on the way to East Ponce de Leon Avenue. The Q Limited has four stops along the way in addition to the same stops for the Express. The Q operates at 10-minute frequencies during peak hours.
The MARTA Q buses operate in mixed traffic with signal priority at 26 intersections along the corridor. Working with the DOT, MARTA had Q Jumping Lanes installed at two major intersections, which allow the buses to bypass long queues at the intersections using a unique signal before the directional is allowed to have a green light.
"What happens is the bus has the advantage to clear the intersection ahead of the traffic without having to be held up. Additionally, what signal priority does is when a bus is approaching the emitter is transmitting to the receptor at the signal and the receptor will hold the green for a specified time to allow the bus to clear the intersection. That's what you have, signal priority working to get the buses through holding green and then you have two jumping intersections that allow the buses to pass by traffic to get ahead," Dunning explains.
Currently MARTA Q doesn't provide real-time information for passengers, but Dunning says it is something they hope to look to do and it would come with a systematic approach.
"This was really the first shot at doing something like this in the region. We know in due time we'd like to have that type of real-time information," Dunning says. "This service does include a different type of bus stop as well, we have with those limited stops and express stops pavilions that provide shelter for a larger set of people. With the different type of shelter and treatment, that's where the minor branding we did for the service is. We have the Q service which is one brand and what people actually see out there is the pavilions or the different shelter amenities the customers have, and we think in due time we'll provide that real-time information and would do so in those pavilions."