Public transit riders who want to travel across metro Atlanta could soon be able to consult a single website — instead of as many as four different ones — to buy fare cards and get schedule information.
The state Senate subcommittee on public transportation on Tuesday recommended that the region's four transit providers create an online information hub by July 1, 2014.
The transit providers are Cobb County Transit, Gwinnett County Transit, MARTA and GRTA (Georgia Regional Transportation Authority). GRTA would organize the effort.
State Sen. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican who heads the subcommittee, said UPS has volunteered the help of several information technology executives to build the website, which will be named www.GoATLtransit.com.
The proposed resolution will be submitted to the Senate for approval on the first day of the session on Jan. 13.
The subcommittee has been looking at ways to better coordinate the separate transit systems for several months.
Each uses its own routing, scheduling and payment systems, which can be confusing to tourists and new riders. Planning a trip from one county to another often involves visiting multiple websites.
Paying can also be a hassle. Breeze cards are used for MARTA trains and buses, and can be used to pay bus fares on the other three transit systems. However, the cards are only available for purchase at MARTA rail stations or on MARTA's website.
Buses do not accept credit or debit card payments at the fare box. And they only accept cash if it's in exact change.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution highlighted those and other aggravations in October, after a reporter took a public transit trek from Duluth to Marietta. Traveling between the two northern suburban cities required the use of three different transit providers (two buses and a train). The total trip time clocked in at a startling 2.5 hours.
Beach created a video that documented an even longer transit journey from Kennesaw to Gwinnett Arena in Duluth over the summer. His trip took three hours, 35 minutes — longer than it takes to fly from Atlanta to New York City.
"If Atlanta wants to be a world-class city, we can't have a disjointed, dysfunctional public transit system," Beach said.
Beach said he'd eventually like to see all the transit providers brought under a single governing authority and rebranded as "The ATL" (The Atlanta Transit Line). The creation of a single website would be a baby step in that direction, he said.
Previous attempts by state lawmakers to unify transit governance through legislation failed in 2010 and 2012. This time around, the subcommitee brought together leaders of the different transit providers and asked them to voluntarily agree on steps to improve the customer experience.
MARTA General Manager Keith Parker endorsed the plan during the meeting Tuesday, the subcommittee's last before the session. He added that the four transit providers have also sought money from the Atlanta Regional Commission to do joint marketing.
"People don't care if it's a MARTA bus or GRTA or Cobb what have you," Parker said. "They just want a good trip."
Tom Weyandt, senior transportation policy adviser for the city of Atlanta, also pledged to work to post Atlanta Streetcar route and fare information on the website after streetcar service begins in May.
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