Xpress bus service begins at Salem Road

CONYERS - A second commuter Xpress bus line from Conyers to Atlanta is scheduled to begin service Monday from the parking lot of the Church In The Now.

The new commuter bus line is operated by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, or GRTA, and will serve the Salem Road corridor and west Newton County area.

The park-and-ride area is located at the eastern-most corner of the Church In The Now's parking lot on Iris Drive. Buses will use a turn lane on Iris Drive as an embark/disemark lane, said William Mecke, communications director for GRTA.

The route will have six morning trips departing from the park-and-ride area every 30 minutes from 5:30 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday. The buses will have stops at the MARTA Five Points station in downtown Atlanta and Civic Center/West Peachtree Street station before heading back to Conyers.

Evening trips will begin from the Civic Center MARTA station beginning at 3:32 p.m. and continuing every 30 minutes through 6:02 p.m.

Also, the new route will provide two morning and two evening reverse direct commute trips, from Civic Center MARTA station at 6:25 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and from the Church In The Now park-and-ride lot at 4:20 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Mecke said commuters will be asked to park in the portion of the lot closest to Iris Drive and east of the church's main entrance.

GRTA will lease parking lot space from the church for the bus service. Mecke said GRTA will erect a shelter at the bus stop and install signage and pavement striping for handicapped parking.

GRTA has had a park-and-ride lot at Sigman Road and Chambers Drive since the bus service started in 2004. The Conyers line, and another at Panola Road, have proven to be two of the most successful lines in the Xpress bus system and routinely has nearly 100 percent capacity, Mecke said.

Bringing the lot online for service on the east side of Conyers had been delayed for the last few years because GRTA was unable to find suitable property to purchase on Salem Road, Mecke said.

"We used the existing park-and-ride at Sigman Road and that was the easy one, and then we had to find a park-and-ride near Salem Road and that was a bit more of a challenge," he said.

GRTA's Xpress bus service began in 2004 as an alternative for commuters to travel to downtown Atlanta from outlying counties. The service has 26 routes in 12 counties.

Fares are $3 one way, $5 round trip. Twenty- and 40-ride tickets, as well as a 31-day unlimited ride pass, are also available.

Rockdale County contributed $1.4 million to GRTA in 2003 to become a part of the regional bus service. The money is to be used for maintenance and operations of the buses taking commuters to Atlanta. In exchange, GRTA earmarked $16.5 million in state bonds for eight road projects in Rockdale County, including Parker Road, Salem Road, Old Covington Highway and Sigman Road at Gees Mill Road.

For more information about the Xpress bus service, bus schedules or to purchase tickets, go to www.xpressga.com.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.