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New bus routes set to begin

LAWRENCEVILLE - "Look for the skateboard park."

That's what transit officials are telling commuters who want to ride two new Express routes that begin running between Gwinnett County and Atlanta on Monday morning.

Under a deal worked out between a regional agency and Discover Mills mall, parking for the bus routes will be in front of United Skate Park, which occupies one corner of the Sugarloaf Parkway shopping complex.

That could trip up some passengers because existing Express lines already depart from a park-and-ride lot located beside the mall.

"It's important that people remember that parking for these new routes is not in the park-and-ride lot on North Brown Road," Gwinnett Transit Director Tim Collins said. "It is over by the skate park in the mall parking lot."

William Mecke, spokesman for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, said signs should be installed by Monday directing bus riders to the proper parking area.

GRTA is providing the nine buses to Gwinnett County, which will operate them through a partnership with the agency.

The buses will form two routes: 410 to the Lindbergh MARTA station, and 412 to the Civic Center and Arts Center MARTA stations in the Midtown section of Atlanta.

During off-peak hours, or between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., route 412 will add stops at the Indian Trail-Lilburn Road park-and-ride lot in Norcross, and at the Five Points MARTA station in downtown Atlanta.

Like most Express buses operated by Gwinnett, the ones from GRTA will have reclining seats, luggage racks and reading lamps, and they will travel in carpool lanes to minimize traffic delays.

Under the deal with GRTA, Gwinnett contributed a one-time payment of $3.6 million to operate the buses, and in return, the state is spending $40 million to widen portions of traffic-choked Ga. Highway 20.

Because Gwinnett already had its own transit system, the GRTA buses will be merged into it. As such, they will have a color scheme similar to the county's crimson-and-gold color buses. However, they will eventually be wrapped in advertisements for Discover Mills.

In exchange for the ad space, GRTA will get to use 500 parking spots at the mall for bus riders.

GRTA was forced to find parking for the Express buses it is sending Gwinnett because the county park-and-ride lot on North Brown Road is at capacity. The county lot opened in July 2005 with 554 parking spaces.

Route information is available at 404-463-4782. Express passes can be purchased at 770-822-5010.