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Fledgling bus lines reach one-month mark

LAWRENCEVILLE - After one month on the road, two new Express bus routes are carrying about 140 people a day to downtown Atlanta.

That's not a flashy showing, but it's about what officials expect of regional bus lines still in their infancy, said William Mecke, spokesman for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

"It looks like they have started pretty well," Mecke said of the routes that depart from Discover Mills mall near Lawrenceville and travel in carpool lanes to minimize traffic delays on Interstate 85.

"We've been talking to the riders and getting feedback," he said, "and we're going to tweak the schedule a little bit to make them work better for folks."

The rush-hour routes were created by GRTA, and they join three others already put in place by Gwinnett County. The county operates all five under a deal worked out with the state.

Route 410, which goes to the Lindbergh MARTA station in downtown Atlanta, carries 35 to 40 riders in the morning, and about 30 to 35 in the evening, Mecke said.

Route 412 to MARTA's Civic Center and Arts Center stations in Midtown carry about 106 during morning rush hour, Mecke said, and about 91 in the evening.

Bus routes continue to mature and add riders for several months after their creation, Mecke said.

"I've been told that it takes six months for them to hit 80 percent of what their ridership will be," Mecke said.

GRTA's busiest Express route runs from Hampton in Clayton County to Atlanta, and ferries about 465 people a day when morning and evening trips are combined. It began in June 2004, Mecke said.

The lowest performing route carries about 100 people a day between Cumming and the North Springs MARTA station and Perimeter Center.

The previous lowest performer, which went from Douglasville to Cobb County's Cumberland Galleria area, saw less than 10 daily boardings. It was cut earlier this month because of poor ridership, Mecke said.

Gwinnett Transit began its Express Service in 2001, and its crimson buses have proven popular with commuters trying to avoid the stress of driving during rush hour and save money on gas.

The three routes have steadily gained passengers, but ridership spiked after Hurricane Katrina caused gas prices to surge.

All three county routes averaged almost 2,000 boardings a day in February, said Gwinnett Transit Director Tim Collins.

Numbers for individual routes were not available, he said.

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