County picks new company to run transit

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County has hired a new company to run its transit system.

Connex ATC will replace McDonald Transit Associates, which has operated the county's crimson buses since they hit the road in 2002.

The switch was unanimously approved Tuesday night by Gwinnett County commissioners.

"I think it's going to be a significant improvement to the system and save money," said County Commissioner Lorraine Green.

Three companies bid for the contract and Connex's $8.4 million offer was not the lowest, but its price combined with its expertise and other qualifications led to it being picked, said Gwinnett Transportation Director Brian Allen.

Just like its predecessor, Connex will manage the day-to-day operations of the bus system, with oversight provided by the county and a board of citizens appointed by county commissioners.

Connex has plans to add wireless Internet service to the county's buses, said Art Sheldon, who chairs the Gwinnett Transit Advisory Board. For a fee, passengers will be able to access the Internet during their commute, he said.

The company also will create a Web site where transit riders can check to see if their bus is running late or on time, Sheldon said.

A call left Wednesday with Connex was not returned. Its parent company is based in Paris.

The company operates Cobb County's bus system. Its contract there was recently extended five years.

"They have done an outstanding job for us," said Cobb Transportation Director David Montanye.