Official shows off future of transit
County could one day see new hybrid buses

LAWRENCEVILLE - The solution to public transportation problems throughout metro Atlanta could be Bus Rapid Transit, according to Bruce LeVell, the Gwinnett County representative on the MARTA board of directors and the Gwinnett Village CID board of directors.

Thursday at Discover Mills, LeVell led a demonstration of the environmentally friendly, tram-style buses the proposed transit system would use.

"It's basically a train on wheels," LeVell said. "It's extremely comfortable, rides smooth and allows for more riders, yet enjoys the cost savings of bus transit."

The 60-foot-long, diesel-electric 60-BRT Hybrid is "space-age" according to LeVell, with an accordion-style connecting section. Accommodating more passengers with a regular-sized engine, the 60-BRT Hybrid is 30 to 40 percent more fuel efficient than normal buses - a characteristic that makes it a prime transit alternative to high gas prices and worsening traffic situations in Gwinnett County, LeVell said.

The July 15 Republican and Democratic primary ballots will ask Gwinnett voters whether they are willing to bring MARTA into the county. In the past two straw votes, Gwinnett residents have voted strongly against paying the additional penny sales tax for the extension of MARTA lines, the latest vote being taken in 1990. Bus Rapid Transit as a part of MARTA would be an alternative to the rail and bus lines, said LeVell, providing rapid transport throughout the county that would bypass highway congestion ranking among the worst in the nation. Cities such as Los Angeles using BRT systems, according to LeVell, allow buses a separate lane on roads as well as priority at traffic signals - a No, benefit to working commuters.

"People have a misconception about MARTA," LeVell said of fears regarding the "dangers" of public transportation. "Most citizens are not educated on Bus Rapid Transit and transit-oriented development, like condos near a rail station where you can live, work and play. It's really an economic bonus."

LeVell said the BRT could co-op with the likes of Gwinnett Place Mall, Mall of Georgia and Discover Mills to bring in sales revenue from outside the county.

"MARTA is saying if you don't want rail, let us come in and help you pick up passengers," LeVell said. "We wanted to let the public touch, taste and feel the possibilities today, and the feedback's been extremely positive."