Public-private efforts are underway to start direct bus connections between Hall County and downtown Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Officials involved with the project envision setting up stations at the Exit 17 park-and-ride lot off Interstate 985 in South Hall and the Hall County Farmers Market off Jesse Jewell Parkway at I-985 near Gainesville.
Buses could run at least four times in the morning and four times in evenings on weekdays, and one-way fares could range from $13 to $19.
The announcement was made Tuesday during a “transportation awareness” bus tour sponsored by Vision 2030, an arm of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. Area political leaders and government officials were on board the bus.
“We don’t need to hire consultants. We just need to work together,” said Doug Hanson, a volunteer with Vision 2030’s transportation committee.
The committee mentioned such a transit system, including the possibility of involving a private operator, in an April 2012 report.
“Rapid transit could be reality (in) 2016,” Hanson said.
He said he would like to see the service kick off with a promotional tour by late March.
But some work needs to be done first, including talking with officials about trying to secure more parking spaces at the planned stations. Also, officials would like to see whether Gainesville Connection, Hall Area Transit’s fixed-route bus service, can link to the stations.
Oakwood worked with the Georgia Department of Transportation and University of North Georgia to convert the park-and-ride lot — which had been unkempt and largely vacant — into mostly a parking area and shuttle service for students at UNG’s nearby Gainesville campus.
“We support the rapid transit concept, but we need to have some discussion about it because we are the ones who have the agreement to operate and maintain that lot,” Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said.
Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, which operates Hall Area Transit, said “it wouldn’t take much for us to pull into the park-and-ride” as buses already go by Exit 17.
The farmers market is trickier, especially as the operation isn’t year-round and it lies just outside the closest route.
But with Lanier Technical College moving to property off Ga. 365 at Howard Road in North Hall in the fall of 2018, “we’ll eventually be going farther north,” Moss said.
The company proposing to operate the service is Daniel’s Charters, which is at 4336 Cornelia Highway in Lula. Among its customers are colleges and sports teams, including Kennesaw State University and UNG, as well as the University of Georgia Redcoat Band, said Keith Brady, operations/sales director.
He said the company became interested in the transit proposal after Hanson “came to us a couple of weeks ago and asked us to look at the idea of possibly participating.”
That is something “we would certainly want to do,” Brady said.
“This is a great opportunity not only for us but for the community to get some folks down to Atlanta to … do whatever they need to do,” he said.