You may have heard lately that MARTA has gotten serious about persuing a "Northern Expansion"... The plan is being called Connect400 (learn more). Other than a very small minority that seems to have forgotten that they live near a City and not in the middle of Montana, the support is overwhelmingly positive for SOMETHING to be done.
There are a few options on the table: (this list is not all encompassing, but does cover the most popular)
1. Run a "Bus Rapid Transit" (or BRT) Line north from the North Springs Station up to Alpharetta and potentially further north to Cumming. This is an interesting proposal because it does help with having the buses avoid 400 traffic when making their way South to North Springs. However, that is ALL that this plan really does. It still forces those of us that live North of the River to change modes of transportation. We still would take a "bus-to-a-train". This would, at best, reduce our travel time by 5-10 minutes. Not exactly a great use of capital.
2. Extend "Light Rail" in a very similar fashion to the BRT plan (see above). Unfortunately, this idea is even worse as it is more expensive than Option 1 and would provide the exact same result.
3. Extend "Heavy Rail" North from North Springs up to Windward Parkway (and potentially further in the future). This is a plan to extend the current "Red" line that stops at North Springs further North to Windward Parkway with stops being added at Northridge, Holcomb Bridge, Mansell, North Point Mall, and Windward Parkway. This is a plan that has some real excitement and purpose. For those currently commuting from "North Fulton" (And I include anyone north of the River for this discussion), this would mean no longer having to cram onto 400 (or Roswell Road) with everyone else, in order to get over one of the two existing river crossings. (See previous post about that trainwreck...) You could drive (on surface streets) to the nearest MARTA station. Park your car and take ONE mode of transportation into Atlanta.
As an example, for those currently living in North Roswell/South Alpharetta and commuting to Buckhead: today's commute (if you try to take as much mass transit as possible) takes you 15 minutes (via car) to get to Mansell Park-And-Ride, 5 minutes to wait for the bus (if you're lucky), 20 minutes (via bus) to get to North Springs, 10 minutes to wait for the next train since you missed your regular one (usually), 15 minute train ride to Buckhead. Even if your office is only 5 minutes from the Buckhead Station that is 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to work, door-to-door. (Lots of empirical data here...)
If Option 3 was implemented, you'd drive 15 minutes to Old Milton Station (near 400), potentially wait 5 minutes for the next train, and then 20 minutes later you're in Buckhead, and 5 minutes after that, you're at work. That is a total of 45 minutes to work: Saving you 25 minutes EACH WAY. Plus, the fact that this commute is a single-mode-of-travel takes out all the stress involved in running from the bus to the train and hoping you make your connection... which you rarely make.
Extending Heavy Rail northward would lower commute times, take more cars off the road, and make commuting (heaven forbid) less stressful. Sounds like a good investment to me! ..But I ride MARTA from Holcomb Bridge on a regular basis. What say you?
Here's a map of the proposed allignments.