In October, I was in Atlanta for a few days, for the APTA Expo, which was a public transit industry convention and trade show. On a slow day during the convention, I snatched away a few hours to make an inspection of Georgia Bus Line.
I ubered over to Buford highway, the main road served by this company. A bright orange minibus showed up, and i made a round trip. The driver correctly identified me as a tourist. From him, I was able to gather the essential facts about the route.
What was dismaying, but completely expected, was that no other APTA Expo attendees I met had even heard of this transit service.
This company which, as far as I know, is the only jitney bus operation in Georgia, or the South as a whole. Essentially, it is exactly the same as a jitney bus back in New Jersey. The story is similar. The company was founded in 2001 in order to provide convenient transit service to the Hispanic immigrant communities northeast of Atlanta. It parallels a public MARTA bus route, the 39. You can read the Wikipedia article here.
Challenges to jitney bus service in this part of the country are a little different than in New Jersey. Population density is much lower. Most of the route can be characterized as suburban sprawl. Not exactly a transit-friendly environment, but they make it work.
According to Wikipedia, in 2006 “Three of its buses were burned shortly after the company had provided free bus service to a pro-immigrant rally”
The interior was just like the buses back home in New Jersey. Oddly soft seats, air a little too warm, loud engine, etc.
The route runs along Buford Highway between Lindbergh Station and Don Quixote Grocery Store in Doraville. The driver made an announcement asking if anyone was going to Doraville Station, but no one responded, so the driver didn’t go down the station driveway.
Other particulars: The fare is $1.50, and the schedule shows the bus running approximately every 20 minutes. The driver had a handwritten timetable of departure times, but there was no public copy. In typical jitney fashion, I saw several jitneys in the other direction driving directly ahead of the MARTA 39. The service operates approximately 6am to 7pm, 7 days a week.
Overall, I find it heartening that jitney buses can survive in suburban Atlanta. To me, this indicates that the business model can work in many more areas, outside the densely populated city neighborhoods it is associated with in New Jersey and Brooklyn.
Ramos, Rachel Tobin (17 January 2005), “Private bus service on a roll”, Atlanta Business Chronicle.
“Buford Highway and the Royal Bus Lines” Profiling Atlanta Transportation. November 27 2011.