By Dan Klepal. ajc.com Staff Writer
Cobb Commissioners Tuesday night approved the purchase of six buses that will be used in a new people-moving transit system around the Cumberland area where SunTrust Park is under construction and scheduled to open in April 2017.
The so-called Cumberland Circulator has not yet been approved by the county commission, but Cobb transportation director Faye DiMassimo said the buses must be ordered now so the buses will be delivered in time for the start of the new service, anticipated to begin two months before SunTrust Park opens. DiMassimo said that the buses would be integrated into the Cobb Community Transit system if for some reason the circulator system is not approved.
The Federal Transit Administration will cover 80 percent of the cost, leaving the county to pay $670,000 from Cobb County Transit reserve funds. DiMassimo said that money will be paid back within five years from the circulator buses’ fare boxes.
The Cumberland Circulator is expected to cost about $1.2 million a year to operate, which will be funded with revenues from a new $3 per night hotel room fee. In addition to SunTrust Park events, the buses will go to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, employers including Home Depot’s headquarters, along with entertainment venues, hotels and park-and-ride lots.
DiMassimo said the circulator is part of transportation “infrastructure” in the area that is “crucial for managing congestion.” Cobb Parkway area in Cumberland is one of the most congested areas in the state.
Commissioner Bob Ott said the circulator has been studied for years. He said the county’s on-going, $205,000 pedestrian study will help influence the circulator’s route, and the buses might also serve some 3,000 new apartments and condos planned for the area.
Ott said he supports buying the buses now so that this really so the buses “can get in here on time.”