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Green Guide - How to beat Atlanta traffic

Getting around Atlanta, to put it lightly, can be a chore – even for those who know every street corner, alley and bizarre highway entrance. But there's hope. That's partly because of the way the city's filling out with new foot-friendly development, and partly because some alternative ways of getting around are finally making progress. When it comes to mass transit, the train still hasn't quite left the station. Here are a few tricks in the meantime that might make your journey easier.

Thank Citizens for Progressive Transit, a grassroots advocacy group, for taking the guesswork out of navigating Atlanta's public transit system. With A-TRAIN, the group's free online trip planner, commuters enter in their start and ending destinations and time of commute – it even asks how fast you want to bike or walk. With a click of a button you get the best possible route and the bus or train to catch.

Rather than driving solo, you might consider these commuting options ...

1-87-RIDEFIND The Atlanta Regional Commission oversees this van- and carpool-matching service — available online or by phone — that helps folks connect with other commuters who are going their way. 1-877-433-3463. www.187ridefind.com.

PATH The PATH Foundation has developed more than 100 miles of trails for walkers, runners, cyclists and skaters through parts of Atlanta, reaching to Stone Mountain and including the Silver Comet Trail and Arabia Mountain. 404-875-7284. www.pathfoundation.org.

SOPO BIKES is a local nonprofit in East Atlanta that can help you get ready for bicycling. In its shop, Sopo offers free repairs and maintenance, as well as free workshops on how to repair and maintain bikes. 465-C Flat Shoals Ave. 404-425-9989. www.sopobikes.org

ZIPCAR Formerly known as Flexcar, the membership program places cars that customers can rent on an hourly basis along urban transit corridors. 1-866-4ZIPCAR. www.zipcar.com.

... or you could try public transit inside the Perimeter ...

BUCKHEAD UPTOWN CONNECTION (BUC) Free shuttle serves the Buckhead malls and nearby portions of Peachtree and Piedmont roads. 404-812-7433. www.bucride.com.

METROPOLITAN ATLANTA RAPID TRANSIT AUTHORITY (MARTA) Well, pseudometropolitan, anyway, since the subway and bus system serves only Fulton and DeKalb counties. Still, it easily gets more people around town — and more pollution out of the air — than all the other transit systems combined. 404-848-5000. www.itsmarta.com.

... or public transit outside the Perimeter.

CLAYTON TRANSIT (C-TRAN) Serves Clayton, with a connection to MARTA at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. 770-472-8800. www.co.clayton.ga.us/ctran.

DOUGLAS COUNTY RIDESHARE Connects Douglas to downtown Atlanta and such metro locations as North Fulton and Cobb. 770-949-7665. www.celebratedouglascounty

COBB COMMUNITY TRANSIT (CCT) Serves Cobb and even part of Cherokee, with connections to MARTA and express buses to Atlanta. 770-427-4444. www.cobbdot.org.

GEORGIA REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY (GRTA) The state's luxury coaches marked "Xpress" link downtown Atlanta to 11 suburban counties, traveling to such exotic locales as Cumming and Newnan. 404-463-4782. www.xpressga.com.

GWINNETT COUNTY TRANSIT (GCT) Serves Gwinnett, with connections to MARTA and downtown Atlanta. 770-822-5010. www.gctransit.com.

Coming down the pike

The old adage of "you have to own a car if you live in Atlanta" may someday be untrue. The region is awash with big talk about transit alternatives, but not the money. What hurts: The state transportation agency announced it was facing a $7.7 billion funding shortfall. At press time, the General Assembly was piecing together legislation that could allow regions to levy a penny sales tax to fund transportation projects, be they rails or roads. That alone is a big step in a state that has long maintained a slave-to-the-pavement mind-set.

Transportation management associations

TMAs are local groups – supported by federal grants and often affiliated with neighborhood or business groups – that promote carpooling and transit use by offering incentives ranging from free bus tokens to store gift certificates. TMAs typically have a range of commuter services; some even operate their own shuttles.

ATLANTIC STATION ACCESS + MOBILITY PROGRAM Offers free shuttles between Atlantic Station and Arts Center MARTA station. 404-522-4882. www.asap-plus.com.

BUCKHEAD AREA TMA Runs the Buc shuttle. 404-842-2680. www.batma.org.

CLEAN AIR CAMPAIGN Acts as the TMA for unserved areas of metro Atlanta. 404-817-7762. www.cleanaircampaign.com.

CLIFTON CORRIDOR TMA Operates shuttle between Emory and Decatur. 404-727-1829. www.cctma.com.

COBBRIDES TMA for Town Center area. 1-87-RIDEFIND. www.cobbrides.com.

COMMUTER CLUB Serves the Cumberland area of Cobb. 770-859-2331. www.commuterclub.com.

DOWNTOWN TMA An offshoot of Central Atlanta Progress. 404-658-1877. www.atlantadowntown.com.

HARTSFIELD AREA TMA Serves the airport. 404-761-6774. www.hatma.org.

MIDTOWN TRANSPORTATION SOLUTIONS A Midtown Alliance program, it has installed bike racks throughout Midtown. 404-892-4782. www.midtownalliance.org.

PERIMETER TRANSPORTATION COALITION Serves the Perimeter business district. 770-394-4540. www.perimetergo.org.

Advocacy groups

Local organizations that push for alternative modes of transportation.

ATLANTA BICYCLE CAMPAIGN The area's largest and most active group promoting bicycling for commuters spends much of its time fighting for bike lanes and pleading with maniacal Atlanta drivers to "Share the Road." 404-881-1112. www.atlantabike.org.

CITIZENS FOR PROGRESSIVE TRANSIT A well-organized group dedicated to lobbying at state and local levels for transit-based alternatives to more road building, as well as to keeping each other informed on the issues. These are the hardcore train-huggers. 404-758-5300. www.cfpt.org.

PEDS The champion of crosswalks, speed zones and pedestrian safety. If PEDS had been around in 1949, Margaret Mitchell might still be alive today. 404-522-3666. www.peds.org.

PEACHTREE STREETCAR Scaled down from its original 15-mile vision, the line is planned to run along Atlanta's most famous thoroughfare between the Woodruff Arts Center and downtown. Plans include an east-west route connecting such tourist hot spots as the Historic Auburn Avenue district and the Georgia Aquarium. Prospects: Mayor Shirley Franklin and developers such as Cousins Properties are gung-ho, but funds may be hard to come by. In addition to a still-not-approved property-tax hike along the route that would generate the bulk of the project's capital costs, advocates hoped the city would contribute $47.5 million. The city's $70 million budget deficit may delay such a gesture. Advocates are looking into alternate funding strategies. www.peachtreecorridor.com.

THE BELTLINE The proposed $2.4 billion, 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit encircling central Atlanta got a boost last year when City Hall pried a big chunk of the right-of-way from developer Wayne Mason. Groundbreaking on the project's first trail in southwest Atlanta took place in February. But the transit component was dealt a blow in February when the state Supreme Court ruled its most lucrative funding mechanism — using growing school property-tax revenues to pay off bonds for the project — was unconstitutional. Prospects: The private sector is filling part of the funding breach. Advocates also hope a legislative remedy, which also must be approved by voters in November, will turn the money spigot back on. Until then, it's full steam ahead with master planning, and the parks and trails component. 404-880-7255. www.beltline.org.

GEORGIA BRAIN TRAIN A commuter rail line linking Atlanta, Macon and Athens could unclog the I-75, I-85 and Ga. 316 corridors and transform the region. The lines would meet in a planned multimodal station near Philips Arena. Prospects: Gwinnett developer Emory Morsberger, chairman of Georgians for the Brain Train, has beat the drum loudly at the state Capitol for some kind of legislation that would help fund the much-needed project. The list of groups supporting the vision is long and the tracks are already there, but political leaders are skeptical of any transportation form that isn't based on the pickup truck. 770-409-8700. www.georgiabraintrain.com.

TRANSIT PLANNING BOARD A collaborative effort by the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and MARTA, the board recently unveiled a proposal that imagined buses and light- and heavy-rail service extending out into the nether reaches of the metro region. Prospects: The plan includes the Brain Train and other bright ideas, but it doesn't solve the big problem: not enough money. 404-463-0311. www.tpb.ga.gov.



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