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Moving Forward: GRTA's new director Tomlinson on the direction of Atlanta metro, Rockdale's transit
Chris Tomlinson

It's been about three months since Rockdale County resident Chris Tomlinson took over as the new executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA).

In that time, Tomlinson and his staff has been working to see how they can improve the transit company to move it forward into the future. So far, several ideas have been proposed and discussed.

"The biggest challenge is identifying which plan to focus on," he said.

But, Tomlinson says that upgrading the buses used by GRTA and adding new technology to those buses would probably be a good place to start.

One piece of technology GRTA has been looking at is possibly putting vehicle location monitors on buses that will allow potential riders to see exactly where a bus is on its route via their phone. This would increase GRTA's service efficiency, says Tomlinson.

"I think the riders will appreciate it," he said.

Other technological upgrades would be adding a free Wi-Fi network to buses, but that's way down the list of priorities, says Tomlinson.


Commuter Toll Credits

Tomlinson, who also serves as executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, is exploring how to these two agencies can work together to relieve congestion on the major Atlanta highways.

One idea is to give people, who have a peach pass card, commuter credits towards their peach pass just for either GRTA or Gwinnett County Transit.

These pilot programs could potentially reduce the number of cars on the highways during peak highway road hours and increase commuter transit for the agencies for the long term, says Tomlinson.

The program, which began Monday, Mar. 16, will give peach pass holders $2 per ride in credit for each trip they use a bus to travel on a specific highway route.

Simplifying Atlanta transit

With there being many different transit agencies in the Atlanta region, Tomlinson is looking to somehow simply and streamline the uses between them.

This doesn't necessarily mean to merge the agencies, other that may be a possibility in the long-distant future, but to make it more convenient for commuters to use all these agencies, says Tomlinson.

One measure Tomlinson would like to explore is making the breezecard, used by Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and Gwinnett County Transit, available for use on GRTA as an electronic payment fare system.

GRTA uses XPRESS cards for its bus system.

"People don't care about the alphabet soup of agencies," Tomlinson, who sits on the MARTA board, said. "I do regard MARTA as the backbone of transit. We've decided we're not waiting on legislation to make things more streamlined."

As of today, there's no timetable for such a move happening.

Tomlinson, who grew up in and still has family in heavily populated areas like New York City, says transit in Atlanta won't ever get to be on the same level as other places until the area makes it a top priority.

"Atlanta is not as densely populated as those cities," he said. "It hasn't made transit a necessity like those places."

Personal life

Tomlinson continues to live in Rockdale with his wife of 18 years, Lillian, and their two children, 14-year-old Olivia, a Rockdale Magnet School of Science and Technology freshman, and 13-year-old Grant, a Memorial Middle School student.

He graduated from Morehouse College with a bachelor's degree in political science, and earned a law degree from Georgia State University.