By Paul Grether
In the mid-1980s it became clear that it was unlikely that Cobb County would join the MARTA system in the near future. The reasons for this are many and are well documented elsewhere. The Cobb business community needed access to the labor pool in Fulton and DeKalb counties, and congestion on I-75 into the city was increasing. The result was that in 1989 the county started transit service, calling it Cobb Community Transit. CCT is really two systems: a local bus system serving the major activity centers and arterial roads in the county, and an express bus system connecting park and rides along the interstates with the MARTA system and the Midtown and Downtown employment areas of the City of Atlanta.
#8956 was in the first order of buses for CCT to start the express bus system. The express bus system started with two routes, one serving Marietta and one serving Kennesaw. Other than a handful of service provided by MARTA in the GA 400 corridor, this represented the first true express bus service in Atlanta with a dedicated fleet since the 1950s. The CCT system operated at the same service levels throughout the 1990s but started a period of rapid growth in 2000 with expansions of both the local and express bus services. As is typical as fleets age, a mid-life overhaul of the coaches was performed in the late 1990s to extend the life of the buses. As it would turn out this overhaul was very successful and the coaches would far exceed their twelve-year accounting lifespan. With the delivery of new Compressed Natural Gas powered RTS buses (the last to roll off the assembly line before production was cut) to CCT in 2000, the older RTS started getting relegated to local bus service. Finally a policy decision was made to replace all express bus service at CCT with new MCI over-the-road coaches. A brief reprieve for the RTS workhorses, long fully depreciated, was the beginning of CCT service under contract to Cherokee County to the Cities of Canton and Woodstock. The venerable old RTS buses spent some of their last miles in service providing long-haul Atlanta commuter service to the residents of Cherokee County. When Cherokee County became the last county to join the GRTA system in 2006, the RTS buses were set aside for use only in emergencies. The buses saw sporadic service in 2007 filling in as needed on local routes and were finally retired in 2008 after almost 19 (!) years of service.
The CCT express bus system, as started with RTS buses back in 1989, has served as a model for the regional implementation of express bus services by Gwinnett County Transit and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority 12-county Xpress system.
The Rapid Transit Series (RTS) bus was designed by GMC in the 1970s to serve as the replacement model for the “new look” GMC transit bus (such as 948 in the MARTA collection). It was a very successful model and became the standard bus for many properties, including New York City Transit, with the last model only having been retired by the MTA in May of 2019. It is one of the two models of “Advanced Design Buses” developed to standard specifications of the federal government and the transit industry, a sort of 1970s PCC car. After the federal government declared the TRANSBUS specification program a failure in the late 1970s, GMC and Flxible both designed and built buses to the simplified “Advanced Design Bus” specs – the GMC RTS and the Flxible Type 870/Metro (like MARTA 3360 in the museum’s collection). Between the RTS and the Metro buses in the collection, the museum now has a complete example of American bus design prototypes from the 1970s through the 1990s, and illustrative examples of them in the context of the Atlanta region.