The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is the principal public transport operator in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Formed in 1971 as strictly a bus system, MARTA operates a network of bus routes linked to a rapid transit system consisting of 48 miles of rail track with 38 train stations.
The rail system has four lines: Red Line (North-South), Gold Line (Northeast-South), Blue Line (East-West) and Green Line.
It is the eighth-largest rapid transit system in the United States by ridership.
MARTA is composed of a heavy rail rapid transit system, a light rail system, and a bus system, all of which operate primarily within the boundaries of Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb counties.
MARTA does have bus service to two destinations in neighboring Cobb County (Six Flags Over Georgia and the Cumberland Transfer Center next to the Cumberland Mall).
MARTA allows bicycles on its trains, and buses have room for two bicycles on racks mounted on the front of the bus.
The deepest station in the MARTA system is the Peachtree Center station, which is located in a hard-rock tunnel, 120 feet (37 m) beneath downtown Atlanta. At this station, the rugged gneiss rock walls are visible.
All rapid transit lines meet at Five Points station, located in downtown Atlanta.
The Atlanta Streetcar is also part of MARTA. The streetcar route operates in mixed traffic and is powered by overhead lines. The streetcar runs 2.7 miles (4.3 km) east-west loop in the downtown. It has 12 stops, including Centennial Olympic Park and Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. The route provides access to MARTA heavy rail lines at Peachtree Center.
Currently in the planning stage is a 22-mile line to connect MARTA’s East Point station to Jonesboro and Lovejoy along the existing Norfolk Southern railroad right of way. The line would use diesel-powered trains. These would be bigger and faster than MARTA’s existing electric rail vehicles and comparable to commuter railroads found in cities like Chicago, Boston, New York and Seattle.
If all goes well, construction could begin in 2023, with the first passengers boarding in 2027.
You have to have the right fare before riding MARTA. For trains, this means tapping your Breeze card or ticket to the target on the gates before entering the station.
Breeze cards are plastic reusable cards that you can purchase from vending machines located at the front of stations. You load the card with the number of trips you anticipate and pay using cash or credit cards. Breeze cards can be refilled so do not throw the card away.
For the Streetcar, you may purchase your fare directly from a Streetcar vending machine using credit or debit cards or use “stored value” on your Breeze card. And for buses, this means tapping your card on the fare box by the driver or placing the correct amount of cash in the box.
Every Breeze card and Ticket comes with up to four transfers. This means you can change bus routes or switch from bus to train (and vice versa) without paying again.
MARTA has its own dedicated police force that patrols all buses, streetcars, trains, stations and parking lots 24/7.
There have been a few rare criminal incidents that could lead some to worry. Overall, the transit system is a reliable and secure way to explore Atlanta.
That being said, someone traveling alone (especially ladies) should be extra cautious when riding the trains late at night.
Food and Drink
You’re allowed to eat and drink in bus and rail stations, but state law prohibits eating while traveling on MARTA trains, streetcars and buses. You can carry food in closed containers and drink beverages in resealable plastic containers.
Weekdays: 4:45 a.m. – 1 a.m.
Weekends: 6 a.m. – 1 a.m.
After 9 p.m., Red Line travels between Lindbergh and North Springs
After 9 p.m., Green Line travels between Bankhead and Vine City
The schedule and frequency of trains can vary if a convention or game is taking place.
It is not uncommon to have a late flight and miss the last train.
Many bars remain open until 3:00 a.m. so you may want to plan your ride home. Driving after drinking is a big bad no no. The police are watching well-known establishments. Get caught and you can expect to end up sleeping in jail, paying a huge fine, doing community service and receiving counseling.