MARTA -- it's smarta!
Perhaps you're familiar with the slogan of our top-notch public transportation. If not, don't worry; most Atlantans aren't either. The trains actually go most places you'd want to visit, but only during sporting events do most Atlantans take the train. I take it every day, but I'm a questionable eco-friendly schmuck who doesn't see the need to get into traffic every day.
Atlanta has one of the biggest international airports in the US. Home to a huge Delta airlines hub. One can connect to lots of cities around the nation. All major airlines are represented.
When in a budget, if you are not renting a car at the airportdon't have a lot of luggage and your hotel is DownTown, Buckhead, or Perimeter area, a good way to save on taxi fare is to take the Marta rail to a station close to your hotel and then take a taxi the rest of the way. This could be the differnece between a $35.00 taxi cab ride and a $10.oo ride. You can do the same on the way back.
The rail station is rigth there at the airport terminal and it costs $1.25 one way. There are also limosine services that beleive it or not are cheaper than taxies. the only draw back is most times one has to make advance reservations. But when you do they will be waiting for you at the south end of the terminal. I can take a limo from the airport to the North Druid Hills area for $24.00 and it's a limo folks, you ride in style, a taxie costs me about $32.00. Over all I recommend to rent a car if you are going to stay any time in the city. Although the traffic is horrendous, if you come from another big city you should not have any trouble. I noticed that Atlantans drive very fast, but over all are mostly good drivers when compared to say my home town, Miami,fl.
Marta buses aren't worth the money or the time. It maybe ok if you don't depend on it or if it they don't suddenly change the route early than posted. It's the most inconvenient routes even when they don't decide to change them. Don't use marta if you don't have to, it will make your day much easier.
Atlanta's original MARTA line, the Red Line, runs, in theory from Hartsfield International Airport north some 40 miles to North Springs Station in Sandy Springs. If you're staying in Alpharetta, Roswell or somewhere else in North Fulton, North Springs makes a good park & ride connection if you want to get into the city for, say, a Falcons game or to visit Little Five Points. As with all MARTA parking structures, parking is free for 24 hours. At North Springs, there's a complication where you must exit from the direction you entered, as there is a direct ramp entrance from southbound GA 400 (exits back to northbound GA 400) as well as a side street entrance from Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. Just look for the signs as you leave.
The Red Line runs seven days per week from about 6am to about 7pm (check the schedules for specific times). After about 7pm, the train runs as far as Lindbergh Center, where you must transfer to the Yellow Line train to continue south to the city. However, this also happens sporadically, often on the weekends. If you get on a train and the sign says "Lindbergh," then this is a train that will not go past Lindbergh Center. If it says "Airport," then it continues south to the airport. The conductor will also announce this as you approach Lindbergh Center.
Transfers could use some working out also, as the Yellow Line is not timed to pick up passengers dropped off by the Red Line, so you'll often have to wait for 15 minutes or so to get back on the train and continue on.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is one of the easiest ways to navigate around Atlanta. You can purchase a BreezeCard at any kiosk at any of the MARTA stations, load them with your fare ($2.50 each way/$5 round trip), then just tap the magnetic strip to gain access to the platform. Tap your card again upon your arrival to exit the station - it's that easy! Only prohibition is the trains only run until 1am, so if you plan to pull a late-nighter, plan on another way home. I found the MARTA to be clean, safe, and easy transportation - wish we had something like this in Nashville!
FYI - each rider needs their own BreezeCard ($1 one time fee - no sharing allowed!), but they are reloadable and durable.
Ok, so when you step out of the jetway and into ATL Hartsfield International Airport, you have a couple of options of getting out of there. You can proceed to the car rental section of the airport and drive out in a sporty Mustang, you can hop in the passenger's seat of your cousins car and be whisked away to their house, or, you can take MARTA. As you may or may not know, MARTA stands for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. MARTA takes you anywhere you want to go in Atlanta. It has two lines, that run North/South, and East/West. They intersect in the middle, at the biggest of the MARTA stations called '5 Points.' The MARTA system consists of electric rail cars along with CNG (Clean Natural Gas) busses. The rail system has about 30 stations, where busses are waiting to take you to your destination. But keep in mind if your not leaving the City of Atlanta, you probably won't need to use a MARTA bus. The busses are used by people who live in Metro Atlanta, the surrounding 30 or so miles around the City. But then again, in Atlanta, EVERYONE has a car. The train will take you to Phillips Arena, home the Hawks and the Thrashers, the Georgia Dome, home of the Falcons, and to Turner Field, home of the Braves. It will also take you to the Aquarium as well as the World of Coca-Cola. The trains also leave you only a few blocks from most major hotels. Now, when your walking around, using a map is a good idea. What I really mean is, asking someone for directions could get you lost. They can refer to up to 20 streets named Peachtree, and to the traveling tourist, that could get confusing.
You can catch a train at the airport that will take you directly to downtown or midtown with little grief for a bargain $1.75. They have multi-day passes available as well.
I heard conflicting advice as to whether it was safe to ride at night, but we never felt in danger. It did get pretty crowded a few times though.
Much cheaper than taking a taxi, though.
The MARTA is Atlanta's light rail system. It has two main lines, one going north and south (the airport is the southern most stop) and another going east and west. They intersect at Five Points, where you could transfer from one to another. Watch out for where each train is heading, though, since there are branches in each line. It is an easy way to get to all the major attractions in Altanta. A round-trip ride is $1.75 (upto 2 children under the age of 6 can ride free with an adult), but it might make sense to get a multiple day pass (press visitor pass on the machine). It comes about every 15 min and runs until about 1:30 AM. I was told by some that it might not be a good idea to ride it late at night, but I didn't really see anything that made me worried.
There was never a problem to get TO Atlanta....but gooosh....AROUND! I live in a town with about 450000 ppl, public transportation is part many ppls everyday life and it works...we even take the bike! Being a bit naive I thought I'd do the exact same thing in Atlanta when moving there. Was I wrong or what?! Going by bike would have been my death!
I was lucky enough to live close to a bus stop which was regulary passed. I felt very out of place riding the bus....especially when working late, I did not always feel safe. The trains were somewhat nicer, really good when going to the airport.
I wouldn't say to anyone not to use the bus, I mean do what you can to save this world from all that pollution car drivers contribute to, but be wise doing it and don't be in a rush cus then it probably won't come!
MARTA sucks! Imagine this: you're stuck with a token machine. It won't let you get a token. Therefore, you go to the kiosk. You complain about the token machine. The clerk says to a woman behind you, "Give this woman another dollar." You would be shocked. Right? It's fine if the woman is willing to give you another dollar, but you would be infuriated at the people who work here. What about that guy who was arrested for helping a man by giving him a token. How about this: the token machine is broken. You have your family with you. The kids are playing around, and you're worried about when the train is coming. The clerk takes so long to get a token for you the train already left. (This was in the Dunwoody and Sandy Springs station.) What's wrong with MARTA! Of course, I have to handle with this because I'm a native. One time, the train was being emptied for a reason I never learned. I waited over half an hour until the next one came. The trains are always late, or at least take excessively long. The stations are cleaner than the trains, which have graffiti. You might have to take a bus instead. It's a lot more useful to use the subway inside Atlanta, not in the suburbs. The stations further away from Atlanta are for families going on a trip or for people who are that dumb to book a hotel that far away. It doesn't get to the malls, which are mostly outside 285. (That's the big highway around Atlanta.) Instead of taking the long ride on MARTA from the north of Atlanta all the way down to the airport in the south, I'd rather drive. On the other hand, if you live near the East/West line you have to transfer at Five Points, the central station in the heart of Atlanta. Overall, MARTA is not my favorite.
MARTA's not a bad system; it has 38 rail stations and two rail lines (plus, of course, the comparatively immense MARTA bus network) accessible for a flat fare of $1.75. Up until April 2006, by which time MARTA will have completed its switch to a farecard system, MARTA uses tokens and quarters. The token machines (they take dollar bills and spit out tokens in exchange) are rather testy, so don't completely lose your wits if one doesn't always accept your Washington or Lincoln, as I've seen so many tourists/suburbanites do.
MARTA's been getting a bit dirtier and grimier over the years, but only in the stations. It's still never been nearly as haphazard on the inside as the New York City subway. Beware of the older trains with carpeting if you have mold allergies, though...they're as old as 27 years, and considerable mold has accumulated beneath the carpet.
If you're not in the farther-out suburbs, then I would recommend you stay off the highway if you're a visitor. It's *nuts*. MARTA works very well for many major destinations in the city.
MARTA is Awesome!
Problem is it doesn't go far enough. There's a station right at the Airport and I think it's still under $2. When I go back to Atlanta I don't bother having my friends pick me up at the Airport anymore. It's so far South of the City that's it's a hassle. Marta is pretty clean and safe and if you are going North it's pretty good. If you are going to Smyrna or (West)Marrietta it may not work for you.
Atlanta is known for having terrible traffic problems. In an effort to alleviate some of the congestion, particularly on the highways and around downtown, the city has a subway and bus system otherwise known as MARTA.
The MARTA subway line runs north to south. There is an east-west line as well, but I'm not familiar with that one. The north-south line begins at the airport and runs to the outlying areas of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. There are stops in downtown, near Underground Atlanta, Midtown on 10th and 14th streets and in Buckhead. MARTA costs $1.75 for one way access, but daily and weekly passes are available.
We found the shuttle to be clean and efficient. If you need transportation to and from the airport, MARTA is your best bet, as a cab will run at least $30 and a shuttle in the $15-$20 range. Plus, its only about a 20 minute ride on MARTA from the airport to Midtown and less than 30 minutes to Buckhead.
I found the MARTA to be pretty convenient. It stops at almost all of the touristy areas. Riding is 1.75 per ride, but you can get a weekend pass which is a lot better deal at one of the ride stores. We rode only during the day and felt safe, but I don't know about night time.
Traffic in Atlanta can be really bad. Luckily the train, MARTA, runs to and from the airport on its N/S route. There's also a seeminly smaller E/W route, but I didn't use that one.
If you're going to Buckhead, take the North Springs train from the airport, which stops in Buckhead. If you accidentally take the Doralville train (like I did), you can change to the North Springs train at the Lindbergh station.