Traffic & Driving, Atlanta
Yea, we got honked at/almost crashed into somebody-from the SAME state[NC] as us! We went to stay in Atlanta for the Big South National Qualifier that was in the World Congress Center. But then again, you can go 80mph in a 65mph area, but there's wayy too much traffic.
I went to Atlanta to take my family to Six Flags. Took I-20 to I-85, once 285 because of a wreck, and hwy 316. While there, there were eight wreck fatalities in just two days. The drivers in Atlanta are disrespectful of everyone on the road. I have driven in LA, New York, Chicago, and Boston, and have never been as scared as I was in Atlanta. I found someone going about 65 or so, and just stayed behind them. It was the only way I could make it with out having an anxiety attack, and I'm not an axious person normally. Even on the way back home, I was out of the city about 30 miles west or so on I-20 and took an exit for gas. When driving back to I20, a car pulled right out in front of me, I missed him by inches, then he proceeded to get in the lane to the left right in front of a semi, and the semi had to pull his jake brake. Stupid!! Coming back from that, all I can say is they are crazy, disrespectful drivers.
As I mentioned in the tip above, driving in Atlanta can be pretty frustrating. Traffic, one way streets and bad drivers can frustrate the hell out of you. Taxicabs are a popular alternative, especially when you weigh the expense of a cab versus parking you car (hotels charge about $12-14 per night for overnight parking and parking garages charge the equivalent) and paying the car rental company for the privilege of sitting in traffic and looking for parking spaces.
Since the city is so spread out, taking cabs from one area to another, i.e., Midtown to Buckhead, can get pretty costly. But keep in mind that Midtown and Buckhead both have a flat rate fee of $6 for destinations within their zones. This cuts both ways as the flat rate is charged for any distance within the zone. So if you're only going a block or two, you may not want to hop in a cab, even if the weather is not cooperating. But if you've got a few blocks or a mile or so to go and you're stuck in traffic, the fare won't be more than the flat rate.
Atlanta driving is not famous - it's NOTORIOUS. The drivers weave like crazy - and they don't mind trying to squeeze you off the lane into nearly non-existent shoulders at 80 mph. This combined with the fact that entrance/exit ramps were designed by a civil engineering school dropout who obviously envisioned vehicles of the ponycart variety using his roads, instead of the horsepower driven automobiles we have today. And no, I did not live in the 'burbs during my Atlanta stint, but in Buckhead. And I hated driving down to Grady each day.
Atlanta has approximately three points of reference, so it is important you learn where they are. They three points are: Little Five Points, Peachtree Street and The Big Chicken. Most common is probably The Big Chicken, which is probably THE landmark in northwest Atlanta. More specifically, it is in Marietta, at the northeast corner of GA120 (aka Roswell Rd) and US41. You can't miss it!
If you are not a good AND fearless driver, don't even attempt driving around Atlanta! So 55 mph is posted on I-285? Huh, everybody is flying at 75 or above!!! If you are driving by the rules, you will be crushed.
Even if you are a good driver, do your best to stay away from the major interstates (I-20, I-85, I-75, 400, etc.) between 5:30 and 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. The traffic is bumper to bumper, people are weaving in and out, there is at least one wreck somewhere, etc.
ATL traffic is quite insane. Try to avoid the north side of the 285 loop whenever possible, and try not to drive anywhere on Fridays between 2 and 7 PM. The Marta train to connecting buses is always an option for travel most places within the perimeter. Or on Fridays, just plan on being somewhere, within walking distance of whatever else you want to do, for the afternoon. And remember, some wreck on the major highways can back things up at any time of the day or night. Atlantans spend several hours in their cars each day-
The drivers are crazy!! Especially on 285. Most people do not go the speed limit. Cars dart in and out of lanes. I even saw a guy make a right turn from a left lane once. Keep up with traffic. If you are scared, stay to your right.
Try not to drive anywhere during rush hour, which, last I checked, was about 4am to 10pm. Unfortunately public transport in the form of MARTA consists of one north-south (with a short northeast branch) and an east-west line. Which means, for example, if you want to get to the northwest or southeast part of town, you're out of luck. If you own a helicopter, you will be home and dry in no time (or at least home and vigorously towelling yourself off).
You may have heard nightmare stories about Atlanta's traffic. Most of the whinging can be heard from people who choose to live out in the burbs and work in the city. If you're visiting, you should be fine, as long as you avoid the north perimeter (I285) or the connector (I75/85) if it's anywhere close to rush hour. Most of the time, though, you can think of the highways more as the autobahn than actual interstates (except that people don't stay to the right like in Germany). Avoid the outermost and innermost lanes (which are frequently targeted by police radar guns) and you can find yourself safely cruising along with the rest of traffic at 15-20 mph over the speed limit.
Be careful while driving if you come across a traffic light that's flashing yellow in one direction and flashing red in the other. In parts of America where people know how to drive, those who see the flashing red will treat it as a stop sign, while those seeing flashing yellow can proceed with caution. No one in this town seems to understand this, so it's best to treat it as a four-way stop. Otherwise, someone may pull out on you.
The rail line is not bad but the bus system could use improvement. I don't recommend walking or taking a bus in this city, but if you're adventurous give it a try. I suggest you borrow a car, but if you have to rent one make sure you use a reputable agency or you could be taken for a ride that you don't want.