Because Atlanta is a constantly growing and expanding city, many residents in the metro area rely on cars to get around. But for tourists staying downtown, Atlanta’s main public transportation operator, MARTA, is a good way to go—you can literally traverse most of the city this way.
Atlanta is served by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority — MARTA for short. Although it started as a bus system, it now has 38 train stations in Atlanta, as well as a low-cost, easy-to-use airport shuttle. Rides are $2.50 each way, and four free transfers are allowed within a three-hour period. When I was a visitor, I used to hop on frequently as a quick way to get to my friends’ places downtown.
The airport station, part of the red and gold lines, is located at the domestic terminal baggage claim. If you’re coming from an international flight, you’ll want to take the free shuttle, which will drop you off at baggage claim, where you can board the train.
If you plan to use the MARTA system, you can purchase a Breeze Pass for one, two, three, four, seven, or 30 days, or punch cards for 10 or 20 rides. The Red and Gold Lines run primarily north-south through downtown to go to Buckhead and OTP to Dunwoody and Sandy Springs (Red) or to Lenox, Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville (Gold). The Blue and Green lines run east to west for easy access to downtown, downtown, and neighborhoods like Five Points, Inman Park, Edgewood, and Decatur. All trains run about 20 minutes apart.
MARTA also has a streetcar that runs every 10 to 15 minutes; it costs $1 to travel without transfers or $3 for unlimited travel within 24 hours. This route doesn’t cover a great distance and stays mostly downtown, looping from the Peachtree Center near Centennial Olympic Park and the CNN Center to Sweet Auburn and Georgia State University.
Finally, you can take a MARTA bus. This huge network it extends well beyond the perimeter in several directions. Access is also covered on your Breeze Pass.
In a city so loaded with cars, there is a wide selection of wheels to choose from. Locations for Sixt, Enterprise, Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Hertz and more are scattered throughout the metro area for easy pickup or drop-off. Several of these providers also offer reservations so you can pick up your trip at the airport.
However, while driving is the most flexible way to get around the city, it may not be your best option. Parking availability varies by neighborhood, but it’s never really plentiful or free until you hit the suburbs. Atlanta’s traffic is notorious, and large freeways are often clogged with heavy construction, poorly marked signs, sudden lane changes and merges, and shifting exits as cars and large trucks make their way through the city.
Shared transportation services
I’m a big fan of Uber or Lyft as a method of getting around Atlanta. Fares have gone up but, to be fair, so has fuel. For me, splitting the cost with your fellow travelers to travel in comfort without having to brave the chaotic interstates is invaluable, and having a designated driver after a good time in Atlanta’s glittering nightlife is always a good idea. .
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