A Guide to using the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Marta

MARTA Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is an urban bus and rail system covering the city of Atlanta. Unlike the New York subway, most of the train track is above ground, except in the heart of the city. MARTA is built on the lines of rail and bus services covering large European cities such as Barcelona. The biggest difference is its sheer size. In 1990, the populations of Atlanta and Barcelona were about the same. Barcelona’s rail network covered 62.5 square miles. MARTA covered a massive 1,650 square miles. Given that the population of Atlanta has subsequently swelled enormously, the urban bus/rail network is still a little unwieldy.

The rail network is divided into four lines, each colour coded in much the same way as London Underground in the United Kingdom. The lines are East-West, North-South, North-East-South and Proctor Creek Line. All four lines converge at the strangely named Five Points station.

Free parking at many of the stations is a great encouragement for use of the rail system, as is the very reasonable pricing regime. Trains operate between 5am and 1am weekdays and 5am and 12.30am Sundays and Holidays. Shuttle services are in operation, so that there is never longer than a wait of about 20 minutes (ten minutes during peak hours) for a train.

A single fare costs a flat rate $1.75 with reductions for a book of 20 tickets, a seven day pass, thirty day pass or Visitor Pass (valid one to four days) giving unlimited travel on any line . There are also reduced price tickets for students, university staff, seniors and disabled travellers.

In an effort to further promote green’ transport initiatives, passengers with cycles are permitted to take them on board trains at any time, providing they are respectful of other passengers. Each bus has a rack which will accommodate two bicycles on a “first come first served” basis.

The rail maps are simple and easy to follow, so that if you are not in a hurry it is relatively easy to plan your journey allowing for a maximum wait of twenty minutes between each stage. However if you want to plan in finer detail, you can call the helpline on 404-848-5000 where highly trained customer service operators can assist you with your journey. The helpline operates in several languages.

For an interesting and detailed appraisal of using MARTA, take a look at an article by Mara Shalhoup, admittedly written a few years ago.