Atlanta has an established public transport system consisting of buses, trains and streetcars, so getting around the city isn't difficult. However, most residents still rely on their own vehicles for getting around Atlanta. Though it's possible to live in the city without a car, it’s not always convenient, so it's well worth considering buying or renting a car in Atlanta.
Driving in Atlanta
The majority of Atlanta residents rely on cars for getting around the city. This reliance on personal motor vehicles has contributed to heavy traffic congestion. In fact, Atlanta has consistently performed badly in surveys for traffic, with the city having some of the worst in the whole of the US.
A sprawling metropolis, Atlanta isn't always easy to navigate. The main thoroughfare, which runs through the city centre, is Peachtree Street, but more than 70 streets in Atlanta have the word 'Peachtree' in them, so finding the right one can be confusing.
New arrivals should note that Atlanta drivers are known for their speed and impatience, and driving in Atlanta can be scary. It's therefore important to stay alert and plan routes carefully before setting out.
Public transport in Atlanta
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) manages public transport in Atlanta, including bus, rail and streetcar services that connect all parts of the city.
To travel on MARTA trains, buses or streetcars, tickets can be bought online, at the station or via a smartcard known as the Breeze Card. Breeze cards can be purchased at Breeze vending machines at MARTA rail stations, at MARTA Ridestores and online.
MARTA operates over 90 bus routes within the boundaries of Atlanta's Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb counties. Buses operate from 5am to 1am weekdays and until 12.30am on weekends and holidays.
In the wider Atlanta Metropolitan area, MARTA bus stations are linked to outlying areas via local bus services such as CobbLinc and Gwinnett County Transit.
Atlanta has a reliable rapid-transit railway system. Although trains are much faster than buses for getting around Atlanta, rail routes are much more limited in comparison. Trains operate between 4.45am and 1am on weekdays, and between 6am and 1am on weekends. Trains arrive between every 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the time of day.
Train services operate along four lines: red, gold, blue and green. The red and gold lines run between the north and south, while the blue and green lines run between the east and west of the city. These lines intersect at the main train station, Five Points Station, in downtown Atlanta.
Streetcars in Atlanta follow a circular route known as the 'Downtown Loop'. With only 12 stops, it's not a comprehensive service, but it's useful for travelling between the major attractions in downtown Atlanta such as the Centennial Olympic Park area and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Further expansion is planned for the future.
Taxis in Atlanta
Taxis are available in Atlanta, although they are not as visible as in other larger US cities. It is usually possible to flag one from the street, but it's recommended to rather phone for a taxi ahead of time, or to book online. Within certain districts, common routes are charged at a flat rate. Outside these areas, taxis use a meter.
An alternative to regular taxis is ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, both of which can be accessed via their respective smartphone applications.
Cycling in Atlanta
Though historically a car-centric city, the city of Atlanta has made strides in increasing pedestrian and cycling access, converting 22 miles (35 km) of railroad track into multi-use trails and a light rail transport system known as the Beltline. To date, the city has developed more than 120 miles (193 km) of cycle-accessible paths.
Walking in Atlanta
The city has also put a lot of effort into increasing pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, crossings and trails as part of their Vision Zero initiative, and the results are paying off. In 2019, the Foot Traffic Ahead study ranked Atlanta the 9th most walkable of the 30 largest US metros, similar in walkability to Seattle and Charlotte.
Are you an expat living in Atlanta?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Atlanta. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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