Pros: Trains are FAST and stations have FREE parking
Cons: Bus Service is SLOW shuts down around midnight then you have to drive or walk
Atlanta's MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) System helps residents and visitors of Atlanta to move quickly and easily around the Atlanta Central Business District.
Contrary to all of the "SUBURBAN CRANKS" that you are bound to hear once you visit Atlanta, The MARTA system is one of the safest systems that I have EVER been on. They have personnel EVERYWHERE. More than I have seen in the other systems I have visited too!
The MARTA system helped moved the thongs throughout the city during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics with minimal problem. If their had not been a MARTA, there could not have been an Atlanta Olympics. It would have been simply impossible!
If riding the MARTA rail service, the service is very regular and convent when going to the downtown area. You just simply go to one of the large stations with and park for free, hop on a train and get where you need to go.
There is NO better or CHEAPER way to get to the airport than by MARTA Rail. This is one of the few rail systems in the country that will actually TAKE YOU INTO THE AIRPORT.
Riding the MARTA bus makes the journey MUCH longer and time consuming since the bus feed into the stations which are local to their routes.
The MARTA rail system is not extensive and the rail map resembles a cross pattern over the city. If you are anywhere inside the cross pattern and do not have a car then you will have to rely on the MARTA Bus system to feed you into a station. Bus wait times vary from 15 to 30-45 minutes depending where you are in the MARTA system Usually, it is best to be on a street which is served by SEVERAL MARTA bus routes. That way, it seems like there is a bus around the corner at all times. In remote areas of the MARTA system you will have to wait the 15-20 or 40 minutes that it takes for the bus to cycle around back to you from the nearest MARTA rail station.
MARTA has many types of Bus vehicles in its system. From new and state of the art Natural Gas powered models all the way to creaky diesel powered ones. All of them have one thing in common....they are fairly slow to get you where you need to go.
I find that the bus fleet generally need some cleaning and freshening up. Unless the bus is brand spanking new, they generally have a people kind of odor. To be delicate, it is a kind of "folksey" kind of odor. I often wonder how the drivers tolerate it but I guess you get used to it. Besides, I understand that their drivers are well paid. With steady fare increases over the years. MARTA is one of the most expensive transit systems in the nation to ride at around $1.75 fare to get into the system (Each Way)
Its MUCH cheaper to get a weekend pass $9.00 or a Weekly Transcard $13.00 or a Monthly Transcard for $52.50 - OUCH! Whichever is more economical for your stay or use of the system.
MARTA rail has been the savior of the city. These trains vary in styles slightly, but unless you ride one of the new trains they all look and ride the same.
The interiors feature hard fiberglass seats and either tiled are carpeted floors. All with an earth tone motif. ALL MARTA trains have GREAT Picture Windows to see the scenery when you are above ground and are very comfortably climate controlled in the surprisingly cold winters and the swealteringly HOT summers.
With the older trains aging the ride is sometimes a little bumpy for a train that is supposed to be riding on mostly seamless rail and the once bold paint jobs have begun to fade on a few trains.
The NEW MARTA Trains feature a Blue interior simular of the newer New York Subway trains with windows at the ends of each cars like Washington DC's Metro Rail system. Strangely enough though, the new trains that I have been on do not have a door closing warning tone. The doors just clap shut. Better not be standing in the doorway or OUCH!
Each MARTA rail station is different and unique. ALL feature Free daily parking. If you wish to park long term (Great if taking MARTA to the airport) there are stations along the route that have paid long term parking that is very reasonable.
Most stations have bathroom facilities that you have to use a phone to call for an attendant to buzz you in. Cleanliness ranges from pristine all the way down to YIKES!!! Better to hold it until you reach the five points station where there are large ample restrooms that are fairly acceptable or the Airport where the Bathroom facilities are great!
MARTA is great for getting around Atlanta central Business district. Unfortunately though, the system is somewhat limited. with rail service into only two counties and the airport, you will have to rely on the Bus service to get you to one of the fast moving trains.
The rail system shuts down around Midnight or so with only a few feeder bus routes running downtown to points out until 5am or so in the morning when the whole works cranks back up again. If you are working and get off a 3am you will either have to drive or catch a cab or walk home. There is no other way in the ATL.
If you wish to ride public transportation to the outlying burbs a few of the surrounding counties that had rejected MARTA service have started their own bus services Cobb County CCT Bus and Clayton County Bus system will get you to those outlying counties. all of the other 18 or so metro counties you will have to drive, hire a cab, hike it or bike it out there.
I can only tell you my impressions of the system go and see for yourself.
Visit MARTA's website http://www.itsmarta.com
Not a bad site for a municipal transportaion system!