Riding on the MARTA rail system can be intimidating if you are new to Atlanta, visiting the town, or just riding for your first time. As long as you know what to expect, getting around on MARTA is easy and can save you from sitting in Atlanta traffic.
Planning Your Trip
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has five "branches" on two lines in the metro area. Confused already? Think of MARTA as a big plus sign where the two arms meet at Five Points station in the heart of downtown. The branches are Northeast (Doraville), Northwest (North Springs), South, East, and West. The only time you need to pay close attention to which train you're boarding is if you're heading north of Lindbergh Center Station, where the line splits into Northeast (Doraville) and Northwest (North Springs).
If you make a mistake, just get off at Lindbergh and wait for the appropriate train.
Keep in mind that MARTA trains do not run 24 hours. Trains run from 4:45 a.m.-1 a.m. on weekdays and from 6 a.m.-1 a.m. on weekends and holidays. Trains will run every 20 minutes, except during peak hours when they run every 10 minutes. Peak hours are commuter hours, 6-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m., Monday-Friday.
Parking at MARTA Stations
Most MARTA stations offer parking lots, where you can leave your car. Some locations are covered decks while others are open lots. All stations with parking offer free parking for the first 24 hours. After that, long-term parking costs between $5 and $8. Not all parking decks are open 24 hours, so check the specific lot on the website before you park there.
Paying Your Fare
The MARTA fare is $2.50 each way. With that, you get four free transfers (in the same direction, not a round trip) in a three-hour period.
Before you pass through the MARTA gates, you'll need to purchase a Breeze Card. All stations have ticket vending kiosks. Some stations also have a MARTA Ride Store where you can purchase tickets at the counter. You can choose to buy a temporary paper card (a small additional fee may apply) or pay more for a durable plastic card. Both cards are reloadable (for no fee), but the paper card expires after 90 days.
If you are planning to ride MARTA as a permanent commute alternative, you will want to purchase a plastic card for daily use. In addition to single rides, you can buy in blocks of 10 (ride store only) or 20. You can also buy passes for unlimited rides within a designated time period (seven days, 30 days or a multi-day visitor pass). There are a variety of other options, too.
To board MARTA, simply tap your card against the Breeze Card symbol on the entrance gates.
During normal, daytime hours, riding MARTA is generally safe. All stations have uniformed safety officers as well as blue emergency phones to connect you directly to the police. Each car contains a red emergency button to call the train operator as needed.
In the mornings and afternoons, MARTA is crowded with commuters and many people would not feel threatened in any way. However, if you are riding MARTA alone or late and night, you will want to take the same precautions you would if you were walking alone on the street: Be aware of your surroundings, keep moving and try to purchase your ticket ahead of time so that you are not spending long periods of time with your wallet exposed at the vending kiosk. If you are at all uncomfortable, it may be a good idea to sit in the front car, where you are close to the train operator.
There are a few rules, spoken and unspoken, to riding MARTA. Official system rules are as follows:
On MARTA it is illegal to: eat, drink, smoke, litter, vandalize, write graffiti, panhandle, solicit, play sound devices without earphones (set volume to low), bring animals on board (except service animals or small pets confined to rigid pet carriers with locks or latches), carry weapons (except firearms when carrying a valid permit) or assault MARTA employees. Seats immediately inside the doors are reserved for disabled or elderly passengers.
You may also want to keep in mind the following:
- During rush hour, people tend to be in a hurry and it is courteous to stand to one side if riding the escalator so that people can pass by.
- If the train is crowded, occupy only one seat. Do not use additional seats for your bags or other personal items.
- If the train is crowded, move toward the center of the train or out of the way of the door so that others may enter the train.
- If someone is seated in your row, be mindful of when they may be trying to pass by and exit the train.
Incorporate MARTA into Your Vacation
If you're visiting Atlanta, you can use the MARTA to help you explore the city. Here's a suggested itinerary for a food and drink crawl of Atlanta by rail. Or try this suggested history tour using the rail.
Popular Destinations on MARTA
Don’t be intimidated trying to figure out what bus to take. You can simply visit maps.google.com or the Google Maps App, type in the address where you are headed (many times you can simply input the name) and select the “transit” icon. Google even allows you to pick your departure or arrival time and the date you are traveling, to provide even more accurate information.
If you prefer a paper map, get one at the Five Points station.
Not sure where to go? Here are a few popular destinations you can easily access via MARTA and how to get there.
- Arts Center: The red and gold rail lines will take you to the Arts Center MARTA station, which is in the heart of tons of great museums and theaters. Tour the High Museum of Art or see a comedy show at Whole World Theatre.
- Atlanta Financial Center (and nearby hotels): Take the red line toward North Springs. This is close to the Buckhead MARTA Station. From here, you can hop on bus 110 for a tour of famous Peachtree Street.
- Buckhead: Hop on the red rail line to get to the great shopping, dining, and hotels in Buckhead. Here, you’ll find Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza.
- Dome/CNN Center: Take the blue and green rails to get to the Dome MARTA station, which is popular for sports lovers. Here, you’ll find the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Philips Arena, the CNN Center, Centennial Olympic Park and the College Football Hall of Fame, just to name a few.
- Fox Theatre: Ride the red and gold rails to the North Avenue station. Instead of parking at this venue, get off at the station and follow the signs to the Fox. No car necessary.
- Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport: Red and gold trains will take you directly to the airport, right from downtown Atlanta. Yes, it’s that easy.
- Lenox Square: Take the gold line train to the Lenox MARTA station. A train station is located at this shopping destination, making it easy to access.
- Midtown: Both the red and gold lines will take you to Midtown. Get off at the Midtown MARTA station for easy access to tons of restaurants, bars, and shopping. There’s plenty of nightlife in this area.
- North Avenue: Take the red and gold rails to the North Avenue MARTA station. This is the best way to get to the Fox Theatre, The Varsity, and the Georgian Terrace Hotel, to name few historical points of interest.
- Peachtree Center: Red and gold lines go here. This center is its own MARTA station. It’s also home to some hotels, a mall, farmer’s market and more, which makes this a popular stop.
- Perimeter Mall: This mall has a train station right there. Take the red line train to the Dunwoody station to get there.
- Underground Atlanta: Get here via the Five Points station, the transfer point between all MARTA lines. Then follow the signs to get to Peachtree Street. You’ll eventually bump into a tunnel that will bring you to Underground.