Getting up to speed on public transit in Atlanta

Atlanta is what experts call a “car city”. On average, Atlanta neighborhoods have a walkability score of 46, meaning that they are “car dependent” and not very easy to get around on foot.

Each election season, local representatives talk about ways to improve walkability and reduce traffic by improving public transit. Public transit is different ways that people can move around a city that are built and maintained by the government. Proponents of public transit say that it is cheaper, safer, better for the environment and less trafficky than if everyone owned their own car and drove to work everyday.

In this article, we’ll give you a quick overview of the 3 major categories of public transit. We’ll also talk about the big public transit debates happening in Atlanta and how you can shape the future of how the city gets around.

Rapid Transit

Atlanta’s rapid transit system is the MARTA rail (MARTA stands for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). MARTA has 4 color coded lines that all meet at Five Points Station Downtown. The gold and red lines run north/south, while the green and blue lines run east/west. The trains run until 1 a.m. and arrive every 10 to 20 minutes.

MARTA was founded in 1965, and the first train line opened in 1979. MARTA is run by a board of directors and is funded by the city of Atlanta through various taxes and fees. Atlanta voters approved a tax increase of half a penny to fund more than $11.5 billion in potential Atlanta public transportation projects in 2016. In 2018, MARTA approved a $2.7 billion forty-year-long plan that prioritizes transit along the Beltline and light rail services, but not a proposed bus rapid transit system along Campbellton Road.


The main bus system in Atlanta is run by MARTA, and it consists of hundreds of buses that run 103 routes. Overall, the bus system covers over one thousand miles. In 2014, MARTA upgraded its bus fleet with 200 new buses that are more comfortable and fuel efficient.

There are also a few other bus systems that run locally in different cities around Atlanta. There is the CobbLinc, which is a bus in Cobb, Downtown and Midtown. There is the Gwinnett County Transit, a bus in Gwinnett, Downtown and Midtown. And there is the Xpress, an express bus in Cobb, Gwinnett, Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and Perimeter Circle.

Light rail

The biggest proposed light rail project in the city is the BeltLine Rail, which would run alongside the BeltLine. Construction of the BeltLine Rail has been delayed and is now supposed to be completed in the 2040s.

Some movement has been made in making the project a reality. In 2016, Atlanta residents voted to approve a one-cent transit sales tax to go towards funding transit projects, including the BeltLine Rail. This sales tax funded seven miles of the project, but since then, MARTA has asked for more funding for the project.

Currently, MARTA is doing a study about how feasible building the BeltLine Rail is. Many people are suspicious that the agency is going to back out from the project and make a new bus route instead. This remains one of the biggest questions about the future of the BeltLine, and it’s one of the biggest ways in which your vote in 2021 can affect the future of public transit.

The future of public transit in Atlanta

Some ideas proposed by candidates include building a high speed rail between Atlanta and Savannah, a light rail or bus line along the BeltLine, a Clifton Corridor light rail line, a Capitol Avenue/Summerhill MARTA line, new bus routes, new transit centers and renovating existing train and bus stations. MARTA also plans to extend the Atlanta Streetcar from Jackson Avenue to the BeltLine at Irwin Street and up to Ponce City Market.

Our website ( makes it easy to quickly understand candidates’ positions public transit, and other policy areas. Look up who is going to be on your ballot by entering your address at



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It takes more than the president to change the country. Branch is nonpartisan website that walks you through everything else on your ballot.