People generally like trains. And streetcars. Perhaps trolleys, too. But the bus?

Starting in high school, the bus is something to be avoided. They weren’t cool then, and they aren’t very cool now despite the fact that some routes provide easy and convenient service to a variety of destinations. On top of the perceived lack of cool, there’s also more leg work and planning involved (at least initially). Unlike a train, there aren’t scheduled stops. Instead, you have to be responsible for finding the route you need, stopping the bus yourself and timing it right to reach the stop closest to where you need to go. 

Luckily, even if you’re direction-challenged, there’s plenty of technology out there to take the mystery out of getting from point A to point B. See below for tools and tips to help ease some common fears over riding the bus in whatever city you may be in.

1. Use Maps

Google Maps is one of the best options for making inexperienced riders bus-hopping pros. Many cities (including Atlanta) have provided their public transportation schedules to Google, allowing you to quickly plan your trip with a start and end destination. One great perk is the trip details that list the approximate time on the bus and the number of stops before you reach the one you need.

Another tip: Keep Google Maps open on your smartphone while on your commute so you can see your location in real-time on a map to track your progress (GPS/location services must be enabled).

2. Be Smart With Schedules

Time is also a concern for many commuters, and buses incite more apprehension because there are more possibilities of delays (not to mention completely missing a bus you need). As a result, schedules and real-time information are critical and often necessary tools for a successful bus commute.

To prepare, become familiar with the bus schedule in advance to know when to catch the bus, always arriving a few minutes early to the stop. Even better, use the OneBusAway website or app in Atlanta (or another available real-time app in the city you’re in) for the next arrivals at a specific bus stop in real-time. It then becomes less important if the bus is late if you’re arriving at the stop just in time to catch it.

If you like printed materials, the Five Points MARTA station has printed brochures of all the bus routes with maps and timetables. These can also be found in the MARTA on the Go app.

3. Stick With Easier Commutes

Especially if you’re new to riding buses, stick with short commutes on more popular routes or explore your neighborhood bus route to avoid a complicated and long trip (definitely abort the mission to Stone Mountain Park). Most major attractions and places that aren’t too far from a train station are safe bets. In Atlanta, try commuting by bus to:

More Information

How to Ride MARTA Buses
5 MARTA Buses That Go Places