If you are new to MARTA, an occasional rider, or just want to improve your commute experience, there are a few transit hacks that can help. Fortunately, MARTA is already one of the easier transit systems to navigate and one of the safest systems in the country. To make your experience even better, keep the following things in mind:
1. Ride Trains During Peak Times When Possible
If you have a choice of when to ride, the best time to ride the trains is between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays. Trains are every 10-12 minutes, which is the best frequency. Trains are even more frequent at stations that are on both the red and gold lines or on both the green and blue lines, as there are twice as many trains. View the MARTA map to view these stations that are in the central Atlanta area.
On the other hand, if you are riding the rail system on the weekend or at night, trains are every 20 minutes, so be mentally and technologically prepared (see next tip).
2. Download and Use the Apps
If you are planning a rail commute when trains are every 20 minutes or are trying to catch a bus while on the go, using the MARTA on the Go app is key. Real-time information for both buses and trains are available, so there is no guessing when your ride will show up. This is especially helpful in case there are any delays.
There is also a separate Atlanta Streetcar app that you might want to download if you plan to ride it. The app allows you to prepay your fare, otherwise, you have to buy it at a streetcar stop via a vending machine. (Note: no transfers from MARTA buses or trains). View the ATL Streetcar iOS app and Android app.
Lastly, use the See and Say app to report any nuisance behavior so that any stragglers not following MARTA rules can be removed from the system or have to deal with MARTA police. As Smokey the Bear might say, “Only you can help MARTA be better.” While some train rides might be completely quiet, other times, make sure you report people trying to sell things, playing music without earphones, smoking, etc.
3. Purchase the Best Fare (for everyone in your party)
One mistake that new riders make is putting fare for their entire party on one Breeze Card or ticket. Unfortunately, that won’t work. Every person needs to have their own Breeze card or ticket in order to enter and exit the fare gates. Regardless of the fare you choose, you have to pay a $1 fee for a paper ticket or $2 for a plastic/reloadable card for each person. The exception is children under 46″ — two can ride free with a paying adult.
When choosing your fare, you have the option to add one-way trips or a variety of day passes. If you plan to use MARTA regularly for a commute to work/school or are visiting Atlanta for several days, it is often more cost effective to purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes instead of individual trips (see pass options and prices).
Tip: If you commute to work on weekdays only, buy the 20 trip option two times each month to save money. As an extra hack, set up autopay online so your 20 trips renew automatically after you used them all.
4. Know How to Get a Free Transfer
You can transfer for free between MARTA buses and trains only if you have a Breeze Card or ticket (be sure to pick one up at any rail station via the vending machines). To transfer from a train to a bus, make sure to tap your Breeze Card to exit the station. To transfer from a bus to a train, you must pay the bus fare with a Breeze Card. If you pay cash to ride the bus, you will have to pay again to ride the train, or immediately tap your empty Breeze Card on the bus after inserting cash to receive a transfer.
You can also transfer for free between MARTA and regional bus services such as CobbLinc, GCT (Gwinnett Transit) and GRTA Xpress. There is a catch. To start your trip, you must have the system’s fare stored on your card, or just add cash value to your Breeze Card, which will work on all transit systems. So if you are riding MARTA then transfer to a CobbLinc bus, you need to have a MARTA trip/pass or cash value on your Breeze Card. For your return from CobbLinc to MARTA, you will need to have a CobbLinc bus pass or cash value.
Tip: If you aren’t planning to make multiple trips regularly on CobbLinc, GCT or GRTA Xpress, just add cash value to your Breeze Card to cover the fare on these systems.
5. Park and Ride Strategically
Many MARTA train stations have free daily parking, so you can park at the most convenient station or the station closest to your final destination to avoid Atlanta traffic and potential parking fees. Sometimes parking lots and decks do fill up, so be sure to check the parking availability status before heading out the door.
Here are some additional parking tips based on location:
We recommend the Lindbergh Center MARTA station for parking if you live on the north side of Atlanta, especially if you are traveling to downtown Atlanta or the Perimeter via train. It is usually faster to ride the rail system than drive in this corridor, especially during rush hour. Plus, this station also provides a short ride to Lenox Square Mall if you don’t want to deal with the crowded streets and parking lots in Buckhead.
If you live much further north, keep in mind that both the North Springs and Sandy Springs MARTA stations are close to Ga. 400. So if North Springs parking is full, head to Sandy Springs. Likewise, the Chamblee MARTA station is an easy backup option if the Doraville parking areas are full.
For those on the east side of the city, parking at the King Memorial and Edgewood/Candler Park means twice as many trains for a zippy commute to downtown Atlanta for work or to events on weekdays. On weekends, the green line train only travels to King Memorial before turning around.
Note that the Inman Park MARTA station north parking lot is temporarily closed, but you can park in Reynoldstown on the south side of the station as another option. To reach this lot, turn on Seaboard Avenue from Moreland Avenue (across from the Edgewood Retail District).
Taking into account crime and safety, of these three parking areas, we recommend the Edgewood/Candler Park lot off of Dekalb Avenue.
If you live on the west side or in Smyrna/Cobb County, the H.E. Holmes MARTA station is near I-285 and I-20, and has a very large parking lot and an 8-minute ride to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the State Farm Arena (formerly Philips).