Master the Lines – You’ll be Fine | A Student’s Manual to Riding MARTA

MARTAEmory University houses everyone from up-and-coming scientists to undergraduate entrepreneurs. However, these same minds sometimes fail to understand Atlanta’s local transportation option: MARTA.

Some students complain that MARTA is not as direct as Uber or Lyft, and that it takes longer to traverse metropolitan Atlanta via MARTA than by car. I have ridden the buses and trains of MARTA for longer than I can remember and can assert that MARTA trips are not just more time efficient than ride sharing, but also cheaper — one-way tickets cost a mere $2.50. Here’s a list of MARTA hacks to make your next ride as efficient as possible.

Basic structure:

To begin your MARTA studies, it is essential to understand how the system is laid out. MARTA makes use of a north-south line and an east-west line to connect the neighborhoods of Atlanta by rail. The Red and Gold lines travel up from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the northern suburbs of Atlanta. This can save you up to $25 on an Uber coming from Emory (and from potentially awkward rides with strangers you met on Facebook groups). The Blue and Green lines connect eastern and western suburbs to downtown Atlanta.


While the train network does not directly serve popular Georgia destinations like Six Flags, Stone Mountain or even Emory University, those venues (and any other address in Atlanta) are easily accessible through MARTA’s bus system. Like the friend who brings you Chipotle, the bus system helps you out when you need it the most. Included with every ride are four free transfers which can be used in a three-hour period for all of your complex traveling needs. You can take advantage of this feature by designing a trip that incorporates several bus routes and a subway ride to complete a round-trip for a mere one-way price. Keep in mind, however, that transfers cannot be used to ride the same bus or subway line more than once.

Points for Five Points:

If you’re traveling by train, you’ll likely transfer at the Five Points station, MARTA’s main hub (not to be confused with Little Five Points). Notwithstanding its constant influx of trains, Five Points is just as hackable as its other stations. If you are traveling east or west, be aware that the Green line trains are only two cars long. When the trains arrive, a horde of people rush to the center of the platform, but you can beat them to it by waiting there from the start. Even with the best planning, it’s still possible to wind up on the wrong side of the Five Points station (though I would argue that every side of the Five Points station is the wrong side). If that happens, cut through the train going the opposite direction to get to the island platform.

Staying connected:

If you need to charge your phone and you’re on a train with blue seats, look underneath the seats by the doors for a power outlet. It’s worth checking to see if your bus has Wi-Fi, as well. Armed with those two prongs of the millennial trident, you will be able to deluge your Snapchat story with hackneyed photos of the Atlanta skyline. When traveling west into downtown, sit on the right side of the train for the best view and maximum Instagram likes.

Getting to the airport:

This trek can be extremely time-consuming and expensive if you don’t plan ahead. With a little preparation, however, the journey can be completed significantly faster and cheaper than the average Uber to the airport. Try to board the first car on the southbound train and sit toward the ends of the train car. That way, when you exit the train at the Airport station, you’re close to the escalator that leads into the domestic terminal, escaping the inevitable bottleneck when some Georgia Tech student’s suitcase gets stuck. Furthermore, taking MARTA saves you time in the airport terminal, as both Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines provide check-in kiosks adjacent to the station, eliminating the need to wait in the main check-in lines. Upon returning to Atlanta, board the middle cars, as those will usually position you closest to the escalator when you exit the train at your destination or when transferring.

Although MARTA is perhaps not as robust as the metro systems of New York or Washington, D.C., it unassumingly serves as the Emory student’s liaison to the greater Atlanta area. Riding MARTA is like playing a game of chess: one must be aware of their position at all times and think several steps ahead, but with a little planning and some insider tips anyone can master this game of transportation. By learning the station map, arming yourself with a Breezecard and finding your own timesavers, you too will master the “ART” of MARTA.