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First-years at Emory University know too well the sensation of feeling stuck on Emory’s campus, counting the days until the University allows them a car. Entering Emory, I was also concerned about being trapped — not by the lack of a car, but by Atlanta’s car-dependency and reputation for terrible public transit. From age 12, I commuted to school alone every day on the accessible D.C. metro, which instilled in me independence, confidence and a deep connection with my city. 

But, I soon realized that the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) system is not so useless for Emory students wanting to traverse Atlanta. When Emory shuttles are unavailable, students living near campus can and should use MARTA as a sustainable, low-cost mode of transportation that facilitates independence and more equitable engagement with Atlanta — breaking the “Emory bubble.” This article provides an introduction to using buses from Emory. To quote an Emory student’s 2017 guide, “Master the Lines — You’ll Be Fine.” 

The “Emory bubble,” a phenomenon where Emory undergraduates rarely leave campus and become integrated into Atlanta, reflects the broader issue of elite universities segregating themselves from their more diverse surroundings. While this is one blow to community equity, so are the broader problems with Atlanta transportation. Globally, public transportation is a key player in equality. It’s even a reality at Emory, where the use of costly ride shares can separate peers by socioeconomic background. Even those not personally in need of cheaper options should use MARTA because supporting public transportation is both a fun way to explore the city and a way to advance equity in our communities. 

Here are some examples of how to work MARTA into your weekend plans, using popular destinations for students who express interest in exploring Atlanta. Little Five Points is just a 15-minute ride on the 6 bus going South, which conveniently stops along Clifton Road from Emory Point to Emory Village. If you finish vintage shopping and crave Target, just walk 10 minutes south to the Edgewood shopping center. If you stay on the bus until Memorial Drive, you are a 10 minute walk from The Eastern, a popular concert venue. Becoming familiar with just one bus line can unlock hours of activities.

Three bus routes go through Emory’s main campus: the 6, 36 and 816. At night, take the 36 into Midtown to visit Georgia Tech, or go party at Georgia State University and see a show at The Masquerade at the end of the 816 route going downtown. However, MARTA service ends around midnight, so you may want to Uber home. Trying MARTA is not an all-or-nothing commitment! Another day, Ponce City Market and the eastside Beltline are a pretty 15-minute walk down Ponce de Leon Avenue where it meets North Highland along the 36. Centennial Olympic Park is a 15 minute walk from the 816’s downtown stops. The 19 bus travels right outside the Clairmont campus and south to Decatur Square. 

You can reach many more places by switching to other buses, MARTA rail, rideshares, scooters, bikes, etc. It’s easy to find routes on Google Maps, just enter a destination and click the train icon. The white circles display bus stops. The MARTA app also provides helpful information on bus routes and schedules, though the customer service phone line has the most up-to-date information.

So, how does the bus actually work? When you are at a bus stop (on the correct side of the road for your route) and see the bus approaching, step up to the curb to show you want the driver to stop. Tap your Breeze card at the reader to pay the $2.50 fare. You can buy the card at a rail station, and reload it there or online. Check on Google Maps or the MARTA website where you want to stop. When the bus nears your destination, pull the yellow rope. The driver will pull up to the closest stop and you can get off.

There is no denying that buses often run infrequently, take longer than a car and don’t go exactly where you want. However, recognizing these are real problems underscores the importance of accessible transportation. It is inexcusable that Atlanta’s public transportation system, unable to be a reliable source of daily transportation for most residents, lags behind modern metropolitan standards. But, choosing to make an effort to use MARTA demonstrates the demand for improved transit (and can make a tangible environmental impact). Moreover, figuring out the buses, trains and streets of Atlanta, rather than Ubering to one destination, is an exciting, authentic way to enjoy the city. After all, college is about exploring new things with people of diverse backgrounds. My background taught me never to give up on public transportation, which Emory students can learn to embrace — it will take you far! 

Sarah Orozco (25C) is from Washington, D.C.


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Sarah Orozco (25C) is an environmental science major from Washington, D.C. She plays club Ultimate at Emory, enjoys walking around Atlanta and D.C. and is passionate about sustainability.