A MARTA train passes Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta in August 2014. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)
A MARTA train passes Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta in August 2014. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

ATLANTA — Since 1971, more than 3.5 billion people — or 10 times the entire population of the U.S. — have caught a Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) bus or train.

As of 2016, MARTA is the eighth-largest transit system in North America.

MARTA began its bus service in 1972 and its rail service followed nine years later. Today, MARTA offers bus, rail and paratransit service

MARTA’s origins date back to 1965 when the Georgia General Assembly formed a planning agency to plan and build a public transportation system in the City of Atlanta and Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Fulton counties. However, it would be seven years until Fulton and DeKalb counties, along with the City of Atlanta, approved a referendum levying a 1 percent sales tax to finance MARTA’s construction.

Gwinnett and Clayton counties did not initially pass the referendum, though Clayton County voters in November 2014 voted for joining the agency.

MARTA’s East Line began operating on June 30, 1979, and its West Line began its service on Dec. 22, 1979. It would be almost another two years, on Dec. 4, 1981, until the North-South line started train service. And at that time, trains only ran between Garnett Street and North Ave. A station on the South Line serving Hartsfield International Airport opened June 18, 1988.

June 8, 1996, marked a major addition to MARTA’a rail service. The North Line opened and opened and would eventually extend to North Springs. Plans for additional tracks into North Fulton County have been discussed but not yet realized.

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