Rail transit in the suburbs: Case study of transit use in Atlanta's affluent northern Tier

Arthur C. Nelson, Thomas L. Sanchez, Catherine L. Ross, Michael D. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The conventional view of public transit is that it serves the mobility needs primarily of poor, mostly inner-city residents. In 1979 the Metroplitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) opened rail service connecting inner-city neighborhoods to downtown. By the mid-1990, rail service had been extended south to Atlanta's international airport, east and west to Interstate 285 (Atlanta's perimeter freeway), and north into the region's affluent, mostly white suburbs. Research into how MARTA's rail system has influenced travel behavior among affluent "northern-tier" suburbanites is reported. Four major Finding are offered. First, in those corridors where rail transit its provided, mode choice among commuters has shifted measurably from the single-occupant vehicle to transit. Second, the opening of rail stations in suburban areas is shown to reduce vehicular trafffic on nearby surface streets, further suggesting rail's influence on travel behavior in the suburbs. Third, rail transit is found to attract affluent, white male commuters who are willing to (a) travel longer distances to access rail and (b) travel longer distances on rail than system expands, ridership among suburbanites increases regardless of changes in fare. The overall picture that emerges is that affluent suburban communities respond favorably to rail transit. This leads to a set of policy implications that transcend Atlanta's experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-150
Number of pages9
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1571
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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