Metro Atlanta

Metro Atlanta

Infobox Metropolitan Area
MSA_name = nowrap|Metro Atlanta
name = Metro Atlanta

largest_city = Atlanta
other_cities = - Sandy Springs - Roswell - Marietta
rank_us = 9th
population = 5,278,904 (2007 est.)
density_mi2 = 630
density_km2 = 243
area_mi2 = 8,376
area_km2 = 21,694
states = Georgia
highest_ft = 1808
highest_m = 551
lowest_ft = N/A
lowest_m = N/A

Metro Atlanta, Georgia is the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the United States and consists of 28 counties in Georgia. Atlanta is the capital and the largest city in the state of Georgia with a population of 519,145.cite web | publisher=United States Census Bureau | title=Annual Estimates of the Population for Incorporated Places Over 100,000, Ranked by July 1, 2007 Population | date=July 10, 2008 | url= | format=Comma-separated values | accessdate = 2008-07-10 ] Its metropolitan statistical area has a population of 5,278,904, [ Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007] , U.S. Census Bureau, 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2008.] with a combined statistical area of 5,626,400.cite web | publisher=United States Census Bureau | title=Combined statistical area population and estimated components of change: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007 | date=July 10 2008 | url= | format=Comma-separated values | accessdate = 2008-07-10 ] The city ranks as the 33rd-largest in the United States.

According to the ranking of world cities undertaken by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network and based on the level of presence of global corporate service organizations, Atlanta is considered a "Gamma World City." [ [ The World According to GaWC] , GaWC, Loughborough University]

Government and politics

Georgia has the smallest average county size of any state which operates county governments.Fact|date=June 2008 This focuses government more locally but allows greater conflict between jurisdictions. The first significant intergovernmental agency in metro Atlanta was the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, which runs the MARTA public transportation system. Alongside other factors, problems associated with the inner city of Atlanta (crime, poverty, racism, poor public school performance, etc) influenced Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton county voters to refuse MARTA into their respective counties during the 1970s.

The Atlanta Regional Commission is so far the closest that the area has come to a metropolitan government. It only approves projects deemed to have an impact beyond the immediate area in which they are placed. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority is somewhat of a cross between ARC and MARTA, searching mainly for alternative transportation such as buses and trains. GRTA also operates XPress buses from counties that have otherwise refused to join in public transport initiatives, and could operate commuter rail service in the future. Currently, plans for commuter rail and eventual intercity rail are the responsibility of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority.

Despite meeting in Atlanta, on land donated to it by the city for the Georgia State Capitol, the Georgia General Assembly has often been at odds with the city. During the mid-2000s, the legislature voted to force Atlanta to abandon its living wage law. It also tried to vote against the city's tree-protection ordinance, a move which which would have allowed any tree in Georgia to be destroyed for any reason had it passed.

Funding formulas for roads have also been skewed toward rural legislators' political districts, particularly the Governor's Road Improvement Plan (GRIP), which encouraged divided highways even in places where they were not justified by actual or projected traffic. This, combined with a state constitution which prohibits motor fuel taxes from being used on anything other than roads (including on public transportation that eases traffic on those roads) has left the metro area in a very difficult situation when it comes to transportation.

There have been proposals in 2007 to allow new multi-county sales taxes, in addition to existing county sales taxes for roads, which would pay for regional transportation initiatives. [] However, long-time powerful road lobbyists in the state have pushed for proposals heavily skewed toward more roads and little or no alternative transportation systems, like the ones which are being expanded in other major metro areas of the South like Nashville, Charlotte, and Miami.


The area is the world's largest toll-free calling zone spanning 7162 square miles [cite web|url=|title=A Look at Atlanta|date=May 2006|publisher=Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce|pages=11|accessdate=2008-07-05|format=PDF] , has three active telephone area codes, and local calling extending into portions of two others. 404, which originally covered all of northern Georgia until 1992, now covers mostly the area inside the Perimeter (Interstate 285). In 1995, the suburbs were put into 770, and 678 was overlaid onto both in 1998, requiring mandatory ten-digit dialing even for local calls under FCC rules. Cellphones, originally only 404, may now have any local area code regardless of where in the region they were issued. Area code 470 will be the next area code, overlaid as was 678. The local calling area also includes portions of 706 and a small area of 256 on the Alabama-Georgia border. [cite web|url=||accessdate=2008-07-05]

Atlanta enjoys the world's biggest fiber optic bundle,Fact|date=December 2007 and was America's first city to employ ten-digit dialing,Fact|date=December 2007 which was begun by BellSouth right before the Centennial 1996 Olympic Games came to Atlanta.

Major fiber-optic lines and petroleum and natural gas pipelines cross the area, running from the Gulf coast, Texas, and Louisiana to the population centers of the northeastern U.S.

Metro Atlanta primarily uses natural gas for central heating and water heaters, with the major exception of heat pumps in apartments built during and since the 1980s. Because winters are mild, and units share walls in a large building, they generally need a lot of heat only on the coldest nights. Backup heat (also used during defrosting) is usually supplied by electric resistance heating, though some homes have hybrid heating units which use gas backup when it is cold. Exurban homes may also use all-electric instead of gas, if gas mains have not been extended to an area.

Cooktops and ovens are a mix of gas and electric, while gas clothes dryers are rather rare. Nearly all homes have a fireplace with a manual-valve gas starter, and some are now equipped with permanent gas logs with electric switch start. Some homes also have natural gas barbecue grills, formerly sold at utility company stores.

Georgia Power is the main electric power company across the state and the metro area, beginning in 1902 as Georgia Railway and Power Company, Atlanta's streetcar (trolley) company. Several electric membership corporations also serve the suburbs, including Cobb EMC and Sawnee EMC. The city of Marietta operates its own electric utility, Marietta Power, under the Board of Lights & Water (BLW). It is also a member of the Municipal Electric Association of Georgia (MEAG).

Atlanta Gas Light is the natural gas utility for the region, and has been so for well over a century, since it installed gas lamps in Atlanta. It operated as a regulated monopoly until November 1998, the after the state legislature voted in early 1997 to deregulate natural gas marketing, and make customers choose among nearly 20 different marketers still selling the same AGL-wholesaled gas. Most of the gas comes from Louisiana.

Water is provided by various county and a few city systems. Several of these systems actually serve parts of neighboring counties and cities as well. The Cobb-Marietta Water Authority serves not only Cobb, but also parts of neighboring Paulding and Cherokee counties, for example. During drought or other emergency, cities and counties can enact outdoor water-use restrictions, however some cross-jurisdiction water systems have also acted to put bans in place. In late September 2007, the state Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, stepped-in with its first-even ban, covering most of the north-northwestern half of the state. While surface water is by far the primary source of water for the region, the drought has many systems (and a few wealthy homeowners) drilling new wells for ground water, though the local water table is around convert|400|ft|m or 120 meters deep, on average.

Sewerage is also handled by the water utilities, however the various water and sewer networks may not conform to the same boundaries, resulting in interbasin water transfers. This is for practical reasons, because the area is hilly and divided by several watersheds, because the area has developed irregularly and erratically, and because water treatment plants are usually not near sewage treatment plants. Septic tanks are still used in the older homes of some exurbs.

The major supermarkets in the area are long-time Kroger (including former Harris Teeter locations), and since the 1990s, Publix. Previously, this also included Winn-Dixie (some were later SaveRite), A&P, Big Star, Cub Foods, Bruno's, and Food Lion. Food Depot is a recent startup, with only a few locations. Ingles has a few locations in the far suburbs, mainly because sprawl has come out to meet them, rather than actively trying to enter the market. Local chain Harry's Farmers Market is owned since 2001 by Whole Foods, the "Harry's In a Hurry" locations were not acquired and closed soon after.

Drugstores include Rite-Aid (all converted from Eckerd Drug), CVS/pharmacy, and since the 2000s, Walgreens. While all Walgreens are new, Eckerd was composed of several of its own stores, in addition to Treasury Drug and local chain Dunaway Drugs. CVS is composed of what was Reed Drug in the 1980s, later Big B Drugs, and briefly Revco for just a year from 1996 to 1997. Drug Emporium was present for several years, while fellow superstore Phar-Mor had only a brief run.

Century-old Atlanta furniture store Rhodes Furniture (see Rhodes Hall) went bankrupt, with most stores later reopening as Broyhill Furniture. It competes against Ashley Furniture, Thomasville Furniture, Bassett Furniture, and Rooms To Go. Roberds is another closed retail chain, which also sold home appliances.

Circuit City no longer sells appliances, but Best Buy does. Since the mid-2000s, hhgregg has entered the market, selling appliances, electronics (but no computers, except notebooks), and beds, similar to Roberds. Service Merchandise also had stores in the area prior to their bankruptcy, and Lechmere was around for only a few years. RadioShack operates many in-mall and strip mall locations.

The Home Depot, started and based in metro Atlanta, has stores across the area. Lowe's closed its mid-size stores, but returned a few years later with the superstores now located across the street from many Home Depots. Both sell appliances and landscaping, while several Ace Hardware stores hold their ground, concentrating on being traditional hardware stores. Pike Nurseries is a local plant nursery chain with several stores, the few Home Depot Landscape Supply stores ever opened closed in mid-November 2007.

Rich's and Davison's, both the major names in Atlanta-area department stores, succumbed to parent Macy's after well over a century in business. JC Penney and Sears have been in Atlanta for decades. Parisian was around for a decade or so before being bought by Belk, which has a well-established name outside the metro area. The Rich's Great Tree has been a major local Christmas tradition since the 1940s, with its grand illumination ceremony every Thanksgiving.

Discount stores include Target and Wal-Mart, and Kmart, which closed at least half of its metro-area stores before buying Sears. Former discount stores include local Richway (now Target), and Zayre, Treasure Island, McCrory's, and Woolco. Closeout stores include Big Lots (including some former MacFrugal's), TJ Maxx, Marshalls (some formerly Branden's), HomeGoods, Ross, and Burlington Coat Factory (the Marietta store in a former Woolworth).

Dollar stores include Dollar Tree and several independent stores which come and go. Around 2004, Little Bucks was a local 99¢ chain which opened several large stores and then closed just over a year later. Super 88¢+ also has at least one location here. Other variety stores include Dollar General and Family Dollar.

Arts and crafts stores include Michael's, JoAnn, Hobby Lobby (several in former Kmart locations), Old Time Pottery, Hancock Fabrics, and four Garden Ridge superstores. Hobby stores include four HobbyTown USA stores (one superstore), Hobby Lobby, and a few independent hobby dealers.

Other local chains include Georgia Backyard and former Seasonal Concepts for patio furniture. The former sells fireplace accessories in fall and winter, the latter sold Christmas decorations to make it through the off season. Georgia Backyard also sells hot tubs, as does Recreational Factory Warehouse, which also sells billiards. Games & Things sells billiards and other high-end games as well.

Outdoor recreation stores include Dick's Sporting Goods (all former Galyan's locations), The Sports Authority, and formerly Oshman's. Shoe-only stores include Payless Shoes, Foot Locker, The Athlete's Foot, more recent entry Discount Shoe Warehouse, and formerly Just For Feet, Kinney Shoes, and Thom McAn Shoes.

Music stores are mostly gone now, but included local Turtles Music and Video, which later became Blockbuster Music and then Sound Warehouse, before becoming the current Wherehouse Music. Camelot Music was also common in indoor malls instead of the strip malls where Turtles usually was. MARS Music sold musical instruments, sheet music, pro audio gear during the late 1990s, and Guitar Center still does. Long-time local chain Ken Stanton Music repositioned itself from school band instruments to also include pro audio.

Best Buy closed its Media Play chain, but Barnes & Noble and Borders Books continue. Borders' subsidiary Waldenbooks and competitor B. Dalton Bookseller are found in most large malls.

Second-hand stores include several Goodwill Industries and a few Salvation Army thrift stores, three America's Thrift Stores, local, and some very limited-hours stores of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. For-profit local chains which buy and resell higher-quality goods include local chains Abbadabba's and Plato's Closet. It is unclear whether Value Village and Park Avenue Thrift are for-profit or non-profit thrift chains.

Atlanta is a city known in the South for its many shopping areas. The Atlanta area is home to one of the South's largest shopping malls, the Mall of Georgia, which is located in nearby Gwinnett County.

The other larger shopping establishments in Metro Atlanta include:
*Mall of Georgia, Located in Buford. It is the largest mall in the state. Anchored by: Belk, Dillard's, J.C. Penney, Macy's, and Nordstrom. And over 250 other stores.
*Arbor Place Mall, located in Douglasville, the 4th largest mall in the state of Georgia, and major retail hub in Atlanta's western Suburbs. Home to anchor stores Macy's, Belk, Sears, J.C. Penney, and Dillard's.
*Atlantic Station, a massive redevelopment of a steel mill site
*Cumberland Mall
*Discover Mills, a large outlet shopping mall located in Gwinnett County
*Greenbriar Mall, a regional mall in Southwest Atlanta Macy's, Burlington Coat Factory
*Gwinnett Place Mall
*Lenox Square, a large three-story shopping center that is home to some 250 retailers and restaurants that is located in Buckhead. The anchors of Lenox Square include Macy's (formerly Rich's), Bloomingdales (formerly Macy's), and Neiman-Marcus. This is the first mall to be opened in the state of Georgia. []
*Phipps Plaza, an upscale shopping center also located in Buckhead. This mall is considered Atlanta's most upscale shopping center with 100+ stores along with Nordstrom, Parisian and Saks Fifth Avenue as anchor stores. []
*Mall at Stonecrest
*North DeKalb Mall
*North Point Mall
*Northlake Mall
*Perimeter Mall - 2nd largest shopping mall in Georgia. 200+ stores. Anchored by: Bloomingdale's, Dillard's, Macy's, and Nordstrom.
*Town Center at Cobb
*Union Station (formerly Shannon Mall) - Macy's Sears
*The Gallery at South DeKalb (South DeKalb Mall)
* The Pavilion in Fayette County - the largest shopping center in Georgia at over convert|1800000|sqft|m2
*Southlake Mall (Atlanta)
*Cobb Galleria
*Underground Atlanta
*The Mall at West End
*The Mall at Peachtree
*The Forum at Ashley Park, a shopping mall under development in Newnan just off I-85.

Lenox Square hosts the largest fireworks display in the Southeast every Independence Day, a major tradition in Atlanta.



The area sprawls across the low foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to the north and the piedmont to the south. The northern and some western suburbs tend to be higher and significantly more hilly than the southern and eastern suburbs.

The highest point in the immediate area is Kennesaw Mountain, followed by Sweat Mountain, Stone Mountain, and Little Kennesaw Mountain. Others include Blackjack Mountain, Lost Mountain, Brushy Mountain, Pine Mountain, and Mount Wilkinson (Vinings Mountain). Many of these play prominently in the various battles of the Atlanta Campaign during the American Civil War. If the further-north counties are included, Bear Mountain is highest, followed by Pine Log Mountain, Sawnee Mountain, and Hanging Mountain, followed by the others listed above.

An extinct fault line called the Brevard Fault runs roughly parallel to the Chattahoochee River, but its last movements were apparently prehistoric, thus it is considered extinct and not a threat to the region. Still, minor earthquakes do rattle the area occasionally, the last one in April 2003 coming from the northwest, its epicenter just across the state line in northeastern Alabama. While many people slept through the 5AM quake, it caused a minor panic in others completely unaware of what was happening. A magnitude 4.6 such as this occurs about every 30 to 40 years in the region, and is often felt much more widely across the stronger crust of eastern North America as compared to the west. Because of this, the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886 was also felt in Atlanta, and across the Southeast.

The area's subsoil is a dense clay soil, colored rusty by the iron oxide present in it. It becomes very muddy and sticky when wet, and hard when dry, and stains light-colored carpets and clothing easily. It also tends to have a low pH, further aggravating gardeners. The fineness of it also means it is easily deposited into streams during heavy rains, creating silt problems where it is exposed due to construction. This transported red soil can be seen downstream on the riverbanks of south Georgia (where the native clay is white), and down to the Florida panhandle (where the native sand is also white). Topsoil is present only in natural forest areas, created by the decomposition of leaves.


Atlanta has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. January daily lows average around 33°F (1°C) and highs average near 52°F (11°C), but often reach 60-65°F (21-24°C). Snow is uncommon, with an average annual snowfall of about 2.9 inches (5 cm), falling mostly in January and early February. Summers, by contrast, are consistently hot and humid, with July mornings averaging 71°F (22°C) and afternoons averaging 89°F (32°C), slight breezes, and typically a 20-30% chance of afternoon thunderstorms. During the summer afternoon thunderstorms, temperatures may suddenly drop to 70-75 degrees with locally heavy rainfall. Average annual rainfall is about 50.2 inches (1370 mm), with late winter and early spring (as well as July) being the wettest and fall (especially October) being the driest. Despite having far fewer rainy days, average yearly rainfall is higher here than in the Seattle area, especially due to heavy thunderstorms and occasional tropical depressions.

Spring weather is pleasant but variable, as cold fronts often bring strong or severe thunderstorms to almost all of the eastern and central U.S. Pollen counts tend to be extraordinarily high in the spring, regularly exceeding 2000 particles per cubic meter in April and causing hay fever. Pine pollen leaves a fine yellow-green film on everything for much of that month. The rain helps wash out Atlanta's abundant oak, pine, and grass pollens, and fuels beautiful blooms from native flowering dogwood trees, as well as azaleas, forsythias, magnolias, and peach trees (both flowering-only and fruiting). The city-wide floral display runs during March and April, and inspires the Dogwood Festival, one of Atlanta's largest. Fall is also pleasant, with less rain and fewer storms, lower humidity, and leaves changing color from late October to mid-November, especially during drier (but not severely dry) years.

The area's geography affects the weather as well. An anticyclone over the Northeastern U.S. will blow cold air over the warmer Atlantic Ocean, forming a wedge or marine layer up against the mountains. This east or northeast wind will often blow down into the metro area in winter or even spring (sometimes fall and very rarely summer), dramatically lowering the temperature and bringing clouds and often fog or mist, along with a swift breeze. The temperature gradient across the sprawling metro Atlanta can be as much as convert|20|°F|°C|abbr=on or 10°C, occasionally even more. In winter this can be a curse, bringing freezing rain to exposed objects on the north and/or east sides of town, and occasionally very dangerously to the ground and roads. Later in the spring however, it can be a great blessing, as it often protects the area from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, with the cool air acting like a fire extinguisher to the storms. The wedge may occasionally go the entire way through central Georgia and even into Alabama in the strongest conditions, while still leaving areas to the northwest much warmer than the metro area.

The local geography also plays a role in the day-to-day weather, with the shallow valleys to the southwest (rather than the mountains to the northeast) cooling rapidly on clear and calm nights, particularly when the humidity is low. Peachtree City and especially Newnan often report dramatically lower temperatures (by as much as 10°C or nearly 20°F) on the 10PM and 11PM news, and will not drop much further, while the city (built on a ridge) will continue falling slowly but never reach that low. This type of dramatic difference in microclimate is somewhat unusual for a place not near large mountains or bodies of water.

The highest recorded temperatures at Atlanta were 105°F (41°C) on three days in the extraordinarily-hot July 1980, followed by 104°F (40°C) that month and in August 2007, the hottest month ever for the area. The lowest recorded temperatures were -6°F (-21°C) and -8°F (-22°C) on January 20 and 21 of 1985, and -9°F (-23°C) on February 13 of 1899. There was also an official record of -10°F (-23°C) in 1985 in Marietta. The rainiest month ever was July 1994, when Tropical Storm Alberto dumped massive amounts of rain on parts of the state and the south metro area, bringing convert|17.71|in|mm or 450 mm at Atlanta, over three times a normal July. Flooding was a major problem in those areas, and further down-state it was disastrous.

Hurricane Opal brought sustained tropical storm conditions to the area one night in early October 1995, uprooting hundreds of trees and causing widespread power outages, after soaking the area with rain for two days prior. The western metro area caught the worst of the storm, gusting to nearly 70 MPH (just over 110km/h) officially at Marietta. Such events are very rare so far inland.

Since 1950, some metro counties have been hit more than 20 times by tornadoes, with Cobb (26) and Fulton (22) being two of the highest in the state. (Note that some tornadoes may have occurred at the same time, or in two different counties.) The Dunwoody tornado in early April 1998 was the worst tornado to have struck the area. Since then, many counties have reinstalled civil defense sirens removed after the Cold War.

A blizzard (see: 1993 North American Storm Complex) caught much of the Southeast off-guard in 1993, dumping four inches (10cm) at the Atlanta airport on March 13, about twice that in the northern suburbs, and many times that in the mountains. Some people were awakened by thunder and lightning in a very rare thundersnow event. The only other recorded winter storm of comparable severity was in February 1899. Several areas of northern Cobb County recorded over convert|15|in|cm in snowdrifts. It is widely regarded as the snow event of the century for Atlanta, and is referred to as the "Storm of the Century". The heaviest snow, however, was in January 1940, when eight inches (20cm) buried the city during its coldest month on record.

The most recent major snow occurred at the beginning of 2002, when up to three inches (7.5cm) fell on January 2-3. As of 2007, the stretch of five nearly or entirely snowless winters makes for an extremely long period compared to average. This 5-year streak of no snow was ended in January 2008 when convert|.4|in|mm fell on January 16th and convert|1|in|mm|sing=on fell on January 19th.

As of October 2007 a severe drought is affecting the region, and is getting worse. The Southeastern U.S. drought of 2007 actually began with dry weather in 2006, and has left area lakes very low. Most of the area's drinking water is stored in Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona, and the USACE expects that they may reach record low levels by December 2007. Up through September 2007, it is the driest year on record in over 75 years, second only to 1927 and 1931. On September 28, the state issued a total outdoor watering ban for the north and northwestern 40% or so of the state, affecting 61 of 159 counties generally north of the Fall Line. Local authorities and water systems had already taken such measures in some places. It is the first time the state has stepped-in with a ban.


The area's prolific rains are drained by many different streams and creeks. The main basin is that of the Chattahoochee River, running northeast to southwest. The further northwestern suburbs drain into the Etowah River via the Little River and Lake Allatoona. The southern suburbs are drained by the Flint River, and the east-southeastern ones by the Oconee River and Yellow River.By 2005, the metro area was using 360 million gallons of water per day (about 80 gallons per person per day).

The massive deforestation brought by excessive land development has had a significant impact on area watersheds. They now flood far more rapidly and to a much greater extent than prior to development. This has pushed many people into flood plains, something they often find out only when it is too late. A very few jurisdictions have begun to implement a stormwater fee, though the fees are not yet based on the actual amount of damaging runoff each property produces, mainly from pavement and lack of tree cover and natural leaf litter.

Since clear-cutting now removes all of the trees, lawns are planted instead. These allow much more runoff during rains, and require much more water during drought, generally using drinking water from the municipal supply since Georgia and its local governments have no recycling requirements. Runoff also includes harmful chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides unnecessary for native vegetation.

WXIA-TV reported that from 1990 to 2005, the amount of impermeable surface (pavement and buildings) in several metro counties increased dramatically, with Cobb doubling from 10% to 20% of its total land area, a rate even faster than its population increase. These numbers are in addition to the only marginally-permeable lawns. This reduced permeability prevents the water table from refilling as quickly as it should.

Disputes over water are becoming increasingly common, with both Alabama and Florida threatening lawsuits and injunctions to prevent Georgia from taking too much water, mostly for metro Atlanta. South Carolina also threatened when a pipeline east to the Savannah River was mentioned even informally.


The native forest canopy is mainly oak, hickory, tuliptree, and pine, with some sweetgum, particularly on the southside. Underneath, the flowering dogwood is very common, and the black cherry is quite prolific, with mulberry popping up sometimes as well. Sourwood is also in its native range, but is uncommon and is only easily identified by the fact that it turns fiery red in early October, much brighter and weeks earlier than most other trees (which usually peak in early to middle November). Shrubby plants include blackberry, horsechestnut, sumac, and sometimes hawthorn. Virginia creeper, poison ivy, and briar are common vines. The Confederate Yellow Daisy is a wildflower native only to the area around Stone Mountain.

Common garden plants include dogwood, azalea, hydrangea, maples, pin oak, redtip photinia, holly, juniper, white pine, magnolia, Bradford pear, forsythia, liriope (mondograss) and English ivy. Lawns can be either cool-season grasses like fescue and rye, or warm-season like zoysia and bermudagrass which turn brown in late fall. A few homeowners associations actually prohibit green grass in the winter.

Common lawn weeds are wild strawberry, violet, wild onion, and of course the ubiquitous dandelion, crabgrass, and plantain.

By far the most notorious introduced species is kudzu, a highly invasive species from Japan which climbs and smothers trees and shrubs. Wisteria has also escaped in some places, and Japanese honeysuckle is quite common. Chinese Privet has surpassed all these as the most invasive non-native, yet it is still sold as a garden plant. [] Georgia apparently has no laws requiring landowners to control these plants, and no programs to help in their control, which allows them to continue to spread.


Among mammals, the eastern gray squirrel is by far the most ubiquitous, stealing birdseed from the bird feeders which many locals put up. Chipmunks and small brown rabbits are common, but it is relatively rare to hear of them doing any damage. Opossum, raccoons, foxes, and now even small coyotes are sometimes found, especially where the habitat destruction of new development has forced them out. Snakes are rare, but tree frogs are easily heard in early summer. Black bears occasionally wander down from the mountains, and white-tailed deer are seen is some areas not overwhelmed by dense development.

The most common birds are the American Crow, European (or Common) Starling, House Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Purple Finch, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay, Nuthatch, and American Kestrel. Late in the year, owls can be heard in wooded areas at night. Various woodpeckers can be seen in forested lots, including the Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker (also known as the "red-shafted flicker"), Downy Woodpecker and occasionally others. The American Goldfinch is present in winter, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird in summer.


Major highways

Metro Atlanta is served by six major interstate highway routes to and from the city. I-75 is the busiest and carries a great deal of truck traffic, running south-southeast to Macon and onward to Florida and northwest to Chattanooga (and I-575 to Canton). I-85 runs southwest to Auburn and Montgomery (and I-185 to Columbus), and northeast to Greenville/Spartanburg and Charlotte (and I-985 to Gainesville). I-20 runs east to Augusta and Columbia, and west to Anniston and Birmingham.

I-285 encircles the city, and is called the Perimeter. I-75/85 is joined through downtown Atlanta, called the Downtown Connector. I-675 joins I-75 in the south metro to the southeastern end of I-285. Georgia 400 runs north to Alpharetta, then somewhat northeast to Dahlonega in the mountains. The GDOT had originally planned to connect 400 and 675 as I-475, but this was cancelled, as was east-west Interstate 420 and Interstate 485

Currently, I-75 is 15 lanes wide north of the Windy Hill Road interchange (8 northbound, 7 southbound), and as such, is the widest freeway in the United States. The Northwest Corridor HOV/BRT project from GRTA aims to add HOV lanes to I-75 and I-575 for cars and BRT, adding new lanes and exits, as well as lanes for tractor-trailers only. The project plans to expand the freeway from I-285 northward to the Wade Green Road interchange, making it to 26 lanes (13 lanes each both northbound and southbound) at Windy Hill.Fact|date=February 2007 Construction costs for the project are expected to be about 10 billion dollars and it should take about 15 years to complete.Fact|date=February 2007 Hundreds of homes and businesses would be taken for the project.

The intersection of I-285 and Georgia 400 (a freeway running from Atlanta to Cumming and Dahlonega) is slated to become the biggest stack interchange in the worldFact|date=February 2007, which will encompass collector-distributor lanes, as well as 130-foot (40m) flyover lanesFact|date=February 2007, from 285 to 400, and from 400 to 285. Construction costs are expected to be around 2 billion dollarsFact|date=February 2007.

Mass transit

Although Atlanta has always been a railroad town, and the city once had an extensive streetcar system as far out as Marietta (about convert|15|mi|km or 25km northwest), modern rapid transit has been an exceedingly difficult and drawn-out process, putting the metro area well-behind comparable cities.

MARTA operates rapid transit in Fulton and Dekalb counties, while Gwinnett, Cobb, and Clayton counties operate their own buses with no current rail transit. This is a result of those counties refusal to join the MARTA system, a situation which was originally closely related to white flight from the city. It is the only U.S. system in which the state fails to provide any funds for operation or expansion, instead relying entirely on a 1% sales tax.

Plans are underway for commuter rail and bus rapid transit (BRT), though these are some years away. The first commuter rail line would run south of the city, eventually extended to Lovejoy and possibly Hampton near Atlanta Motor Speedway. This project took two decades under Democrats, and has now been threatened by some Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly as being "wasteful", despite being successful in every other U.S. city that has it. The "Brain Train" would likely be the second route, connecting the University of Georgia in Athens to Emory University and Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

As planned, all commuter trains would arrive at the Atlanta Multimodal Passenger Terminal, the long-delayed facility just across Peachtree Street from the Five Points MARTA station, where all of its lines meet. The planning for the system, and its extension as intercity rail across the state, is the responsibility of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority.

Commercial railways

Before Atlanta was even a city, it was a railroad hub. From this came the joke, popular among other Southerners, that "regardless of whether one goes to heaven or hell, everyone must go through Atlanta first." Many of its suburbs pre-date it as depots or train stations along the major lines in and out of town. Through mergers, the main railroads in the area are now Norfolk Southern and CSX. The Georgia Northeastern Railroad is a short line that also services part of the area.


Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the only international airport for the region (and only major international airport for the state), and as with rail travel, it became the ubiquitous place through which everyone must travel at some point. Other airports include Charlie Brown Field, McCollum Field, Cartersville Airport, DeKalb Peachtree Airport, Briscoe Field, and the Clayton County Airport. Atlanta's second airport is in the very preliminary discussion and study phase.

Local roads

There are many historic roads across the area, named after its mills and early ferries, and the bridges later built to replace the ferries. Pace's Ferry is perhaps the best known.

Owing to the area's long history of settlement (unlike the Las Vegas metropolitan area, for example) and uneven terrain, most arterial roads are not straight, and instead curve around. This can be confusing for visitors, much more so than the famed proliferation of Atlanta city streets with "Peachtree" in the name.

The region maintains the nomenclature of each county naming its roads for the towns they connect with in surrounding counties. Thus, from Dallas to Roswell, Georgia 120 is Marietta Highway to the Paulding/Cobb county line, Dallas Highway to the city of Marietta, Whitlock Avenue to the town square, South Park Square for just one city block, Roswell Street to Cobb Parkway (at the Big Chicken), Roswell Road to the Cobb/Fulton county line, and finally Marietta Street to the town square in Roswell.

There are many roads like this throughout the area, leading to duplication of names in different counties. In Fulton, "Roswell Road" refers to Georgia 9 through northern Atlanta and across Sandy Springs, in addition to the above-mentioned use in Cobb, for example. Numeric street addressing is done by county as well, with the origin usually being at one corner of the town square in the county seat. The U.S. Postal Service ignores these actual and logical boundaries however, overlapping ZIP codes and their associated place names across counties. The Cumberland/Galleria area has Cobb's numbers and an "SE" suffix, but is called "Atlanta" by the USPS, which can confuse visitors to think it is far away in southeast Atlanta.

Where more than one town in the same county has a road to the same place, the smaller towns have their own name prefixed to it, while the county seat does not. The road need not go directly to the other place, but may connect through other roads. Examples include Due West Road west from Marietta, Kennesaw Due West Road southwest from Kennesaw, and Acworth Due West Road south from Acworth. Some are usually hyphenated, like Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, and Chamblee-Tucker Road.

There are also several roads named for communities which have been overwhelmed by the urban and suburban sprawl, and so are usually not recognized by newcomers. These include Sandy Plains, Crabapple, Toonigh, Ashford, and Due West. Some of these communities are in the middle of the road, while some are at or very near one end. Some places get renamed, either over time (Sandy Plains gradually became "Sprayberry" when Sprayberry High School moved there and similarly-named shopping centers popped up around it), by the USPS (Toonigh is identified as "Lebanon"), or by new suburbanites who don't think the existing name is good enough (Hog Mountain is now "Hamilton Mill". In this case, the roads usually maintain their names even if the places do not.

Several of these roads have become arterials, while others remain pleasant two-lane drives. Many are state roads as well, though GDOT has the habit of moving numbered routes onto other roads, sometimes arbitrarily, and occasionally sending them through an entirely different town. State highway numbers also tend to curve around arbitrarily while their directional signs do not, rendering them useless where they indicate "north" and "south" in places the road goes east and west. There are also a few U.S. highways that cross the area, including 19, 23, 41, and 78.

Other arterials are completely new, like much of Barrett Parkway and South Fulton Parkway, both constructed by their counties but partly covered with a state route number. Occasionally, roads are realigned or extended to meet each other directly at a cross-road, leading to odd curves and name changes.


The population of the Atlanta region spreads across a metropolitan area of convert|8376|sqmi|km2|0 – a land area larger than that of Massachusetts.cite web | title = Atlanta MSA Growth Statistics | publisher = Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce | date= 05-2006 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-28 |format=PDF] Because Georgia contains more counties than any other state east of the Mississippi River (an accident of history explained by the now-defunct county unit system of weighing votes in primary elections), [cite web | title = States, Counties, and Statistically Equivalent Entities | work = Geographic Areas Reference Manual | publisher = U.S. Department of Commerce | date= 11-1994 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-28 |format=PDF] area residents live under a heavily decentralized collection of governments. As of the 2000 census, fewer than one in ten residents of the metropolitan area lived inside Atlanta city proper. [cite web | title = Atlanta in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000 | publisher = The Brookings Institution | date= 11-2003 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-28 ]

A 2006 survey by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce counted 140 cities and towns in the 28-county metropolitan statistical area in mid-2005. Five cities – Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, Dunwoody and Chattahoochee Hill Country – have incorporated or won legislative approval for incorporation since then. [cite web | last = Segal | first = Geoffrey | title = The Real Sandy Springs Effect | work = | publisher = The Reason Foundation | date= 2005-12-02 | url = | accessdate = 2007-09-28 ] [cite web| url=| title=HB 1470 - Milton, City of; provide charter | date= 2006-10-11 | publisher= Georgia General Assembly | accessdate=2007-06-26] [cite web| url=| title=HB 1321 - Johns Creek, City of; incorporate | date= 2006-10-11 | publisher= Georgia General Assembly | accessdate=2007-06-26]



Central city

* Atlanta

=Edge cities=

*Perimeter Center (split by Sandy Springs and Dunwoody)

Major suburbs

These are communities with more than 10,000 inhabitants within their city limits or CDP boundary.

urrounding cities

Atlanta's environs include the following suburbs, listed in order of population: [cite web
last = Brinkhoff
first = Thomas (editor)
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Georgia cities' populations
work = City Population
publisher =
date =
url =
format =
accessdate = 2008-03-21

*Roswell: Pop. 87,312
*Sandy Springs: Pop. 83,166
*Marietta: Pop. 67,021
*Johns Creek: Pop. 59,580
*Alpharetta: Pop. 49,662
*Smyrna: Pop. 49,534
*East Point: Pop. 42,940
*Gainesville: Pop. 34,818
*Peachtree City: Pop. 34,516
*Dunwoody: Pop. 32,808
*Kennesaw: Pop. 31,613
*Douglasville: Pop. 30,098
*Lawrenceville: Pop. 28,969
*Newnan: Pop. 28,857
*Duluth: Pop. 25,953
*Griffin: Pop. 23,504
*Woodstock: Pop. 22,965
*Carrollton: Pop. 22,880
*Forest Park: Pop. 21,806
*Canton: Pop 21,464
*College Park: Pop. 20,113
*Snellville: Pop. 20,076
*Decatur: Pop. 19,168
*Cartersville: Pop. 18,553
*McDonough: Pop. 18,443
*Riverdale: Pop. 15,345
*Fayetteville: Pop. 15,126
*Milton: Pop. 15,088
*Covington: Pop. 14,712
*Stockbridge: Pop. 14,123
*Conyers: Pop: 13,343
*Stone Mountain: Pop. 7,651
*Clarkston: Pop. 7,591


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