Atlanta metropolitan area

Atlanta metropolitan area
Metro Atlanta
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Georgia MSA
—  CSA  —
Midtown and Downtown Atlanta as seen from Vinings, Cobb County
Cumberland/Galleria Area skyline
The Perimeter Center skyline
Map of Metro Atlanta
Country  United States
State Flag of Georgia (U.S. state).svg Georgia
Largest city Flag of Atlanta, Georgia.png Atlanta
 - Metro 8,376 sq mi (21,694 km2)
Elevation 606 - 3,288 ft (185 - 1,002 m)
Population (2010.)[1]
 - Density 630/sq mi (243/km2)
 Urban 3,499,840 (11th)
 - MSA 5,268,860 (9th)
 - CSA 5,831,778 (10th)
  MSA/CSA = 2010, Urban = 2000
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 300xx to 303xx
Area code(s) 404, 770, 678, future 470

The Atlanta metropolitan area or metro Atlanta, officially designated by the US Census Bureau as the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area, is the most populous metro area in the U.S. state of Georgia and the ninth-largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the United States. In addition to Atlanta, Georgia's capital and largest city, the Atlanta metropolitan area spans up to 28 counties in north Georgia and had a total 2010 population of 5,268,860.[2]

Atlanta's larger combined statistical area (CSA) adds the Gainesville, GA MSA, and the LaGrange, GA, Thomaston GA, Cedartown, GA and Valley, AL micropolitan areas, for a total 2009 estimated population of 5,831,778.[3] The CSA also abuts the Athens, Macon, and Columbus MSAs. The region is the central metropolis of the Southeastern United States, and is the largest metropolitan area in the emerging megalopolis known as the Piedmont Atlantic MegaRegion along the I-85 Corridor.

For media in Atlanta (which reaches most of north Georgia), the metro area became the eighth- or seventh-largest media market in the United States in 2008. According to the 2008 rankings of 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 "Alpha- World City".[4][5]



Location in Georgia (MSA counties in Red).

By U.S. Census Bureau standards, the population of the Atlanta region spreads across a metropolitan area of 8,376 square miles (21,694 km2) – a land area comparable to that of Massachusetts.[6] Because Georgia contains more counties than any other state except Texas (explained in part by the now-defunct county-unit system of weighing votes in primary elections),[7] 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 limits.[8]

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.[6] Four cities – Johns Creek (2006), Milton (2006), Chattahoochee Hills (2007), and Dunwoody (2008) – have incorporated since then, following the lead of Sandy Springs in 2005.[9][10][11]


By population

The above-listed counties are included in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville CSA (Bold counties are also in the somewhat smaller Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta MSA[12] ); however most other entities define a much smaller metropolitan area by including only the counties which have the densest suburban development. Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, and Clayton are the five original counties, and continue to be the core of the metro area---and the five counties with MARTA board representation. Five more (Cherokee, Douglas, Fayette, Henry and Rockdale) are members of the Atlanta Regional Commission, a weak metropolitan government agency which also is a regional planning agency that includes ten more counties. Hall County was originally the Gainesville, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area, but with astronomical growth to over 180,000 residents, is now part of the Atlanta CSA. In addition to the ten core ARC counties, four more (Coweta, Paulding, Forsyth, Bartow) are part of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, created in 2001. The 14 counties listed above with under 60,000 residents are usually not included in any other metropolitan definition except the OMB/Census Bureau's CSA.


The skylines of Atlanta and Buckhead viewed from the southwest near Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Atlanta suburbs and surrounding cities map.

Central city

Major edge cities (from Atlanta edge cities)

More than one half of metro Atlanta's population is in unincorporated areas or areas not considered a census-designated-place (CDP) by the census bureau. Metro Atlanta includes the following incorporated and unincorporated suburbs (both inside and outside Atlanta), exurbs, and surrounding cities, sorted by population:[13]

Surrounding cities and suburbs

Based on 2010 census. [3]

Community improvement districts

All of Georgia's community improvement districts are located in metro Atlanta.

  • Buckhead Community Improvement District, covering Buckhead [4]
  • Perimeter Center Community Improvement Districts, covering the Perimeter Center area of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody [5]
  • Cumberland Community Improvement District, around Cumberland Mall [6]
  • Town Center Area Community Improvement District, around Town Center at Cobb mall [7]
  • Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District, around Gwinnett Place Mall [8]
  • Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, also in Gwinnett county southeast of Norcross [9]
  • Evermore Community Improvement District, or Highway 78 Community Improvement District, covering part of the U.S. 78 corridor in Gwinnett near Snellville [10]
  • Lilburn Community Improvement District, established early 2010 in Lilburn

Government and politics

Historic downtown Marietta's town square

Georgia has the smallest average county size of any state which operates county governments.[citation needed] This focuses government more locally but allows greater conflict between multiple jurisdictions, each with its own agenda.

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 such as race and class, as well as a lack of planning and perceived lack of need, problems associated with the inner city of Atlanta (crime, poverty, poor public school performance, etc.) influenced Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton county voters to refuse MARTA into their respective counties during the 1970s, which has permanently altered land development in the region toward making automobiles even more of a necessity.

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 to be constructed. 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 (including the long-proposed but still unfunded Atlanta Multimodal Passenger Terminal) are the responsibility of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority, which receives almost no funding.

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 would have allowed any tree in Georgia to be destroyed for any reason had it passed[citation needed].

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[citation needed].

There have been proposals since 2007 to allow new multi-county sales taxes, in addition to existing county sales taxes for roads, which would pay for regional transportation initiatives. [11] 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 7,162 square miles (18,549 km2),[14] 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, requiring mandatory ten-digit dialing even for local calls under FCC rules. This made Atlanta one of the US's first cities to employ ten-digit dialing,[15] which was begun by BellSouth the year before the Centennial 1996 Olympic Games. In 1998, 678 was overlaid onto both of the existing 404 and 770 area codes. Mobile phones, originally only assigned to 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, but very likely to cause confusion with 404, 770, and neighboring 478. The local calling area also includes portions of 706/762 and a small area of 256 in Alabama on the Georgia border.[16]

The city of Atlanta is the most wired city in the United States.[17] Many residents access the internet on a high-speed broadband and/or WiFi connection. It is home to one of the world's largest fiber-optic bundles.

Major 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. This includes Colonial Pipeline and Plantation Pipe Line, both based in Alpharetta.

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. This is because winters are mild, and large apartment buildings usually require little energy to heat. 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. These include the second-largest EMC in the nation[18] in Jackson EMC, 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 over a century and a half, since it installed gas lamps in Atlanta in 1856. 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 via pipeline 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-ever ban, covering most of the northern half of the state. While surface water is by far the primary source of water for the region, the drought had many systems (and a few wealthy homeowners) drilling new wells for ground water, though the local water table is around 400 feet (120 m) 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, the list also included Winn-Dixie (some were later SaveRite), A&P, Big Star, Cub Foods, Bruno's, and Food Lion. Food Depot and Aldi are recent startups, with only a few locations, and Food Lion is re-entering the market after an absence of neary two decades. Ingles has closed several locations but still has a few in the far suburbs, mainly because suburban 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, and both names are retained locally. The "Harry's In a Hurry" locations were not acquired and closed soon after.

Drugstores include Rite-Aid (all converted from Eckerd Drug in 2008, with most locations in strip malls closed in 2009, along with a few freestanding stores), 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 and A. G. Rhodes) went bankrupt, with most stores later reopening as Broyhill Furniture. Havertys, founded 1885, is another Atlanta institution (see Rhodes-Haverty Building). They compete against Ashley Furniture, Thomasville furniture, Bassett Furniture, and Rooms To Go. Roberds is another closed retail chain, which also sold home appliances.

Circuit City (which closed all 16 local stores in December 2008) stopped selling appliances years before, but Best Buy still 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. CompUSA closed its area locations in spring 2007. RadioShack operates many in-mall and strip mall locations, though several were closed from 2006 to 2009.

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 Family Nurseries (acquired from bankruptcy protection by Armstrong Garden Centers of California, after the severe drought in 2007 continued into 2008) is the major local plant nursery chain with several stores, the few Home Depot Landscape Supply stores ever opened having closed in mid-November 2007.

Founded during the Reconstruction Era of the late 1860s, Rich's and Davison's, both 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. Belk closed some of these locations, leaving them to Kohl's, which previously had only several off-mall and strip-mall locations constructed in the 2000s. 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. Since then, some have become Sears Outlet stores, with at least one becoming a hybrid Sears/Kmart under the Sears name. Former discount stores include local Richway (sold by Rich's to Target in 1988), and Zayre, Treasure Island, McCrory's, and Woolworth. Closeout stores include Big Lots (including some former MacFrugal's), TJ Maxx, Marshalls (some formerly Branden's), HomeGoods, Ross, Burlington Coat Factory (the original Marietta store in a former Woolco), and a new AJWright store.

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 had at least one location here. Other variety stores include Dollar General and Family Dollar.

Arts and crafts stores include Michael's, JoAnn, Hobby Lobby (often 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 formerly 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 recent arrival REI, 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 Designer 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 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 are found in most large malls. But for far as the competitor of Waldenbooks called B Dalton's Booksellers is now defunct as of 2010.

Second-hand stores include several Goodwill Industries of North Georgia and a few Salvation Army thrift stores, three America's Thrift Stores, 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 abundant shopping. The Atlanta area is home to one of the South's largest shopping malls, the Mall of Georgia, located in nearby Gwinnett County. Although it is the largest mall in the Atlanta metro area, in nearby Charlotte, North Carolina, SouthPark Mall is the largest in the south with around 2.o million square feet.

The largest shopping establishments in Metro Atlanta include:

Lenox Square hosts the largest fireworks display in the Southeast every Independence Day, and the Rich's (now Macy's) Great [Christmas] Tree, both major traditions in Atlanta, and seen on TV regionally.


According to the 2008 American Community Survey, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Area had a population of 5,368,070. There were over 2,658,000 males in the Metro Area, and they made up 49.5% of the population. Females numbered at roughly 2,710,000, and they made up the majority (50.5%) of the population.

According to the survey, White Americans made up 57.8% of the Atlanta Metro Area's population. Whites (both Hispanic and non-Hispanic) numbered at roughly 3,105,000 individuals, and non-Hispanic whites numbered over 2,857,000 individuals. The European American community is predominantly of German (8.6%), English (8.6%), and Irish (8.7%) descent, but there are smaller populations of Italians (2.7%), Scots (2.0%), French (1.7%), Scotch-Irish (1.6%), Poles (1.4%), and Dutch (0.8%).

Black Americans are the largest racial minority in the metropolitan area. The metro's 1,700,000 African Americans make up 31.7% of its population. Blacks of non-Hispanic origin number over 1,675,000 individuals and make up 31.2% of the population. According to the survey, just over 182,000 people claimed Sub-Saharan African ancestry, making up 3.4% of the metro's black population.

Hispanic and Latino Americans are the third largest ethnic group behind Non-Hispanic whites and African Americans. Metro Atlanta's 517,000 Hispanics and Latinos make up 9.6% of its population. There are more than 314,000 Mexicans, and they make up just under 6% of the population. In the 1990s 2000s, Atlanta had the largest numerical and percentage growth of Mexicans out of any area in the United States. Much of the growth has been attributed to the 1996 Olympic Games and the impressive economic growth of the city. There are also roughly 40,000 Puerto Ricans and 17,000 Cubans. In addition, over 146,000 people are of other Hispanic/Latino ethnic groups, and they make up 2.7% of the population.

Asian Americans are rapidly growing minority in Metro Atlanta. The metro area is home to over 226,400 Asians, and this racial group forms 4.2% of the population. Indians and Koreans are the largest sub-groups. Nearly 70,000 Indians and over 44,000 Koreans live in the metro area. Indians and Koreans make up 1.3% and 0.8% of the population respectively. Metro Atlanta currently is home to the fastest-growing Korean population in the country, with the Korean population seeing a sharp increase from 42,000 in 2000 to 80,000 in 2006.[19] Chinese and Vietnamese individuals are smaller groups. Over 34,900 Chinese and 34,200 Vietnamese make up 0.7% and 0.6% of the population respectively. Nearly 9,800 Filipinos live in the metro and make up just 0.2% of the population. People of Japanese descent are even smaller in number; just over 4,500 Japanese Americans reside in the area. In addition, over 29,400 people belong to other Asian ethnic groups, and they make up 0.5% of the population.

Multiracial Americans number 75,000 people and make up 1.4% of the population. Over 25,850 people are of mixed Caucasian and African American heritage; people of black and white ancestry represent 0.5% of the total population. Over 12,400 people claim mixed Caucasian and Native American heritage, and they make up 0.2% of the population. Over 11,100 people are of mixed Caucasian and Asian heritage, and they also represent 0.2% of the population. In addition, people of mixed African American and Native American heritage number just over 4,400 and make up 0.1% of the population.

Native Americans are a small minority in the Atlanta Metro Area. Roughly 11,700 Native Americans live in the metro area. They make up just 0.2% of the population. Native Americans of non-Hispanic origin number just over 9,400 individuals.

Pacific Islander Americans are, by far, the smallest racial minority group in the Atlanta Metro Area. Only 2,400 people of Pacific Islander descent reside in the area. The largest sub-group are the Guamanians; there are over 1,100 Guamanians. There are over 230 Native Hawaiians in the metro area, and over 1,020 people of other Pacific Islander ethnic groups; however, there are no Samoans. The entire racial group forms less than 0.1% of the total population.

Approximately 83.3% of the population five years and older speak only English at home, which is roughly 4,125,000 people. Over 436,000 people speak Spanish at home, equal to 8.8% of the population. Over 193,000 people speak other Indo-European languages at home, equal to 3.9% of the population. People who speak an Asian language at home number over 137,000 and make up 2.8% of the population. Just over 61,000 people speak other languages at home, equivalent to 1.2% of the population.[20][21]

According to census estimates, Metropolitan Atlanta is the fastest growing area in the nation since 2000 by numerical increase.[22] It was the fourth-fastest growing metro area from 2007 to 2008 in terms of numerical increase.[23]



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 average elevation is around 1,000 feet (300 m).

The highest point in the immediate area is Kennesaw Mountain at 1,808 ft (551 m), followed by Stone Mountain at 1,686 ft (514 m), Sweat Mountain at 1,640 ft (500 m), and Little Kennesaw Mountain at 1,600 ft (488 m). Others include Blackjack Mountain, Lost Mountain, Brushy Mountain[disambiguation needed ], 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. Stone, Sweat, Bear, and Sawnee are all home to some of the area's broadcast stations.

An extinct fault line called the Brevard Fault runs roughly parallel to the Chattahoochee River, but as its last movements were apparently prehistoric, 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 (magnitude 4.6) coming from the northwest, its epicenter just across the state line in northeastern Alabama. While many people slept through the 5A.M. quake, it caused a minor panic in others completely unaware of what was happening. Similar quakes occur about every 30 to 40 years in this region, often felt much more widely across the stronger crust of eastern North America as compared to the west. Thus the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886 was also felt in Atlanta and across the Southeast. Two small earthquakes were also felt on the southeast side near Eatonton in early April 2009.

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 leaf litter.


The Atlanta metro area has a humid subtropical climate with four seasons, although summer is the longest. January daily lows average from 17-23°F north to south, and highs range from 38-48°F, but often reach well above or below this average. There is an average annual snowfall of about 6.5 inches (17 cm), falling mostly from December through March, though there was snow north of the city on April 3, 1987. Snow flurries are actually common during the winter months when there is an especially deep trough in the jet stream. These events usually do not amount to more than a slight dusting and therefore go unrecognized in most weather summaries. Summers, by contrast, are long and consistently hot and humid, with July mornings averaging 71 °F (22 °C) and afternoons averaging 89 °F (32 °C), slight breezes, and typically a 20–40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms. During the summer afternoon thunderstorms, temperatures may suddenly drop to 70-77 degrees with locally heavy rainfall. Average annual rainfall is about 50.2 inches (1,280 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.

The growing season in the area lasts seven months, from early April to late October, when the last and first cold snaps usually occur. 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, sometimes even in people not normally prone to it. 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 Atlanta Dogwood Festival, one of Atlanta's largest. Fall is also pleasant, with less rain and fewer storms, and leaves changing color from late October to mid-November, especially during drier years. A secondary peak in severe storms also occurs around the second week of November.

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 20°F 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.[citation needed] The wedge may occasionally go the entire way through central Georgia and even into Alabama in the strongest conditions, while still leaving areas of northwest Georgia much warmer than the metro area. Conversely, shallow and heavy cold air from the northwest may be blocked by the mountains, preventing snow.

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 10 pm and 11 pm 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.

Official weather recordkeeping began in Atlanta in 1878, on the morning of October 3. Since then, 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, 1899. There was also an official recording 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 17.71 inches (450 mm) at Atlanta, over three times a normal July. Flooding was a major problem in those areas, and further down-state it was a major disaster.

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 110 km/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 tornado struck downtown Atlanta in March 2008. Another struck the Georgia Governor's Mansion in 1975.

Winter storms

The area experiences a winter storm with significant snowfall about once each year, however this can be extremely irregular. During the 2000s, only four major snows occurred (December 2000, January 2002, January 2008, and March 2009), while three occurred in early 2010 (an El Niño year) alone, making it the snowiest winter since the 1970s. Despite predictions of a warm and dry winter due to La Niña developing the following summer, additional 1.2 inches (3.0 cm) fell on December 25, giving the city (and its northern and western suburbs) its first true white Christmas in over a century. The only other measurable snows on that date were 1.6 inches (4.1 cm) in 1881, and 0.3 inches (0.76 cm) in 1882. A trace last fell on Christmas in 1993, and a dozen other times before that.

A blizzard (see: 1993 Storm of the Century) caught much of the Southeast off-guard in 1993, dumping 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) at the Atlanta airport on March 13, and much more than that in the suburbs to the north and west, as well as in the mountains. Dallas, a suburb about 30 miles to the west-northwest received 17.5 inches (44.5 cm) from the storm. Some people were awakened by thunder and lightning in a very rare thundersnow event. Several areas of northern Cobb County recorded over 15 inches (38 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", placing fifth in the city's snowfall records. The only other recorded winter storm of comparable severity was the Great Blizzard of 1899, which struck in February. A blizzard hit on January 9–15 crippling the city and leaving schools out for the whole week. Ice covered roads and over eight inches of snow fell in some places with over a foot in the far northern metropolitan area.

The heaviest snow, however, was in January 1940, when 8.3 inches (21.1 cm) buried the city during its coldest month on record. The second-heaviest was in 1983, when a very late storm dumped 7.9 inches (20.1 cm) on March 24. The latest snow and freeze ever were in 1910, when 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) and 32 °F (0 °C) were recorded on April 25. Since 1928, the earliest measurable snows were November 11 and 23.

Prior to March 2009, the most recent major snow occurred at the beginning of 2002, when up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) fell on January 2–3. As of 2007, the stretch of five nearly or entirely snowless winters made for an extremely long period compared to average. This streak was ended in January 2008 when .4 inches (1.0 cm) fell on January 16 and 1 inch (2.5 cm) fell three days later. The following year, the first widespread winter storm since 2002 dumped 4.5 inches (11 cm) on March 1, with the heaviest to the southwest and east-northeast, and surprisingly little or nothing in the far northern suburbs and mountains. Much of it melted almost as fast as it was accumulating at mid-day, while eastern areas had thundersnow and cloud-to-ground strikes reported by lightning detection; it was an upper-level low from the Great Plains, while most major storms in the area occur with a typical surface low-pressure area traveling along the Gulf coast. The 2009 snow tied with the 1993 blizzard and another storm for fifth-heaviest official daily snow in the city's recorded weather history.

Areas to the due east and west often receive more snow than metro Atlanta, because the energy begins to transfer to a coastal low in the Atlantic, on its way to becoming a nor'easter. Also the mountains to the northwest entrap shallow cold air. Average annual snowfall from 1971 to 2000 in Atlanta is 2.9 inches (7.4 cm)---the snowiest month is January with 0.9 inches (2.3 cm). Due to two record-breaking heavy storms during the averaged period, it is actually March that is statistically second with 0.5 inches (1.3 cm)---cut in half if the heaviest storm is removed. This is followed by February with 0.4 inches (1.0 cm) and December with 0.3 inches (0.8 cm), then November, April, and October averaging a trace each. The latest was April 25, when 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) fell in 1910, also the heaviest for the month, and the latest-ever freeze. Four other April snows have been recorded since 1879, the most recent significant one being April 3, 1987. Flurries occurred in 1993 on the afternoon of Halloween, marking only the third recorded October snow. A mid-December 2000 snow (a record 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) for the month) was followed by very cold weather that left spots of it on the ground in shady areas until Christmas.

Ice storms have also occurred in the area. Two hit the city a week apart in January 2000, the second one while Atlanta was hosting the Super Bowl, which was felt to affect the city's future chances for hosting it again. The well-remembered 1973 ice storm was brutal. A January 1982 snowstorm, which came to be called "Snow Jam 82" by the media and those who lived through it, also crippled the city just as bad as ice can, striking in the afternoon while everyone was at work, several hours earlier than expected. Tens of Thousands of people were stranded in the city, abandoning cars on every road and freeway and booking hotels to capacity, unable to get home to the suburbs.


The Southeastern U.S. drought of 2006–2009 began with dry weather in 2006, and left area lakes very low. Most of the area's drinking water is stored in Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona, which reached record low levels in December 2007. Up through September 2007 was 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 counties generally north of the Fall Line. (Some local authorities and water systems had already taken such measures.) It was the first time the state had enacted such a ban. Throughout the 3 year drought the Atlanta Metro occasionally experienced smoke from the wildfires in south Georgia, causing the local air to become dangerous for everyone. The severe record drought which affected the region starting in late 2006 finally began to abate significantly after heavy fall rains in 2009, and had ended by 2010.


The historic drought ended with historic flooding in 2009. The 2009 Atlanta floods affected the entire area on September 21, 2009 with parts of eastern Paulding, northern Douglas, and southwestern Cobb counties getting around 20 inches (500 mm) of rain in a week, with half of that falling in just 24 hours near the end of the period. Douglasville received the most rain in 24 hours than any other city in Metro Atlanta, the city received over 16.5 inches of rain on Sept 21, 2010. (The USGS calculated it to be a greater-than-500-year flood; the National Weather Service stated that chances of that much rain anywhere in the region is 0.01% per year, or once in 10,000 years.) Some freeways closed temporarily, and several small bridges and culverts were ruined and will take months to replace. Many homes in the area were completely destroyed. Occasional heavy rains and flood advisories continued through early February 2010.

Flood events are localized from nearly stationary thunderstorms, or more broadly impacting from slow-moving tropical storm remnants, or sometimes from unusually heavy and persistent winter rains during El Niño years. Other droughts have also ended in lesser floods, including in 1989. The flooding has also ended as of 2010.


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 US gallons (1,400,000 m3) of water per day (about 80 US gallons (300 L) per person per day) from these rivers. This usage was reduced by more than 10% during the drought, but soared back up after watering restrictions were eased (and before the flooding ensued). The need for water is seen as a barrier to further growth in the area, but permanent measures for non-emergency water conservation have never been put in place. The state legislature has refused to pass a requirement for low-flow toilets to be installed in homes that are sold, bowing to pressure from the real estate sales industry.

At a rate of 50 acres (20 hectares) per day, the deforestation brought by 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. As a result many area municipalities have imposed more rigorous development standards on storm water management. A few jurisdictions have begun to implement a stormwater fee, though none of the fees are based on the actual amount of damaging runoff each property produces, mainly from pavement and lack of tree cover and natural leaf litter.

The low-density residential subdivision development that dominates the metro Atlanta suburbs has historically not been required to replace lost tree inventory. Because of larger lot sizes, and natural-looking architecture such as California contemporary, older neighborhoods typically have many mature forest trees, except in cases where they have been destroyed by homeowners, despite the decrease in property values this causes. Increasing density allowed by zoning since the 1980s has meant fewer and fewer trees left, and by the 2000s it became common for developers to completely clear-cut dozens of acres of forest and bulldoze all hills flat to build generic tract housing, often with tightly packed homes nearly touching each other and up against the street. However, over the past decade some area cities and counties have revised their tree ordinances to require tree recompense to be equal to or greater than the pre-development tree density, trying to ensure a future tree canopy. Rather than leaving trees on each home lot as before, this typically involves a set-aside of green space in each development, with most other areas still clear-cut. Even when some trees are replaced, it is with a single type of trees planted the same distance from each other, rather than different trees at random placement and age as in the native forest.

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 also prevents the water table from refilling as quickly as it should, as runoff is diverted into stormwater drainage systems.

Disputes over water are becoming increasingly common, with both Alabama and Florida filing lawsuits and threatening 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 state has now been ordered by a judge to reduce withdrawals from the Chattahoochee south of Lanier to 1970s levels within three years (2012), something that would create an immediate emergency water shortage if it were actually enforced. This was done because it was ruled the U.S. Congress never authorized the use of the lake as a water supply.


The native forest canopy is mainly oak, redbud, hickory, tuliptree, pine, and sweetgum, with chestnut having been common decades before in what is now considered oak-hickory forest. Traveling from the south, the metro area is generally the first area in which autumn leaf color can be seen, due to the different trees growing at the higher elevation and latitude. Underneath, the flowering dogwood is very common, the black cherry are quite prolific, with mulberry popping up sometimes as well. Sourwood is also in its native range, and is 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 November).

Shrubby plants include blackberry, horsechestnut, sumac, and sometimes hawthorn. Virginia creeper, poison ivy, and briar[disambiguation needed ] 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, flowering cherry, maples, pin oak, red-tip 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.

Native to the nearby mountains, maples are now one of the most common landscape trees for new homes and parking lots, giving their color in the fall instead of spring. When planted close to buildings (which provide shelter and radiate heat), they can retain some of their color into December, especially if November has been warm.

Common lawn weeds are wild strawberry, violet, wild onion[disambiguation needed ], 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. New effective herbicides as well as increased development of formerly rural areas has greatly reduced kudzu in the metro area (although still quite common elsewhere in Georgia). Wisteria planted decades ago by farmers in then-rural areas has become wild and is common in undeveloped forests. Some vines exceed 50 years of age and cover dozens of acres of forest, creating a dense, purple explosion each spring. Japanese honeysuckle is extremely common; its fragrance an early summer delight. A common garden plant, the Chinese privet, has escaped to become the state's most invasive non-native plant species.


Among mammals, the eastern gray squirrel is by far the most ubiquitous, stealing birdseed from the bird feeders which many locals maintain. 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 and armadillos are frequently seen. Garden and meadow snakes are common; three poisonous snakes (Eastern Diamondback, Water Moccasin, Copperhead ) are indigenous, but reports of bites are rare. Many types of frogs, including tree frogs and bullfrogs,are easily heard in early summer, as are cicadas in July and August. Black bears occasionally wander down from the mountains, and white-tailed deer are abundant; overpopulated in some areas. Homeowners in the outer suburbs are prone to landscaping damage due to scaveging deer.

The most common birds are the Brown Thrasher (the GA state bird), American crow, European (or common) starling, American robin, mourning dove, house sparrow, northern cardinal, purple finch, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, bluejay, white-breasted nuthatch, eastern bluebird, mockingbird, brown-headed nuthatch, and the Carolina wren. Birds of prey thrive in the area, with three varieties of hawks common near open fields in even the most populated areas. Falcons roost on skyscrapers in downtown Atlanta and can be regularly seen feasting on pigeons. The American kestrel is sometimes seen. Late in the year, three species of owls can be heard nightly in wooded areas. Various woodpeckers can be seen in forested lots, including the red-bellied woodpecker, northern flicker (also known as the "red-shafted flicker"), and the downy woodpecker. The red-headed woodpecker is common in open fields and on golf courses. The American goldfinch is present mostly in winter, and the ruby-throated hummingbird only in summer.


Major highways

Atlanta is served by three major interstate highways. Including tributaries, they are the following:

(Note: The cities used below are also the control cities used for the Metro Atlanta Bypass/I-285 signs entering from the suburbs.)

Interstate 75 passes through from Macon and Tampa to the south, and from Chattanooga to the north. Interstate 575 is a spur which merges with I-75 near Kennesaw. I-575 serves northeast portions of Cobb County and a large portion of Cherokee County. It ends in Ball Ground. Interstate 675 is a route which connects I-75 in Henry County to I-285 in southern Dekalb County. Most of the corridor is within Clayton County.

Interstate 85 passes through from Montgomery on the southwest and from Greenville on the northeast. I-75 merges with I-85 to form the Downtown Connector from the Brookwood Interchange, just north of Midtown Atlanta, to just south of the Lakewood Freeway in south Atlanta. Interstate 185 is a spur which merges with I-85 in LaGrange and stretches southward to Columbus. Interstate 985 is a spur which merges with I-85 in Suwanee and serves the northern suburbs of Gwinnett and Hall Counties. It terminates just northeast of Gainesville.

Interstate 285 is the beltway which encircles the city and its immediate eastern suburbs. It is commonly known as the Perimeter. I-285 passes through Clayton, Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb Counties.

Interstate 20 passes through from Birmingham to the west and from Augusta to the east. It serves Douglasville, the major suburb west of Atlanta. It serves Lithonia and Conyers to the east.

Atlanta is also served by several other freeways, in addition to the interstate highways. They are the following:

Georgia 400 is the main corridor serving the north-central suburbs, and the only toll road in the metropolitan Atlanta area. It reaches into the northern portion of Fulton County and gradually turns northeast before entering Forsyth County. The controlled-access portion terminates just northeast of the city of Cumming. To the south, it terminates and merges into southbound I-85 just south of the Buckhead business district. Cumming/Dahlonega is used on I-285 as the northbound sign, and Atlanta/Buckhead as the southbound. From I-85 northbound, it uses Buckhead/Cumming.

Stone Mountain Freeway, or U.S. 78, is an 8-mile corridor east of Downtown Atlanta and the neighboring suburb of Decatur. It serves northeast portions of Dekalb County, including the city of Stone Mountain. It continues east as a divided highway into south Gwinnett County, including the suburb of Snellville. US 78 also stretches east to Athens.

Lakewood Freeway, or Georgia 166, extends between Lakewood Park in south Atlanta and Campbellton Road, just west of I-285.

Peachtree Industrial Blvd, or Georgia 141, is a route north-northeast of Atlanta which begins on the north side of I-285 and runs parallel to I-85 for about four miles until it terminates when it splits into GA-141 and Peachtree Industrial (continuing as a normal divided highway).

Georgia State Route 316 is a four-mile-long route that branches from I-85 and stretches eastward into Gwinnett County. It continues east as a normal divided highway through the suburb of Lawrenceville and on to Athens.

Mass transit

Atlanta has always been a railroad town, and the city once had an extensive streetcar system around the city, and which also provided interurban service as far out as Marietta, 15 miles (24 km) to the northwest.[24][25] The streetcars were replaced by an extensive trolleybus system, supplemented by buses, in the 1940s and 1950–52, and then converted to all buses in the 1950s and 1960-62. However, building out a modern rapid transit system proved a difficult and drawn-out process and, compared to the original plans for a regional system, has only partially been accomplished.[26]

MARTA operates rapid transit in Fulton and Dekalb counties, while Cobb, Gwinnett, 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.[27] It is the only U.S. system in which the state does not provide any funds for operation or expansion, instead relying entirely on a 1% sales tax in its two counties.

Plans are underway for commuter rail and bus rapid transit (BRT), though these are some years away. The $20 billion Northwest Corridor HOV/BRT project appears to conflict with other plans, such as the metro-wide Concept 3 approved by the Transit Planning Board, and the no-barrier HOT lanes on I-85 in Gwinnett. MARTA is also considering a BRT line of its own to the east.

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 (MMPT), 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.

Another proposed plan that has received very strong grassroots support in recent years is the BeltLine, a greenbelt and transit system that takes advantage of existing and unused rail tracks to set up a 22-mile light rail or streetcar circuit around the core of Atlanta, as well as establishing more green space and foot paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.

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.

Unfortunately, many of these historic stations, including Atlanta's Union Station and Terminal Station, were deliberately destroyed by demolition like many county courthouses and other historic buildings. Many have been saved however, including the L&N station in Woodstock, and the stations along the main W&A line in Marietta and Smyrna.

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. There are also several railyards of Atlanta and vicinity, as well as the Southeastern Railway Museum and the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, more commonly known as Amtrak, runs the intercity rail line Crescent through metro Atlanta twice daily, with one train heading towards New Orleans and the other headed towards New York. All trains make a scheduled stop at Peachtree Station in northern midtown Atlanta, but it is also possible for arrange for trains to stop in Gainesville, Georgia as well.


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. Atlanta's second airport is in the very preliminary discussion and study phase.

Other airports (maintained by local counties) include Charlie Brown Field (Fulton), McCollum Field (Cobb), Cartersville Airport, DeKalb Peachtree Airport, Briscoe Field (Gwinnett), Coweta County Airport, Cherokee County Airport, and Tara Field (Henry). Former local airports were Stone Mountain Airport and Parkaire Field, among others.

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 and uneven terrain, most arterial roads are not straight but meander instead, which can be confusing as much as the famed proliferation of Atlanta streets with "Peachtree" in the name. It is also often joked that half the streets are named Peachtree, while the other half have several names to make up for it.

Partly, confusion is because the region maintains the historic 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, is 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. Further confusion is from the arbitrary location of state routes by GDOT, so that they travel an erratic path requiring several turns by drivers instead of traveling the original straight route; and the renaming of roads by state legislators to honor their friends.

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 (despite being Vinings, which the USPS ironically calls "unacceptable"), 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 somewhat odd to newcomers. These include Sandy Plains, Crabapple, Toonigh, Luxomni, and Due West. Some of these communities are in the middle of the road, while some are at or very near one end. Some areas are 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 after rapid development. (Hog Mountain is now "Hamilton Mill"). In such cases, the roads usually maintain their historic names even if the neighborhoods 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, without public input, 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, 29, 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.


  1. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008". US Census Bureau. Retrieved March 22, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Metropolitan Area Population & Housing Patterns: 2000-2010". 
  3. ^ "Table 2. Annual Estimates of the Population of Combined Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009 (CBSA-EST2009-02)" (CSV). 2009 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
  4. ^ The World According to GaWC 2008, GaWC, Loughborough University
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Atlanta MSA Growth Statistics" (PDF). Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. 05-2006. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  7. ^ "States, Counties, and Statistically Equivalent Entities" (PDF). Geographic Areas Reference Manual. U.S. Department of Commerce. 11-1994. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  8. ^ "Atlanta in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000". The Brookings Institution. 11-2003. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  9. ^ Segal, Geoffrey (2005-12-02). "The Real Sandy Springs Effect". The Reason Foundation. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  10. ^ "HB 1470 - Milton, City of; provide charter". Georgia General Assembly. 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  11. ^ "HB 1321 - Johns Creek, City of; incorporate". Georgia General Assembly. 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  12. ^ "OMB BULLETIN NO. 10-02. SUBJECT: Update of Statistical Area Definitions and Guidance on Their Uses". Office of Management and the Budget. 2009-12-01. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  13. ^ "2009 Incorporated place and minor civil division population dataset". United States Government. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  14. ^ "A Look at Atlanta" (PDF). Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. May 2006. pp. 11. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  15. ^ "NPA Code Search for 770". North American Numbering Plan Administration.;nanpaid=LhVJJmBMGz9hJz3jJyjBmsbVLqFQsqDRJ27GzchXgl0nyFPhMzGp!-30491381?method=displayNpa. Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  16. ^ "Local prefixes". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
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  18. ^ "Operation Round-Up". Living Jackson Magazine. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  19. ^ [1]
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  22. ^ Christie, Les (April 5, 2007). "Atlanta tops in population growth". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  23. ^ [2]
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  25. ^ "Marietta Trolley Company rolls through history". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  26. ^ Marta plan.png
  27. ^ The Atlanta Paradox - David L. Sojquist. Google Books. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 

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