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The Atlanta metropolitan area, 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 Georgiamarker and the eighth-largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the United Statesmarker. In addition to Atlantamarker, Georgia's capital and largest city, the Atlanta metropolitan area spans 28 counties in the northern third of the state and had a total estimated population in 2008 of 5,376,285,. Atlanta's larger Combined Statistical Area (CSA) merges the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta MSA with that of Gainesville, Georgia, with a total 2008 esimated population of 5,626,400.

The Atlanta 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 "Beta+ World City."

Government and politics

Georgia has the smallest average county size of any state which operates county governments. 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, 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 Capitolmarker, 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 .

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 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. [702048] 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 Nashvillemarker, Charlottemarker, and Miamimarker.



The area is the world's largest toll-free calling zone spanning , has three active telephone area code, and local calling extending into portions of two others. 404marker, which originally covered all of northern Georgiamarker until 1992, now covers mostly the area inside the Perimeter (Interstate 285). In 1995, the suburbs were put into 770marker, requiring mandatory ten-digit dialing even for local calls under FCC rules. This made Atlanta one of America's first cities to employ ten-digit dialing, which was begun by BellSouth the year before the Centennial 1996 Olympic Games. In 1998, 678marker 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 470marker will be the next area code, overlaid as was 678. The local calling area also includes portions of 706/762marker and a small area of 256marker in Alabamamarker on the Georgia border.

The city of Atlanta is the most wired city in the United States. 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 pipeline cross the area, running from the Gulfmarker coast, Texasmarker, and Louisianamarker 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, many buildings 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 grill, 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 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 well over a century, 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 Louisianamarker.

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 north-northwestern 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 well for ground water, though the local water table is around 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 watershed, 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 closed several locations but still has a few 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, 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), 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 Hallmarker) 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 (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 computer, except notebook), 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 2007. 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 Family Nurseries is a local plant nursery chain with several stores, the few Home Depot Landscape Supply stores ever opened having closed in mid-November 2007.

Rich's and Davison's, both the major names in Atlanta-area department stores, succumbed to parent Macy'smarker 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 Treemarker has been a major local Christmas tradition since the 1940s, with its grand illumination ceremony every Thanksgiving.

Discount stores include Target and Wal-Martmarker, and Kmart, which closed at least half of its metro-area stores before buying Sears. Former discount stores include local Richway (sold by Rich's to Target), 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, and Burlington Coat Factory (the Marietta store in a former Woolco).

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 (several in former Kmart locations), Old Time Pottery, Hancock Fabrics, and four Garden Ridge superstores (one closed, one new). 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 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 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 Georgiamarker, which is located in nearby Gwinnett County.

The largest shopping establishments in Metro Atlanta include:

Lenox Square hosts the largest fireworks display in the Southeast every Independence Day, a major tradition in Atlanta, and seen on TV regionally.



The area sprawls across the low foothills of the Appalachian Mountainsmarker 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 .

The highest point in the immediate area is Kennesaw Mountainmarker at , followed by Stone Mountainmarker at , Sweat Mountainmarker at , and Little Kennesaw Mountain at . Others include Blackjack Mountain, Lost Mountain, Brushy Mountain, Pine Mountainmarker, and Mount Wilkinsonmarker (Vinings Mountainmarker). Many of these play prominently in the various battles of the Atlanta Campaignmarker 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 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 onemarker in April 2003 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. 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 Earthquakemarker of 1886 was also felt in Atlanta, and across the Southeast. Two small earthquakes were also felt on the southeast side near Eatontonmarker 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 distinct seasons. January daily lows average from 27-33F(-3-1C) north to south, and highs range from 48-53F(9-12C) North to South, but often reach well above or below this. The northern suburbs average a few degrees cooler as well as a few degrees higher as you travel south of the city proper. Snow is uncommon, but not unheard of, with an average annual snowfall of about , falling mostly in January and early February. Snow flurries are actually very common during the winter months when there is a presence of a deep trough in the jet stream, especially north and west of the city. These events usually do not amount to more than a slight dusting, therefor go unrecognized to most weather reports. Summers, by contrast, are consistently hot and humid, with July mornings averaging and afternoons averaging , 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 , 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 Seattlemarker 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. 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 Oceanmarker, 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. 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 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 on three days in the extraordinarily hot July 1980, followed by that month and in August 2007, the hottest month ever for the area. The lowest recorded temperatures were and on January 20 and 21 of 1985, and on February 13, 1899. There was also an official recording of in 1985 in Mariettamarker. 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 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 Mansionmarker in 1975.

Winter storms

A blizzard (see: 1993 North American Storm Complex) caught much of the Southeast off-guard in 1993, dumping 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 north and west received 17.5 inches from the storm. 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 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 heaviest snow, however, was in January 1940, when buried the city during its coldest month on record. The second-heaviest was in 1983, when a very late storm dumped on March 24. The latest snow and freeze ever were in 1910, when and 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 fell on January 2–3. As of 2007, the stretch of five nearly or entirely snowless winters makde for an extremely long period compared to average. This streak was ended in January 2008 when fell on January 16 and fell three days later. The following year, the first widespread winter storm since 2002 dumped on March 1, with the heaviest to the southwest and east-northeast, and surprisingly little or nothing in the further northern suburbs and mountains. Much of this melted almost as fast as it was accumulating at mid-day, while other areas had thundersnow and cloud-to-ground strikes reported by lightning detection. This was an upper-level low from the Great Plainsmarker, while most major storms in the area occur with a typical surface low-pressure area traveling along the Gulfmarker coast. It tied with the 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. This is also because the mountains to the northwest block shallow cold air. Average annual snowfall from 1971 to 2000 in Atlanta is , the largest of which normally falls in January with . March is second with , followed by February with and December with , then November, April, and October with a trace each. The latest was April 25, when fell in 1910, also the heaviest for the month. Four others have been recorded since 1879, the most recent significant one being April Fool's Day in 1987. Snow showers also occurred from the northwest suburbs into midtown in 2007, but went unrecorded at the official automated airport weather station. The same occurred on the same day two years later and was officially reported around midday. Flurries occurred in 1993 on the afternoon of Halloween, marking only the third recorded October snow. A mid-December 2000 snow (a record for the month) was followed by very cold weather that left spots of it on the ground in shady areas for a week 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 at least as bad. A January 1982 snowstorm also crippled the city just as bad as ice can, striking in the afternoon while everyone was at work, several hours earlier than expected. 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 drought affecting the region has finally begun to abate significantly after heavy spring rains. The Southeastern U.S. drought of 2006–2009 began with dry weather in 2006, and has left area lakes very low. Most of the area's drinking water is stored in Lake Laniermarker and Lake Allatoonamarker, and they 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 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 enacted such 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 Allatoonamarker. The southern suburbs are drained by the Flint River, and the east-southeastern ones by the Oconee River and Yellow Rivermarker.By 2005, the metro area was using 360 million gallons of water per day (about 80 gallons per person per day). This was reduced by more than 10% in the drought.

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. 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 as in the native forest.

WXIA-TVmarker 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 Alabamamarker and Floridamarker threatening lawsuits and injunctions to prevent Georgia from taking too much water, mostly for metro Atlanta. South Carolinamarker also threatened when a pipeline east to the Savannah River was mentioned even informally.


The native forest canopy is mainly oak, hickory, tuliptree, pine, red maple, and sweetgum. Traveling from the south, the metro area is generally the first area in which fall foliage can be seen, due to the different flora growing at the higher altitude. 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.

Bradford pear is very common for places constructed in the 1980s and 1990s, however these are prone to damage in severe thunderstorm winds, and have a bad odor in spring even while their flowers are beautiful, and drop small staining fruits afterward. 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.

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 Japanmarker 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. [702051] 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 erect. 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, as are cicadas in July and August. Black bear occasionally wander down from the mountains, and white-tailed deer are seen in some areas not overwhelmed by dense development.

The most common birds are the American Crow, European Starling, House Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Purple Finch, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay, Nuthatch, and American Kestrel. Late in the year, barred 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 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 cities used for the Metro Atlanta Bypass/I-285 signs as you enter from the suburbs.)

Interstate 75 passes through from Macon and Tampa, FL to the south, and from Chattanooga, TN to the north. Interstate 575 is a feed 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, GA. 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 feed which merges with I-85 in LaGrange and stretches southward to Columbus. Interstate 985 is a feed 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 interstate which encircles the city. It is commonly known as The Perimeter. I-285 passes through Clayton, Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb Counties.

Interstate 20 passes through from Birmingham, AL 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 State Route 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 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 Central 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 just northeast of Downtown Atlanta and the 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. It also stretches to Athens, GA.

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

Peachtree Industrial Blvd, or Georgia State Route 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 eastern Gwinnett County. It continues east as a normal divided highway through the suburb of Lawrenceville. It also stretches to Athens, GA.

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 15 miles or 25 km 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 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. 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-billon-dollar 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 Lovejoymarker and possibly Hamptonmarker near Atlanta Motor Speedwaymarker. 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 Georgiamarker in Athens to Emory Universitymarker 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 stationmarker, 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 grass roots support in recent years is the BeltLine, a 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. 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.

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 Orleansmarker and the other headed towards New Yorkmarker. All trains make a scheduled stop at Peachtree Stationmarker in Midtown Atlanta, but it is also possible for arrange for trains to stop in Gainesvillemarker, Georgia as well.


Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airportmarker 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 Fieldmarker, McCollum Fieldmarker, Cartersville Airportmarker, DeKalb Peachtree Airportmarker, Briscoe Fieldmarker, and the Clayton County Airportmarker. Atlanta's second airport is in the very preliminary discussion and study phase, possibly located at the new Paulding County Airport which opened in 2008.

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, 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 was 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 Chickenmarker), Roswell Road to the Cobb/Fulton county line, and finally Marietta Street to the town square in Roswell. Further complicating this is the arbitrary relocation of state route numbers onto other roads 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 Viningsmarker, 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 usually not recognized by newcomers. These include Sandy Plains, Crabapplemarker, 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 Schoolmarker 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, 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.


By U.S. Census Bureau standards, the population of the Atlanta region spreads across a metropolitan area of – a land area larger than that of Massachusettsmarker. Because Georgia contains more counties than any other state except Texasmarker (an accident of history explained in part by the now-defunct county-unit system of weighing votes in primary elections), 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.

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. Four cities – Johns Creek (2006), Miltonmarker (2006), Chattahoochee Hill Countrymarker (2007), and Dunwoodymarker (2008) – have incorporated or won legislative approval for incorporation since then, following the lead of Sandy Springsmarker in 2005.


By population:
Figures for DeKalb and Fulton are for 2008.

The above-listed counties are included by the U.S. Census Bureau, however most other entities define a much smaller area, by including only the counties which have 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 members 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 the assigned planning agency for eight more counties. In addition to the ten ARC counties, five more (Hall, Coweta, Paulding, Forsyth, Bartow) are part of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, created in 2001. The nine counties with well under 50,000 residents, and far away from major development, are not included by any other definition except the Census Bureau's.


Central city

Edge cities

Major suburbs

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

Surrounding cities

Atlanta's environs include the following suburbs, listed in order of estimated population (US Census Bureau, 2008):


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