The Braille Monitor                                                                                              February, 2004

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Tidbits and Travel Tips for Conventioneers

by Anil Lewis

Anil Lewis
Anil Lewis

From the Editor: Anil Lewis is president of the NFB of Georgia and a longtime Atlanta resident. If you are planning to attend the 2004 NFB convention--and you don't want to miss it--you will want to read what Anil has to say about getting to the hotel and moving around downtown Atlanta.

What makes Georgia an ideal place to host the 2004 NFB convention? It's our wonderful climate and friendly people. It's the easy accessibility of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the deepwater ports of Savannah and Brunswick. It's the fact that over forty countries already have consulates and trade offices in Georgia. Businesses flock to Georgia because they recognize that Georgia knows what it takes to attract investment and create jobs like no other place in the world.

Most of you will be flying to the convention and will be coming into the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, recently renamed to commemorate Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta. A popular public official, Maynard Jackson twice served as mayor, each time for two consecutive terms.

Serving around seventy-five million domestic and five million international passengers annually, Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world. It has two terminals (North and South); six concourses packed with shops, restaurants, and banking facilities; and a unique people mover or underground train. Future expansion plans are impressive, including a fifth runway, an additional passenger terminal, improved transportation, and extra parking.

Once you deplane, you will make your way down the concourse to the escalators which go down to the airport's people mover, which connects all six of the airport concourses to the main terminal. This small automated train travels east-west and takes passengers from concourse to concourse. All stops are announced by an automated voice. Exit the train at baggage claim and ground transportation. Using the escalator to the right takes you up to the baggage claim area. You are facing west as you travel upward. To your right will be North terminal baggage claim carousels, and the South terminal carousels will be to the left.

Once you retrieve your luggage, continue west down the spacious but almost certainly busy corridor of the airport. If this seems a somewhat daunting prospect, most airlines offer a meet-and-assist program for passengers who need assistance. Members of the NFB of Georgia will be working throughout June to ensure that airport and airline staff understand how to respect the rights of the approximately 3,000 travelers coming through the airport on their way to our convention.

Of course taxis are available for those who decide not to use our splendid public transportation system. If you continue west through the automated doors at the end of the airport corridor, you will arrive at the taxi stand. Fares from the airport to the Marriott are a flat rate based on the number of passengers. Transport for one passenger costs $25, for two passengers the cost is $26, for three it is $30, and for four the cost is $40. Shuttle fares to the hotel are $14 one-way and $25 round trip.

The remainder of this article is intended for ambitious, frugal travelers who wish to use Atlanta's public transportation system. Becoming familiar with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) will allow you to be more independent and able to enjoy fully whatever leisure time you have during the convention. Just before you reach the end of the airport corridor that leads to the taxi stand, you will find the entrance to the airport rail station.

MARTA is the most cost-effective way to travel in Atlanta and the most convenient. A number of fares and passes are available to meet rider needs. You can choose from several TransCard, Half-Fare, and individual-token rates.

MARTA consists of a lightrail system and a network of buses and paratransit vehicles. The cost to ride MARTA is $1.75 (exact change, token, or pass) for a one-way trip, including transfers. Token machines are located at the entrance. Placing a crisp $20 bill in the machine will produce eleven tokens and $.75 in change. Those intending to use MARTA throughout the week may want to stock up on tokens for use later. You can buy a roll of ten MARTA tokens for $17.50 or twenty for $30. Weekly MARTA transcard passes, available for $13, can be used for unlimited travel during the week. For specific information about MARTA service, call (404) 848-4711. MARTA also provides paratransit service and honors eligibility from other states. Those who need paratransit service should contact the MARTA eligibility office at (404) 848-5389.

Once you pay your fare and pass through one of the turnstiles of the MARTA rail station, head north up the escalator to the train platform, where you will board one of two northbound trains. The airport station is the southern terminus of the MARTA rail system's North-South line, so you can board any train. However, for your information, the North Springs train is on the right; the Doraville train is on the left. They both go to the Marriott. Rail cars have ample baggage space, and trains depart every eight to ten minutes.

 The trains make several stops on this approximately thirty-five-minute trip to the Peachtree Center MARTA station. One of these is the Garnett station, which is where conventioneers traveling to Atlanta by Greyhound bus can catch the MARTA rail. The next stop is also noteworthy. It is the Five Points station, the stop for underground Atlanta. This is the only station where the doors on both the left and right sides open and allow you to access the East-West line of the MARTA rail system. The next stop after Five Points is Peachtree Center station, where you exit to get to the Marriott.

This station has a center platform with four exits, two near the southern end and two near the northern. They can all be accessed by stairs, escalators, and an elevator.

It is best to take the Harris Street exit (northeast) to get to the Marriott. Take the long up escalator in the Peachtree Center station. Once you reach the top, work your way around to the right, where you will find the entrance to the Peachtree Center Mall with its many shops, restaurants, and businesses. You can get to the Marriott through the mall if you choose. But I suggest you take the second, much smaller set of escalators to the street level. This places you on Peachtree Street, in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

Atlanta's attractions are known the world over, from the Atlanta Braves to CNN to Stone Mountain. There is a park, a sports team, or a museum for you. Moreover, the entire Southeast comes to Atlanta to shop. From nationally known department stores to unique boutiques, the shops and services will never let you down.

Southern food is a one-of-a-kind experience, and Atlanta's acclaimed restaurants win rave reviews all over the world, perhaps because they serve every type of food imaginable. Of course you can find the very best fried chicken, homemade vegetables, and peach cobbler here. But mouth-watering Italian antipasto? Delectable and artistic sushi? Award-winning contemporary dishes? Barbecue that's been smoked for twenty-four hours? They're all here, plus much, much more. Just don't forget the sweet tea!

For future reference, the MARTA bus #10 travels north and south on Peachtree Street and provides easy access to underground Atlanta, midtown, and Art Center.

The Marriott is a block and a half away, so you can easily walk to the hotel from here. Turn to your right (north) off the escalator and travel along Peachtree Street to the first intersection, which is Harris Street. Turn right and travel east on Harris. The next intersection is Peachtree Center Avenue. Cross that and travel north (left) on Peachtree Center Avenue. The entrance to the Marriott is in the middle of the block on the right. You will enter the hotel on the lobby level, and the registration desk is just beyond the concierge desk to your left. In future articles I will highlight some of the restaurants and shops in the area and some of Atlanta's must-see attractions. I am looking forward to having you all here. Safe traveling mercies, and we will see you this summer.

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