2019 // Transportation in Chattanooga

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: How Chattanoogans Move Around

A bustling transportation hub ever since the Civil War, Chattanooga thrives off its proximity to the Tennessee River and direct access to top rail systems and interstate highways.

Bus driver driving bus public transportation Chattanooga


Always looking toward the future, Chattanooga continues to promote eco-friendly transportation options and offer a wide range of travel services to businesses and residents.

Sitting at the convergence of major road arteries I-24, I-75, and I-59, Chattanooga is home to several of the nation’s top trucking companies, logistics providers, and delivery and fulfillment services. Among the leading trucking companies are Chattanooga-based U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport. Third-party logistics providers include UPS-owned Coyote Logistics and Kenco Group. A logistics newcomer, FreightWaves harnesses the power of big data and machine learning technology to provide real-time updates for the trucking and transportation freight markets. FedEx and Amazon operate distribution and fulfillment centers in the area.

Rail first came to Chattanooga in 1850 with the arrival of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Eight years later, the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad arrived in Chattanooga, and the city quickly became a railroad hub. Since that time, rail transportation has continued to be an important part of Chattanooga’s economy; today, CSX and Norfolk Southern carry freight through Chattanooga daily to destinations throughout the country.

One of the city’s oldest transportation systems is the waterways of the Tennessee River, carrying barges filled with goods to the Missouri River, Ohio River, and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. According to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), 28,000 barges carry 45 to 50 million tons of goods up and down the river each year – saving consumers nearly $500 million in transportation costs.

The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport offers nonstop flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, New York City, Orlando, Tampa, and Washington D.C. The airport’s impressive growth in recent years is evident: In 2017, the number of annual passenger boardings soared to 484,517, up 15.6% over the previous year. Current airport amenities include dining, notary services, free Wi-Fi, and the EPB Landing Pad featuring iPads, an Xbox, and large screen HD TVs.

The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) has served the community for over 40 years, providing a cost-effective, efficient, and safe multimodal public transit system. CARTA carries more than 3 million passengers annually on 20 bus routes, in addition to running the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway and Care-a-van services for the disabled. Maintaining a worldwide reputation for innovation, CARTA consults with national and international governments interested in electric bus technology.

Another low-cost transportation option is Bike Chattanooga, the city’s bicycle transit system. Offering hundreds of bikes available for rent, Bike Chattanooga operates 41 stations in downtown and beyond. Bike lanes throughout the city allow for recreation riding and easy commutes to work. 

Chattanooga has seen a surge in electric car ownership, and to keep up with demand, installed 100 public charging stations within a 9-mile radius of the city. Additional green initiatives include Green Commuter (an all-electric public car-share system available to residents and visitors) and GreenTrips (an online carpool-matching program by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency).

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport building exterior facade front entrance

(above) photo by Sarah Smith/Maycreate



For decades, interstate highways have paved the way for Chattanooga’s economic success. Chattanooga provides proximity and easy access to several cities throughout the South. With Interstates 24 and 75 running through the city, Chattanooga is within 150 miles of Atlanta, Knoxville, Birmingham, and Nashville, and cities like Memphis, Charlotte, Louisville, and Cincinnati are only a few hours’ drive away.


Because of Chattanooga’s strategic location and access to major interstates, trucking companies find the city to be an ideal home base. Several small carriers work in and around Chattanooga. In addition, two of the top trucking companies in the U.S. – U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport – call Chattanooga home. Both provide long-distance trucking, distributing raw materials and finished goods to other markets and manufacturers.


The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport boasts large airport amenities with the care and convenience that only a small airport can provide. Offering direct flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, New York City, Orlando, Tampa, and Washington D.C., the airport operates flights through Allegiant, American Eagle, Delta, and United Airlines. Airport amenities include Wi-Fi, notary services, and a restaurant and bar. In addition to providing a hospitable atmosphere, the Chattanooga Airport has reduced its environmental footprint through sustainable practices. This has led to lighting improvements, LEED-certified facilities, and a solar farm to offset CO2 emission.

Bike Chattanooga woman biking

(above) photo courtesy of Bike Chattanooga



Fixed-base operator Wilson Air Center offers airline and freight handling services, including private air service for business travel, family vacations, and private parties. 


Megabus is a popular intercity bus service known for its affordable fares and luxury double decker buses. With a permanent stop on East 23rd Street, Megabus offers trips to Atlanta, Knoxville, Nashville, Chicago, and more. Amenities include power outlets, restrooms, and free Wi-Fi.


The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) provides public transportation in Chattanooga. CARTA has 20 fixed bus routes, a Care-a-van for the disabled, and a free downtown electric shuttle system, which offers one of the largest fleets of electric buses in the country. CARTA fares start at 75 cents per ride for senior citizens and students. 24-hour, 7-day, and 31-day unlimited ride passes are also available. CARTA buses are equipped with
free Wi-Fi.


The Chattanooga Department of Transportation (CDOT) operates Bike Chattanooga. Over 300 bikes are ready to be picked up at 41 rental stations throughout downtown. This eco-friendly option is available through an annual membership, 3-day pass, or a 24-hour pass. Annual memberships can be purchased online for just $50; the 3-day and 24-hour passes can be purchased at the solar-powered Bike Chattanooga kiosks.

Transporting goods barge Tennessee River Chattanooga


One hundred electric vehicle charging stations are located within a 9-mile radius of Chattanooga, including the downtown area, Lookout Mountain, East Ridge, Ooltewah, and Hixson.


Groome Transportation provides reliable and affordable shuttle service to and from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and the Nashville International Airport. Passengers can enjoy the convenience of 24-hour reservations, a free parking and waiting area, group rates, and pet transportation (with owner).


Norfolk Southern and CSX serve the area and connect Chattanooga to major cities in the Southeast. Norfolk Southern’s Crescent Corridor is a $2.5 billion rail infrastructure system that spans 11 states and provides direct routes from the Southeast to the Northeast with convenient connections to Mexico and Los Angeles. CSX operates and maintains nearly 1,600 miles of track across Tennessee.


Chattanooga’s location is integral to its success as a top logistics hub. Major companies such as U.S. Xpress, Covenant Transport, Kenco Group, Schnellecke Logistics, Coyote, Steam Logistics, and more have a home base in Chattanooga. Trident Transport and Lync Logistics, two third-party logistics providers, made Inc. magazine’s 2018 list of 500 fastest-growing private companies in America. LMS (Logistics Made Simple) and Steam Logistics made the top 5000 list. Dynamo holds the title of Chattanooga’s first logistics accelerator, while FreightWaves, a transportation and logistics data and content provider, was launched in 2018.


Connected to 14 inland rivers and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Tennessee River is a primary means of transporting products around the country and serves as a key component to the state and local economy. Two public terminals in Chattanooga include Centre South Riverport/Industrial Park and the Port of Chattanooga. Companies such as Serodino, Inc. move more than 2 million tons of cargo a year on the upper Tennessee River.

Did You Know?

After installing solar panels in late 2018, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport became the nation’s first airfield to run entirely on solar power.