Chattanooga is a city, and it has buses. Here's how to use them.
Where they go: CARTA runs 16 bus routes within Chattanooga city limits (surrounding cities do not pay for the service, which is why CARTA doesn't run in Red Bank, East Ridge, etc.). The urban areas are better covered than suburban, as is true with most transit systems. CARTA also runs a free electric shuttle downtown and to Northshore, but that business is for another page.
When/How often they run: It varies wildly. The #4 Hamilton Place/Eastgate Mall is the most frequent, with 15 minute headways. It's also the most crowded, so don't expect that riding the #4 is the same experience as taking the #16 to Northgate Mall. Some buses, like the #15 St. Elmo, run only every 40 minutes, so missing a bus is more of an inconvenience. The frequencies drop in the evening, and some of the smaller neighborhood routes end completely by 6 pm. There are weekday schedules, Saturday schedules, and Sunday schedules.
How to find the closest stop: Google transit isn't up quite yet (it's coming soon!), so until then, you've gotta put a little effort into figuring out where the bus runs in relation to where you are. CARTA's Bus Tracker is one way to find out. The bus schedule is potentially another, though this lists only a few major stops on the route (someone please create a page for how to read a bus schedule). A third option is to call up CARTA at 423.629.1473. You'll notice bus stop signs along a route, although this doesn't mean you can only get on at one of those signs. In most cases, the bus will stop on the end of any block of the bus route (assuming no turn lane or other barrier), but a way to check is to look for the stop on the bus tracker.
How to wait for the bus without feeling like a doofus: Call your mother, she loves hearing from you.
How to pay: A one-way ride is $1.50, and exact change is required. They do take pennies, so there's that. CARTA doesn't do transfers, so if you have to change buses to get to your destination, it might be worthwhile to get a 24 hour pass ($4 reload, $6 for brand new card) or a 31 day pass ($50). For both of these, the clock starts ticking when you first use the pass, not when you purchase it. The 31 day pass can be reloaded on the bus, but to purchase a new card, you'll need to visit one of the locations listed here.
What to do while on the bus: All CARTA buses have free wi-fi. It is not illegal to text while riding the bus. You can also watch and/or talk to people you wouldn't otherwise encounter.
How to get off the bus: Pull the string once they announce your stop. You can also ask the bus driver where it makes sense for you to get off. They're almost always very nice.
Bikes on Buses: CARTA was ahead of the curve with putting bike racks on all their buses, thanks to the City of Chattanooga and Lyndhurst Foundation. If you ride a bike, knowing how to use the bus is key for times when unpredictable things happen like your bike malfunctions, the weather becomes bad, or you accidentally get a little drunk. It's polite to put your bike on the rack closest to the bus, as this makes it easier for the next person to put theirs on. For info on how to use the transit bike racks, click here.
Where are the buses: If you are wondering whether you missed your bus, check this site for a cool way to locate all the buses currently on routes.