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Don’t Lose Sight of that Transit Vision for the Atlanta Beltline

The Atlanta Beltline vision from 1999, with a ring of rail stops.

As much as we love having this great new path to walk and bike on, let’s not forget that original 1999 plan (by Ryan Gravel) for the Atlanta Beltline as a city-focused rail route. We’ve gotten so far into the weeds with the status quo of the path as a largely recreational feature (understandably so since it’s wonderful as such) that I think we sometimes lose sight of that original vision.

Transit on the Beltline

A Beltline with transit would be a great antidote (and compliment) to the MARTA rail lines that were designed as suburban-focused commuter trains.

Instead of addressing an outward ridership, Beltline rail would look inward and be a transit line for the city and its growing density. And in its connections with MARTA stations, it would help that existing system serve neighborhoods just as well as it does commuters and events attendees and people headed to the airport. 

For a much better and more comprehensive  explanation of the importance of transit here, see this post from Gravel.

Every time I’m on the NE section of the Beltline on the weekend and looking at the big crowds of people walking and cycling on it, I think: “all this human-powered mobility (and its attendant ped/bike infrastructure and borders of greenery) should be lifted off of here and put on the streets where it belongs in a city, and this part should be rail.”

That original plan should stick. And we should make sure that all these new developments popping up around the Beltline are ones that will enable and encourage transit ridership. We’re doing that, right?

I get worried when I see the amount of parking that’s being permanently built into developments that are popping up next to the route. I can’t help but wonder if all that parking will encourage car trips and discourage transit use in the future. It’s something to think about. Are we designing our way into a future where Beltline transit will struggle?