Atlanta BeltLine Light Rail Transit Moving Forward

Look for MARTA surveyors on the Eastside Corridor starting Monday, Oct. 12. Data collected will inform decision makers on where stations should be constructed.

Atlanta BeltLine, INC. (ABI) is moving forward with plans to add light rail transit to the 22-mile looped trail. The Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) on Monday, October 12, will start surveying the BeltLine “to begin engineering and to ultimately construct rail transit,” according to an announcement this week from ABI. MARTA will be collecting land survey information starting with the BeltLine Eastside Corridor (next to the Eastside Trail).

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“You will see survey crews along the Eastside Trail, between Irwin Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue, for several weeks,” the announcement states. “While there will be minimal impact to trail users, please remember to be courteous and always maintain awareness of others (and remain a safe COVID distance) because the surveyors will occasionally be standing in the middle of the trail to collect their survey data.”

Connecting MARTA to the BeltLine has been a longtime mission of ABI — it was part of BeltLine Founder Ryan Gravel’s 1999 master’s thesis, after all. In late-2019, the City of Atlanta secured $2.8 million to kick off the light rail project. Those funds will specifically cover the surveying project that starts Monday. “It will also provide data that can help determine potential station locations,” ABI announced when the funds were first secured nearly a year ago.

It’s unclear when the rail transit would actually be built and where specifically the funding to move forward with the actual construction would come from. Reps for ABI on Saturday did not immediately respond to What Now Atlanta’s request for comment.

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Rendering: Official
Caleb J. Spivak

Caleb J. Spivak

Caleb J. Spivak

Caleb J. Spivak

20 Responses

  1. Wow. I hope they explore other methods besides the current streetcar vehicles. Those things are heavy rail vehicles being used in a light rail role. There are other ways to do that with less visual and environmental impact and probably less cost.

        1. Yes, it’s great news for the surveyors who get to soak up that $2.8 million. I’m skeptical it’ll have any broader impact than that, but would love to be wrong.

  2. This needs to be abandoned. There are greater needs for the community. Has nothing been learned of the Streetcar disaster?

    1. I partly agree with this statement. Atlanta lacks a true subway system, or network if you will, with stations peppered around Downtown/Midtown and nearby areas within at most a 10 min walking distance of each other, as in world class municipalities: NYC, Paris, Moscow, Prague, etc. Only in such an environment Streetcar and Beltline make practical sense, since then they would complement the existing infrastructure. For example, SF has BART and MUNI, two separate but closely overlapping structures, and complementing those is the Streetcar/Trolley transportation, making it all a very nice and efficient system.

      1. ‘We lack a real transportation system so let’s not build a transportation system.’ This logic just doesn’t compute for me. I take your point that if we already had a robust system, the marginal value of each new station or mile of line would be greater, but it’s still not a reason to abandon these plans.

        If there were an alternative I’d be more open to the argument, but as far as I know, there is literally no competing proposal to address surface street congestion in the city (congestion which will return swiftly after the pandemic). GDOT keeps proposing more lanes which can plausibly tamp down congestion on the interstates (at least for a time), but will do absolutely nothing for traffic anywhere inside the perimeter. The only solution is to create a dense, mass transit network by filling in and connecting our current, spotty network over time.

    2. The thing learned in the streetcar disaster is that no mode of transportation works when it’s only 1 mile long.

  3. Well light rail is a dumb and extremely expensive possibility. Bus Rapid Transit would be just as effective and far, far more affordable solution, leaving funds for other purposes.

    1. If we lived in a higher trust society – that made decisions based on data to benefit all people – I don’t disagree. There’s probably a more cost-effective solution involving something like BRT.

      But BRT has proven to be susceptible to being watered down and value-engineered by the political process rendering it less effective. Not to mention, any transit method that isn’t literally bolted to the ground is susceptible to being swept away overnight by vested interests or ‘budget cuts.’

      My bus route straight-up disappeared in the pandemic. I question whether it will ever come back.

    1. So Dick, do you consider the BeltLine a boondoggle?
      Because transit was part of the plan from the beginning.

  4. I just cannot envision anywhere on the eastside trail that can accommodate 2 sets of tracks and a boundary between pedestrians and streetcars. As of now, ABI has accomplished approximately 7 miles of cement. Can we not concentrate on completing the 21 mile loop before wasting $ on anything else? The amount of revenue generated for the city with a complete 21 mile loop is astounding. Cement it now…………….

    1. If you look at cities that have light rail, the space impact is very minimal. The cabs are no wider than cars and are on fixed tracks so they can operate in less space. As far as a boundary… you only need a few inches for a half-height fence. Some places have no boundary at all – it’s as safe or safer than being next to a road.

      But I agree. Finish the loop now. This is going to have really limited utility without the loop being complete.

  5. First, I’m glad this is going to happen. 2nd, they should get this done ASAP. I think people forget what the beltline is about. The beltline is about restoring connectivity that was disrupted by I20 and I75/I85. Part of that connectivity is to provide adequate transportation. You will see more of this in other parts of the country. Dallas/Fortworth. Highspeed rail connecting Dallas Houston and San Antonio. California and its High-speed rail, Chicago’s midwest hub, etc. This connectivity will increase business revenues in the city. Look forward to the process and experience.

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