The city of Atlanta has acquired the railroad corridor needed to complete the Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside Trail, connecting the Eastside and Westside Trails. AJC file photo
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Beltline’s godfather worries about transit-less future for project

Atlanta’s Beltline project is fast becoming a victim of its own success. So says Ryan Gravel, the architect and urban planner who dreamed up the idea of converting a ribbon of railroad into parks, trails and transit.

It’s that third part -- transit -- where Gravel is airing his concerns. In his personal blog, he writes that a system of transit along the route was always key to its future. 

But more than a year after Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax that raised $2.5 billion for transit, Gravel writes, “we’re still waiting for news on transit.” Writes Gravel on his own website:

“In addition to the line to Emory, our money is being committed to projects that have not had a single public meeting. And rumors are swirling that Beltline transit may not even make it into the plan – at least not much of it. If that’s true, it’s fair to wonder if MARTA and other decision-makers have been listening all these years. Or maybe they don’t remember. Or maybe they weren’t here at the time. Or maybe they don’t care.”

He called on Atlanta voters and leaders to press for defined transit plans, which he said were key to bringing more affordable housing along the route. He concludes: 

We know intuitively that without urgent investment in transit, the Beltline will become what everyone fears – a beautiful greenway flanked by gentrified neighborhoods for people who can afford the luxury of that choice. That’s not what we wanted. That’s not what we voted for. 

It’s safe to say MARTA officials heard his message. Robbie Ashe, the transit agency’s chair, said he agrees that transit on the Beltline is important but had no further comment.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.