Can Light Rail Save Peachtree Street?

Scott Page's picture

A long time ago in a previous design office, I made the mistake of engaging a light rail fanatic in a debate about whether Peachtree Street in Atlanta should be adorned with a light rail line. The debate turned into a protracted email diatribe about the pros and cons of light rail and whether this specific idea made any sense. Imagine my surprise when I learned this week that there is in fact a proposal for a new light rail line along Peachtree Streets.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against light rail. In fact, I have been pro light rail on many occasions and see its inherent benefits. Transforming Peachtree Street into a "world class corridor" is a must and I have no doubt that adding streetcars would add an allure to the streetscape it currently lacks.

But Peachtree Street has rail in many locations. Granted it's underground and underutilized, but this infrastructure remains a potential asset that could be creatively imprinted on the street surface. The article does not even mention MARTA's existing line.

More importantly, I would hope that any transit investment on this magnitude would pick up on one of the City's most unique assets - its adjacent neighborhoods. As someone who used to live in one of these areas, I remember vividly that what I truly wanted was an option, on occasion, to not drive in Atlanta. Wouldn't light rail be better suited to connect these neighborhoods to Peachtree Street? (The proposed Beltine in Atlanta holds a lot of promise in this regard) It will be interesting to see the study's final report due out in March.

Scott Page is the founder of Interface Studio, a collaborative design office based in Philadelphia.
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