Can Atlanta's BeltLine Achieve its Potential?
Rebecca Burns details the vast potential of the Atlanta Beltline, which is already delivering amazing experiences—and development—to the city.
"This year the Eastside Trail will attract a million visitors, the same number who come to the Georgia Aquarium. On weekends, the trail is so crowded that local media outlets have published etiquette tips and user guides. People drive in from the suburbs to walk the Eastside Trail. You can order a fancy $13 BeltLine Burger or rent a two-wheeler from Atlanta Beltline Bicycle. 'BeltLine' is plastered across for-sale signs in the yards of aging bungalows and on banners promoting new apartment buildings. Over the past six months, townhouses sprouted like mushrooms along the Eastside Trail."
But the BeltLine has more to give, if it's an incomplete project, and its benefits might be felt in places other than the BeltLine itself. Writes Burns: "true transformation will not be measured in residential units and miles of paved trail. The real measure of the BeltLine's success will be whether it can make a difference in Atlanta's car-dependent transportation system — and whether it can connect neighborhoods that have been separated by race and class since the days of Reconstruction."
And the BeltLine's true potential to transform the city, according to Burns, comes from the trails integration with transportation: "What makes the BeltLine potentially so transformative is that, unlike the hundreds of 'rails to trails' projects nationwide, it is designed as a transportation project. It will include light rail lines with 45 neighborhood stops and connections to the city's MARTA rail system and the Atlanta Streetcar."
Burns's article also includes more information about the current status of the project and renderings of the proposed development of the Southside and Westside trails.