The Beltline on NPR

Beginning Thursday, September 13, “Morning Edition” on NPR (WABE 90.1 FM), will present a seven-part, in-depth series on Atlanta’s Beltline. In this News Special Report, Steve Goss and Kevin Keller explore the big picture of this one-of-a-kind green-space/transit proposal, including a conversation with Ryan Gravel, the former Georgia Tech student whose thesis gave birth to the project. You will also go on a tour of the proposed route, hear explanations of the green space and transit implications and learn more about neighborhood concerns.

I just hope they ask the important questions while they’re on the tour, like how many dog poop baggie pick up stations there will be and where the key coffee houses are located along the line.

26 Comments so far

  1. BTI (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 8:51 am

    Are you implying that only yuppies will ride/use the beltline?


  2. Maigh (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 9:04 am

    Nope, but you just did. :)


  3. BTI (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 9:08 am

    Haha, got me i guess. They may walk the trails but I doubt they’ll use the transit. Prove me wrong VaHi!


  4. Maigh (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 9:15 am

    I was just reachin’ for the superficial since I’m a chronic smart azz.

    How long do we have to wait to see if ViHi peeps prove you wrong? When’s the go live date? Will I still be alive? I can’t remember, and am too lazy to look. I’m ballparking it around 2030.


  5. BTI (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 9:35 am

    Unfortunately, that’s a pretty good guess, they say 25 years for complete build out of the entire project (transit, trails, parks, housing, etc). Although the NE (VaHi) and SW (west end) portions will be built sooner, I’m not sure if they will run those transit portions by themselves, but I hope they do (SW already has high transit ridership). You will start to see parks and trails and housing (see Inman Park) in a few years though. Transit will probably be the last thing finished, which sucks IMO.


  6. Maigh (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    I totally agree. I grew up in Anchorage, AK and we’d walk from one end of town to another for giggles b/c guess what: we had paths. Then I lived in the bay area and adorect BART and the muni. Then I move here and have jack squat. MARTA is useless to me.

    On a related note, I’m thinking of starting a penny cab/bicyle rickshaw business. Okay. Not really, but it sounds fun – and a helluva lot more useful than anything we have now.


  7. BTI (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 11:25 am

    For those reasons I have high hopes that the BL will connect different nodes of the city, which MARTA does not do. Although the fact that we even have a heavy rail subway is pretty unprecedented for a (southern) city of only 500k at its heart. MARTA is in fact the 7th busiest heavy rail system in America which most people don’t realize, so it is useful to some people (just imagine if it went more places and more (white) people rode it). I find that impressive considering the sprawling pattern of development in Atlanta. This shows that if we build extensive rail based transit, people will ride it.

    I rode in a rickshaw once in Charleston and while it was fun, it was far from cheap. I’d love to see someone attempt that with all the hills we have in this city and for only a penny. Hell I’ll be your first customer!


  8. Jack (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 11:35 am

    If you ask me, the transit part of the Beltline is a waste. I live in Inman Park and the last I checked I have no need to make it on a heavy-rail train to, say, Vine City. The Beltline would be done much sooner and with a lot less expense (which means it would actually happen) if they just made — not making this up — a bike path.


  9. Jack (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 11:35 am

    If you ask me, the transit part of the Beltline is a waste. I live in Inman Park and the last I checked I have no need to make it on a heavy-rail train to, say, Vine City. The Beltline would be done much sooner and with a lot less expense (which means it would actually happen) if they just made — not making this up — a bike path.


  10. BTI (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

    Jack – I’m not sure I follow you. Yes the BL may not work for you, but if you live in Inman Park you already have a MARTA station, and I wouldn’t go to Vine City either unless its for something at the Dome or the AUC. I don’t see how you can call the BL a waste for you though, after it’s built Inman Park will be one of the most connected neighborhoods in the city, and you’d have a direct shot to Piedmont park, for example, instead of a roundabout trip on MARTA. You could also have a direct shot to the sweetwater brewery or Lindbergh center. A bike path is included in the plans now. Also, the BL will be light rail which is very different in cost and technology from heavy rail. See Portland, ORE for a good example of how effective this type of transit can be.


  11. abby (unregistered) on August 30th, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

    BTI, I love your optimism! And you can add Cabbagetown and Grant Park to your list. Think of all the changes the Memorial corridor has already seen, and that’s just with the hint of the Beltline coming. (Granted, there’s more behind the development, but it’s clearly playing a role when every real estate agent and flyer is screaming about the Beltline is coming, the Beltline is coming!!).

    I’m not saying people will be lining up to take the train from Va Hi to Vine City. But I’m willing to bet that, by the time trains are running, the Beltline neighborhoods in particular – and the city as a whole – will look very different.

    I was actually thinking the opposite of Jack – I sort of wish they would start on the transit part of the Beltline first, then develop parks and trails to go along with it.


  12. Jack (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 10:17 am

    Again, philosophically we’re all in favor of the Beltline — and may it happen and may it happen within our lifetimes! But I see MARTA buses go up and down Edgewood Avenue all day long that are empty. Further, if the transit part is what’s adding to the expense, why not just make a trail (like the Silver Comet) and see what happens after that? I was all for rail, to, by the way, until that smarty-pants Tech professor came out and determined that — really folks — no one is going to take these trains because they don’t take people where they need to go (places of employment). Hate to come back to my example again, but there’s very little need for you or me to go to Vine City or Peoplestown (as compelling as it might be). But I’m not sure how compelling it is or is not, since I’ve never had need or inclination to go there.


  13. BTI (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 11:07 am

    What do MARTA buses have to do with the beltline? People (except me) don’t ride dirty, slow, often late buses that have no shelter from the elements while you wait, wow what a surprise! I also don’t see why people get so up in arms about spending a little money on transit, but are silent when it comes to repaving the downtown connector (starting in 2008) when it seems in good shape to me. Or how about the widening of I-75 to like 23 lanes. Where is the public outcry about costs here? I have no need to go to say marietta or alpharetta so why should I have to pay? You say the beltline won’t take people to work but I don’t buy that. It will take me to work and I won’t have to ride the bus anymore. There is loads of retail/restaurants/bars along the beltline already, do these places not count as jobs for someone? Besides the beltline is more than just getting to and from work, it’s about making transit a park of peoples daily lives for things like dining, shopping and entertainment. And just because you don’t need to go to vine city or peoplestown doesn’t mean they don’t need to come to inman park for work or entertainment. I already said I go to vine city for football games at the dome, so don’t speak for me. Your comments are very short-sighted.


  14. Jack (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 11:51 am

    Smarter minds than my own (GT urban planning professor) have said: People will not use the proposed mass transit component of the Beltline. Why then, spend millions of dollars on trains that do not take people to where they need to go (commercial and business sectors where people shop and work)? This is “pipe dream” stuff, really. We want this to work, we hope it will work, so we think it will work. It won’t. Everyone is in favor of the Beltline (including me). I’m just not in favor of a boondoggle. I am a cyclist — an avid one — and I think just making this thing a bike and pedestrian dedicated line will mean it will happen a) faster and b) at far less expense. Oh… and why on Earth would anyone take the Beltline to Vine City to see the Falcons play when that would take 3x longer than taking MARTA (from the Inman Park station) to the Dome/CNN Center station. That doesn’t add up at all?


  15. BTI (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 1:02 pm

    I’ve never heard of this prof before, and just cause he said it doesn’t make it true. Is this just his opinion or has he published a study in a peer reviewed journal? I’m saying I will use the transit, everyday, extensively. The pedestrian & bike part will happen, probably within 5-10 years so you’ll be happy anyway (but if you say the transit won’t go anywhere, then where exactly are the bike paths going?). Also, of course I wouldn’t take the beltline to vine city, there isn’t a stop planned in vine city! There is a proposed stop west of the Ashby MARTA station near Washington park. I thought we were talking about MARTA. I’d ride the beltline to inman park, transfer to MARTA and get off at vine city. That’s another thing we’re forgetting. The main complaint about MARTA is that it doesn’t go where people live, well the beltline will and will connect neighborhoods to MARTA. There are tons of job/activity/entertainment centers along the beltline and MARTA, check the map.


  16. Jack (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

    My thinking — this is fun going back and forth — behind the biking is strictly for recreational purposes. And what’s wrong with that? There’s a truism: If you build bike paths, cyclists will come. However this is not a truism: Build tracks and have trains run over them and people will come. That just does not happen. Nothing — short of shockingly high gas prices (think: $7 a gallon) — will make these crackers get out of their SUVs. And if the hoi polloi (i.e., the majority of the population) don’t take public transit, there’s no hope for it to be economically feasible. The prof in question was widely quoted in the AJC. He went into his study — which was peer-reviewd, for the record — with all the tweed-jacketed crypto-lib pro-transit sentiments that most in-towners have (including me). And he came out with this conclusion: These trains do not go where people need them to go ergo: these trains will be pretty, but they will be empty. I’m 110 percent in favor the Beltway. As a bikeway! Let’s let things go organically from there.


  17. whatever (unregistered) on September 2nd, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

    I agree w/ Jack. Make it a bike path. Mass transit on this thing will be a gesture, not a solution.


  18. roxie (unregistered) on September 3rd, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

    couldn’t we concentrate this money on making MARTA better???


  19. sadie (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

    I take MARTA to work every day, and I’d like to be able to take it to the places I might want to go out, even Inman Park or Virginia Highlands. Parking in these areas is a royal PITA, even on a scooter, and rail/walking it totally a great solution. If you think MARTA doesn’t go anywhere, you’re not giving it a try. You can get to Buckhead, Atlantic Station, anywhere along Peachtree in downtown/midtown, and it has great access to downtown Decatur. MARTA may not wok for you, but it works for many of us every day.


  20. Maigh (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

    That’s a great point, Sadie. MARTA is a fine, fine transport option for many. For me, it’s no bueno for a number of reasons.

    Not the least of these is a)Atlanta itself and it’s s p r e a d and b)me, myself and I and the places we need to go quickly and reliably. e.g. spent a year living at the edge of IP & OFW = 25 minute walk to the IP station, easy. Not favorable for those who don’t wish to funk up our offices and want/need to run to the store…esp considering they’re in the other direction. On BART? No worries. On MARTA, hope you don’t have anything that needs refrigeration or a date waiting for you on the other end…who knows how long it’ll take ya.

    Agreed that it’s not all bad (though I’m a fan of black and white statements either b/c I’m lazy or b/c it gets folks riled up) but as an alternate for every day transport, I can’t use it. Just doesn’t fly. Maybe because I’m spoiled, maybe b/c I’m not willing to compromise.


  21. Jack (unregistered) on September 5th, 2007 @ 11:45 am

    Maigh: Your other unspoken truth is that a walk to the MLK station would invite only unpleasant circumstances that likely would place you in Creative Loafing’s weekly police blotter. It would be an interesting and dangerous proposition for a middle-class denizen of the Old Fourth Ward to walk from, say, Edgewood Avenue (near Thumbs Up) to the MARTA station on Dekalb Avenue. Doing so at night would be even more brazen. Walking on Jackson Street (past that wonderful 24-hour-a-day “convenience store”) would practically put this manner of hike into the “Jackass” dare category. Of course we see here how crime (or the appearance of it) actually hurts MARTA not to mention the possibility for real and sustained economic development in the more depressed corridors of our community. (Just imagine how this walk would be if Grady Homes were still there…) Of course there are not enough MARTA stations. But some MARTA stations are “no-go” zones. It’s this reality forces some sad sacks to walk 25 minutes to the Inman Park Station. And Murphy’s law dictates that the second you got to the station, the westbound train is leaving (so tack on another 15 minutes to your trip). Under the above scenario, this odyssey to – let’s imagine here – get downtown for a cup of coffee at the Landmark is going to take 50 minutes. That’s city living! (And this explains why MARTA — even if it goes somewhere – is not always a solution. I recommend a bicycle. And wait 10 years for things to change in the above part of town.


  22. BTI (unregistered) on September 5th, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

    King Memorial isn’t that bad, I’ve walked to places from that station a number of times going to Oakland cemetery, Rolling Bones bbq, lennys (yes at night), sweet auburn spring fest and auburn ave on MLK day. I haven’t seen anything there that I haven’t seen on ponce. I will never cease to be amazed at how readily a fully grown person will admit they are how scared they are of certain things/places. However, the station itself is atrocious and so pedestrian unfriendly it’s not even funny. But like you said redevelopment (gentrification) is on the way! Maigh’s point about atlanta being spread out is the real problem for transit outside the city core. San Francisco is much more dense than atl and thus MARTA serves more as a commuter rail than anything, which is what spread out cities need to relieve congestion. MARTA is perfect for the weekend tourist coming from the airport, but for everyday people living in intown neighborhoods it requires lots of time and effort if you want to use the system. Her point is valid that transit should appeal to even the laziest person, anything less than that won’t work. I hope the BL is a step in that direction


  23. Mike (unregistered) on September 7th, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

    The Beltline will never happen. The whole concept is a just a big scam run by the city, developers and real estate agents. The city has raised our taxes and the developers and agents are hoping to cash in while there is still talk of the Beltline. Even if we get some parks, is that a good thing? Which park run by the city is kept up and not overrun by the homeless or litter? None. This blind faith in the Atlanta city government amuses me. Look how long it took them to fix the sewers.


  24. sharon (unregistered) on September 12th, 2007 @ 11:13 am

    Any idea if the NPR series will be offered as audio download?


  25. BPJ (unregistered) on September 12th, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    I read the analysis by the professor mentioned above, and I think he drastically underestimated how much Atlanta is changing. And the beltline will be an important part of that change.

    His analysis basically assumed that the places along the beltline will be fundamentally unchanged in 20 years. That’s the weakness of his argument. The very existence of the beltline will (& already is) bring about fundamental change; many places along the beltline which are not attractive to visit now, will be in 20 years. And many more workplaces will exist along the beltline in 20 years. His argument is like someone in 1970 saying that we don’t need MARTA lines into Cobb & Gwinnett because there are not that many people up there (in 1970)!!!

    Think of it this way: a lot more people will be moving into metro Atlanta. One of the things the Beltline does is give us places to put some of these people…. places which are not way out on the edge of the metro area, places which are welcoming to walkers and bikers, and places with transit (it could be light-rail, by the way). Don’t you wish we had thought of this 25 years ago?


  26. Maigh (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

    @ Sharon – I don’t know, but I’ve contacted WABE in an attempt to find out for you. I don’t see anything on their site indicating as much.



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