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Issues in Depth: Back
to the Future with the Belt Line
covers the Belt Line along Kirkwood Ave. in Reynoldstown.
to Atlanta's transportation and air quality problems may lie in
kudzu covered abandoned rail lines that date back to the post-Civil
lines, mostly abandoned now, form a 22-mile loop from Piedmont Hospital
on the north, the Carter Center on the east, Atlanta Area Tech on
the south, and the Wren's Nest on the west.
The old Belt
Line can become the transportation link that puts Atlanta back together
after being quartered by the construction of the Downtown Connector
a few steps from your Grant Park home, catching a European-style
tram, and zipping off for lunch at the King Plow Center.
and pedestrian paths that engage diverse parts of the city. Imagine
opening 4,000 acres for redevelopment that could accommodate 100,000
new residents - all of whom are a short walk from environmentally
Imagine a smart
growth idea that does not cut through historic neighborhoods, but
instead brings them together.
light rail brings neighborhoods together
If you are
interested in learning more, read the entire "Belt Line" presentation.
You'll find out where the 45 stops will be. Is there one near you
home? You'll see how cities like Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and
New Orleans are using light rail and trolleys to connect neighborhoods.
here (requires Acrobat
Reader) for the full presentation with photos and maps. (Link
to Acrobat Reader will open in new window.
your support for the inclusion of the Belt Line transit study in
the draft Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for 2003-2004
federal funding, send an e-mail to: email@example.com
You can make
specific reference to the project as the "Emory/Atlanta/South DeKalb
Fixed Guideway Loop Study" (M-AR 272), a combined study of the Belt
Line with the Downtown/South DeKalb light rail line.
TIP will be finalized in the fall, and you can learn about public
hearings through this web site. You can also fill out a survey about
the draft TIP at: www.atlantaregional.com/MobilityAir/GetInvolved/public_opinion.html
Let the Atlanta
Regional Commission know that you support the inclusion of alternative
transit projects for Atlanta in the regional transportation plan.
others are saying
train that could
By John Sugg, Creative Loafing, April 17- April 23, 2002
one evening a couple of weeks ago I was having dinner with City
Council President Cathy Woolard. She started effusing over some
old railroad tracks that ring Atlanta. These tracks, many of them
abandoned and now just kudzu corridors, could be transformed into
something that would be true "mobility."
Woolard was excited. She was exhibiting that rarest of all traits
among local pols - vision. Her enthusiasm was infectious - so much
that I started jumping up and down with her and in the process dribbled
tuna on my Jerry Garcia tie.
excerpt from The little train that could
Creative Loafing, April 17- April 23, 2002
web of rail lines key to crafting better transit system
By Maria Saporta, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 1,
about 50 reports, complete with maps, for a proposed inner transit
loop along existing rail lines that would connect with MARTA stations
at five different points. In their report, they identified 40 potential
stops ideally suited for a light-rail system.
The first person
to jump on the idea was Cathy Woolard, then an Atlanta city councilwoman
who chaired the transportation committee. Woolard, now president
of the Atlanta City Council, continues to be enthusiastic about
She has gotten
the concept included in an existing transit study that has been
sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Lewis. The study should be completed
in 2003, and it will provide the region some guidance on what future
transit lines would make the most sense.
"It's an awfully
good vision," Woolard said. "For the inside-the-Perimeter gang,
we need a vision; we need to own an idea. We need to flesh out what
we want, or we are not going to get anything."
sees it, there's a major public policy question involved that critically
looks at what transportation investments would reduce the number
of single-occupancy-vehicles on the roads.
excerpt from Existing web of rail lines key to crafting better
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 1, 2002
of concept by Cathy Woolard with Ryan Gravel
article discussing the Belt Line Transit proposal appeared in the
Southface Energy Institute Journal.
Alternatives for a Sustainable City
to the April Southface Energy Institute Journal
by Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard,
with Ryan Gravel, Architect
Over the last
half century, metropolitan Atlanta overlooked neglected but valuable
urban land in search of easy development in surrounding forests
and farmland. More recently, the negative effects of urban sprawl
have led to new development in intown Atlanta. But without providing
an adequate public transportation system for the increasing intown
population, the resulting congestion and pollution are diminishing
Atlanta's cherished quality of life. As local governments, companies
and families begin to look toward Atlanta's future, a healthy regional
discussion has emerged that examines how we can restructure the
City so that it will continue to thrive in the twenty-first century.
Much the same way as an infrastructure of highways led to suburban
expansion and urban depopulation in the last forty years, an expansion
of mass transit infrastructure will lead to both the revival of
the inner city and the protection of our natural ecology and resources.
If the Atlanta
region is going to experiment with transit-oriented development,
there is no better place to begin than in the City's intown neighborhoods.
These areas were built before the rise of automobiles by the extension
of streetcars from the central city. That means they are well suited
to transit because they were built at densities that support it.
While the streetcars are gone, these historic communities are our
model for smart growth, offering a mix of land uses, building types
and family incomes, as well as schools, sidewalks and public parks.
They also offer a sizable amount of underutilized urban land, which,
because of its high dollar value will develop at greater densities
than the single-family neighborhoods around them, making them particularly
good locations for rail transit.
In fact, intown
Atlanta has a tremendous amount of neglected urban land ready for
reinvestment particularly on the City's south and west. Abandoned
industrial land and obsolete commercial corridors dominate the public
view, hiding attractive bungalow neighborhoods. The City also has
a tremendous amount of urban redevelopment underway, increasing
density and straining traffic, particularly on the City's north
and east. On reclaimed industrial land and along renewed commercial
corridors now stand tall condominiums, restaurants and grocery stores
with limited transportation options in an auto-dominated landscape.
conveniently, many of these redevelopment sites (those under construction
as well as those still in waiting) are strung together by several
old "belt line" railroads. After the Civil War, these minor freight
lines developed to serve the City's expanding industrial base, forming
a roughly six-mile loop around downtown. Since they preceded urban
expansion, bungalow streetcar suburbs were nestled up against them.
The railroads, therefore, tend not to cut through historic neighborhoods,
but instead lie at the seam between them, making these in-between
spaces ideal sites for urban redevelopment. Furthermore, the belt
lines are associated with a considerable amount of industrial land
and most of the industries that remain have abandoned the rail lines,
shifting to truck-based freight. As industry has grown in scale,
many companies have moved to bigger sites outside of town, leaving
behind beautiful old buildings and large chunks of land.
All of these
factors lead what is known as the "Cultural Loop" or "Belt Line"
proposal, that envisions new light rail or bus transit lines woven
through the City on these existing belt line railroad rights-of-way
and connected to five MARTA stations - Lindbergh, Inman Park/Reynoldstown,
West End, Ashby and Bankhead. At a length of 22 miles with 45 stations,
the Belt Line loops around downtown and midtown Atlanta on an hour
and a half journey through over 4,000 acres of redevelopment sites.
With over half of that land suitable for residential and mixed-use
development, between 60,000 to 100,000 future residents can be accommodated
in new mixed-use, brownfield, transit-oriented districts. Furthermore,
the Belt Line slides between 40 historic intown neighborhoods, which
would be protected from high-density development through zoning,
but reinvigorated with infill housing on vacant land and commercial
and cultural districts in appropriate areas.
just an improved network of public transportation, however, the
Belt Line is a transportation greenway, circling the central city
as a linear park, connecting big city parks like Piedmont, Freedom,
Grant, Perkerson and Maddox Parks and little neighborhood parks
like Stanton, Adair, Washington and Tanyard Creek Parks. Bicycle
and pedestrian paths join light rail or bus transit, engaging parts
of Atlanta as different as Brookwood Hills and Pittsburgh, Piedmont
Hospital and Zoo Atlanta. It connects Ansley Mall to the King Plow
Arts Center and City Hall East to the Wren's Nest in West End. Furthermore,
with an influx of new residents moving closer into the City, the
Belt Line accesses developable land and re-uses historic urban fabric
in ways that contribute to the health of urban neighborhoods. In
conjunction with other public policies, it provides transit-oriented
sites for mixed land uses, multiple housing types and a broad range
of family incomes. Stations would be designed for neighbors and
would more resemble bus stops than MARTA stations, eliminating elevated
platforms, turnstiles, escalators and parking lots.
The Belt Line
proposal was presented at a community town hall that I held last
year as the District Six Councilmember, and I was greatly encouraged
by the public interest in this transportation alternative. As Chair
of the City Council Transportation Committee last year, I presented
this proposal to the committee members, and this year, the City
Council passed a resolution in support of having MARTA conduct a
feasibility study for the belt line. Funding for that study, in
conjunction with a study of a light rail line to connect downtown
Atlanta with South DeKalb, was included in the 2003-2005 Transportation
Improvement Program by the Atlanta Regional Commission.
is not the only answer to Atlanta's problems. It lays out a strategy
for building infrastructure in ways that accomplish public goals
- such as renewed neighborhoods, clean air and multiple means of
transportation. It envisions a complex network of infrastructure,
connecting all parts of the region including new rail service to
South DeKalb and Emory, not to mention possible further destinations.
In order for Atlanta to grow sustainably and thrive in the twenty-first
century, we must find better ways to grow. Growth is spurred in
part by public policy and public investment in infrastructure. The
kind of infrastructure we invest in is critical to the health of
our economy, our communities and our families.
Belt Line Transit
Study - February 4, 2002 The Council adopted a resolution, introduced
by Councilmember Lamar Willis in partnership with me, in support
of a study to determine the feasibility of the Belt Line or Cultural
Loop concept - the idea of creating light rail or trolley transit
along existing railroad rights-of-way that encircle intown Atlanta.
The study, which is to be conducted by MARTA with funding through
the Atlanta Regional Commission in 2003, will move the City closer
to providing alternative public transportation to Atlanta residents.
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