MARTA and BeltLine officials, alongside countless Atlanta urbanists, foresee a planned streetcar extension between downtown and Ponce City Market as an efficient, useful alternate transit model in a strategic location that will help the BeltLine live up to its original promise as a transportation corridor.  

The group behind a new online petition couldn’t agree less.

Titled “Support Sustainable Public Transportation Alternatives,” the petition launched last week as means of galvanizing opposition to the Atlanta Streetcar system branching east into the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail corridor, organizers say.  

But so far, just 273 people have signed, as of this writing.

Naysayers contend MARTA, BeltLine, and Atlanta Department of Transportation officials are “forcing” the streetcar plans forward and that a stronger vision and funding allocation for “mindful transit expansion” should be explored.

The current plan “requires hundreds of millions in funds, massive alterations to residential streets, significant greenspace removal, pushing eminent domain upon historic property, and more,” reads the petition. “Let’s prioritize transit where it is needed most.”

Key points of contention outlined by the “Streetcar Impact Team” include the project’s expected cost: $200 million “to be spent on just two miles of rail,” as the group puts it. They also point out that more than 40 neighborhoods along the BeltLine won’t be served by the extended light-rail line and that operating costs, per their estimates, will be $40.95 per rider, as opposed to $2.19 per train patron.

Here’s a sampling of input and reasoning in the petition’s comments so far:

“So many better solutions than light rail,” wrote one supporter. “Perhaps a parallel path [would be better] for e-bikes, pedi-cabs, trackless tram, etc.!!!”

Another: “The quite [sic], peace, and nature without traffic on the BeltLine should not be destroyed by a light rail flying by. It will change the BeltLine completely and not for the better. I also doubt people will use the light rail for commuting.”

Where the Atlanta Streetcar would branch off its current loop along Edgewood Avenue. Kimley-Horn/MARTA 2040; via Vimeo

MARTA says the downtown-to-Ponce City Market streetcar line should be fully under construction by 2024 and open for passengers in 2027. Transit agency officials expect about 3,000 people to ride the extended system per week, according to earlier presentations. A community engagement process began in September.

The new streetcar line’s service would be provided in both directions, heading east from Jackson Street (where the current streetcar loop ends) along Edgewood Avenue. There, it would turn north on Randolph Street and Auburn Avenue, before entering the BeltLine corridor at Irwin Street and continuing north to Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Five new stops are proposed in current plans. MARTA says the next step is a final design phase that’s expected to last into 2024.

How the planned Atlanta Streetcar extension's Ralph McGill stop could relate to Fourth Ward Project's offices, per an earlier study. Kimley-Horn/MARTA 2040; via Vimeo

The plan’s detractors, who are squarely in the minority on the issue, have decried the light-rail vision as outdated, wasteful, a total surprise, and “idiotic.” A Q&A story published on these pages in September as a means of shedding light on their logic promptly smashed all Urbanize Atlanta records for reader vitriol and hate mail.   

Some business leaders, homeowners, and other residents in neighborhoods such as Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward had reached out with concerns that only one side of the story has been told. Old Fourth Ward resident and petition supporter Lauren Wheeler, who recently bought a townhome overlooking the BeltLine but has lived near the corridor for years, likened the pushback to “an uprising” in an earlier interview. “Everyone… agrees that this rail should be put in a more underserved community,” said Wheeler, “and not [on] the Eastside Trail.” 

Video clip vividly shows new ATL Streetcar route to Ponce City Market (Urbanize Atlanta)