Can you imagine a future in which Atlanta Streetcar service would take you from downtown up to MARTA’s Lindbergh City Center station? Or from MARTA’s BeltLine-adjacent Bankhead station to all points along the Southside Trail?

Atlanta BeltLine Inc. has begun the two-year process of putting those scenarios—along with other transit alternatives across the city—on paper in a more consolidated way.

BeltLine officials announced today they’ve launched a transit planning study funded by the Federal Transit Administration for a 13.6-mile portion of the rail corridor around the 22-mile trail loop.

The goal of the study is to determine the preferred alignment for BeltLine transit—and to pinpoint the best locations for stations—in a section near the BeltLine called the northwest quadrant, stretching from the Westside near MARTA's Bankhead station up to southern Buckhead.

Another goal of the analysis will be to determine the best station locations in the southwest and southeast quadrants, largely south of Interstate 20, where transit alignment around the Beltline corridor has already been selected.

As for the northeast quadrant, where eight miles of BeltLine transit are planned, MARTA previously completed a study that outlined a preferred transit alignment there, according to BeltLine officials.

The full planning area covered in the study stretches clockwise around the BeltLine corridor from Glenwood Avenue to Bankhead and up to the Lindbergh MARTA station.

Atlanta BeltLine Inc.

According to BeltLine officials, engineering firm Kimley-Horn & Associates has been brought on conduct the transit study.

It's expected to take 24 months “from kickoff to final deliverables,” per the BeltLine.

A special focus of the study will be connectivity between Atlanta’s budding regional trail network and its regional transit system. That will include the planned Atlanta Streetcar extension to Ponce City Market and the city’s first bus-rapid-transit system, which is being implemented from downtown to Summerhill and the BeltLine’s Southside Trail.

Linking BeltLine trails and transit with MARTA will “create a more robust and equitable transportation system for Atlanta, making the BeltLine more accessible to people, regardless of weather, ability, or geography,” per the BeltLine’s announcement.

The study will build upon three previous reports, one of them dating back more than a decade. They are: the Atlanta BeltLine/Atlanta Streetcar System Plan adopted by the city council in 2015; Record of Decision (published by the Federal Transit Administration and MARTA in 2012); and MARTA’s study of BeltLine eastside corridor from Lindbergh to Interstate 20 (completed in 2021).

BeltLine officials pointed to recent Atlanta Regional Commission estimates that nearly 77,000 people moved to metro Atlanta in the year ending in April—with another 2.9 million expected to arrive by 2050—as evidence light rail transit is “essential” for future mobility.

Kimley-Horn’s work is expected to cover field investigation for new transit, consolidation of previous studies, ridership forecasting, financial planning, environmental screening, stakeholder and public outreach, and equity considerations, among other aspects.

BeltLine president and CEO Clyde Higgs reiterated his position that transit is an integral part of the project’s mission. “The BeltLine is about high-quality ways to connect people to jobs, healthcare, shopping, education, and opportunity while making Atlanta a more mobile city,” said Higgs in today’s announcement. “Rail transit is key to how we do that.”

To begin the public outreach process, BeltLine officials have scheduled a virtual Citywide Conversation meeting for 6:30 p.m. Monday, September 25. [UPDATE: 5:55 p.m., Sept. 19: BeltLine officials send word the Citywide BeltLine Transit Study Meeting has moved dates from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2. The time and link to view is still the same.] It will be broadcast on Zoom (register here) and the BeltLine’s Facebook page. (To join by phone, dial 929-205-6099 and enter webinar ID 857 7692 0273.)

All attendees will have the chance to ask questions during the meeting, according to BeltLine officials.


Follow us on social media: 

Twitter / Facebook 

• ATL BeltLine news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)