For Atlantans who’ve dreamed of catching a MARTA train to Braves games again, or riding from the city’s northwest side to points across the rail network, a recent presentation offers a few tentative glimmers of hope.

MARTA outlined its aspirations for “future northwest transit opportunities” at an Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (ATL) board meeting this month, and the visuals are intriguing. 

The presentation, while hardly meticulously detailed, shows how a MARTA rail expansion could branch off today’s last-stop Bankhead station, snake around the Bellwood Quarry park site and the massive, dormant Tilford Yard, and then stretch toward city limits near the Chattahoochee River, with Cobb County’s The Battery and Truist Park just beyond that.

The general route a future northwest expansion could take, as identified in this month's presentation. Purple represents the BeltLine corridor, with existing bus lines in orange. MARTA/Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority

Potential uses near Tilford Yard, a former rail hub. MARTA/Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority

There’s no talk of funding or a timeline, but it’s an example of big-picture thinking MARTA has adopted since merging with the ATL Authority in hopes of creating a regional transit network.

In the shorter term, the presentation says MARTA is gearing up to release a request for proposals in fiscal 2021 for a “Bankhead station transformation.”

The scope of major projects in the Bankhead station's vicinity. MARTA/Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority

That renovation would beef up the station’s capacity for larger trains—from two cars to eight cars—and allow for more frequent services to stretch farther across the network to Avondale station. (Could it be a coincidence that, right next door, Microsoft also made its plans for a land transformation official this month?)

It’s all a sign that MARTA’s momentum toward tax-funded expansion in recent years hasn’t been entirely squashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tilford Yard site is roughly 100 acres larger than Piedmont Park. Colliers International/YouTube; 2019

With CARES Act and other funding, the Atlanta UZA—Urbanized Area in transit terms, that is—has received more than $404 million. MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker recently told Atlanta magazine the coronavirus relief funds his agency has received will be sufficient to keep it solvent for a couple of years.  

In addition to aspirational expansion plans, the presentation lent some context and updates for MARTA's push to develop housing around several key stations.

A few highlights of the agency's current Transit Oriented Development (TOD) progress are below. 

An overview of MARTA's history with housing and office development near stations. MARTA/Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority

Update on TOD initiatives nearest to downtown. MARTA/Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority

How the Avondale TOD could develop in coming years. MARTA/Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority

Photos: In Atlanta, weedy MARTA parking lots have transformed into a modern hub (Urbanize Atlanta)

• Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority presentation