New Data Tool Maps Demographic Patterns Around the BeltLine

Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) is pleased to announce the launch of the Atlanta BeltLine Data Explorer, a public data visualization tool dedicated to mapping growth and change over time in BeltLine neighborhoods. The tool is the first step in a multi-phase partnership with Neighborhood Nexus to track socioeconomic indicators and ABI investments across the BeltLine Planning Area, which occupies about 15,000 acres broken into 10 Subareas.

The data explorer was unveiled last night at the Second Quarterly Briefing of 2020, ABI’s first-ever “virtual” Quarterly Briefing conducted via Zoom (with a dial-in option) and broadcast on Facebook Live. For those who couldn’t catch the live presentation, take a look at our user guide and be on the lookout for a video tutorial we’ll post here in the next few days. Atlanta residents who lack reliable computer or internet access can reach out to engage@atlbeltline.org to request that printed map and data documents be mailed to them.

An overview of the Data Explorer’s layout and data layers

Grounded in Equity

Social equity and inclusion have always been at the center of the Atlanta BeltLine’s vision. From its inception as a graduate thesis in 1999, the project sought to reclaim and repurpose physical infrastructure that had long divided Atlanta neighborhoods along divisions of race and class.

That goal – to transform these barriers into spaces for inclusive prosperity and civic engagement – has been strengthened over the years with the addition of measurable targets that promote transparency and accountability. These targets cut across dimensions of housing affordability, economic development, transit access, community engagement, and quality of life. Their common underlying vision is an Atlanta BeltLine that benefits all of Atlanta – legacy residents, newcomers, and businesses alike.

Examples of performance measures and indicators ABI will use to evaluate equity

While the new data explorer is designed to inform the public and promote transparency and accountability, the data it’s built on will also help ABI grow its evidence base on project impacts in each Subarea. These metrics will help track progress toward project goals and flag demographic and economic trends that may require policy intervention, such as areas that appear particularly vulnerable to gentrification and displacement.

A Wealth of Data

The new tool, which draws upon over 5,000 variables Neighborhood Nexus tracks across multiple geographies, is intended to establish neighborhood-level historical baselines in areas such as race, household income, employment, and housing tenure (e.g., renters and owners). It also provides a snapshot of demographic and socioeconomic conditions today, 15 years into the project’s 25-year lifespan. Data sources include the decennial census, the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, and Atlanta Police Department statistics.

Users can display layers for Neighborhood Statistical Areas (NSAs), as well as BeltLine Subareas. Additional geographies such as Atlanta City Council districts, Neighborhood Planning Areas (NPUs), and Georgia State House and Senate districts can be overlaid for reference. A pop-up window provides high-level data points for NSAs and Subareas, while downloadable factsheets for each geography contain a wealth of more granular data.

Clicking on a Subarea or NSA reveals a pop-up with demographic indicators relevant to the selected layer (e.g., population density, housing, income)

Although the Subarea Master Plans report detailed demographic metrics for the 10 individual Subareas, this tool marks the first time that such comprehensive demographic data for the entire BeltLine Planning Area has been centralized in a single public platform. Estimates were generated using a methodology developed by Neighborhood Nexus to retrofit Census data to more meaningful local geographies, such as NPUs or NSAs (intuitive groupings of small-scale neighborhoods).

For a select number of key “Change Measures,” users can compare change across time: for example, the change in median income for a particular Subarea between 2000 and 2014-18. (American Community Survey uses “continuous measurement” over multiple years, whereas decennial census data is reported as a snapshot in time.) For other metrics, current estimates are reported in great detail – along with the relevant margin of error.

A detailed fact sheet for each Subarea or NSA can be accessed through the pop-up window

Next Steps

The next phase of the Neighborhood Nexus collaboration will quantify and map out investments that ABI has made to date on each BeltLine project element, including affordable housing, parks, public art, trails, and transit. Comparing these findings against demographic data from phase one could help identify areas where more investment is needed to promote equity across the BeltLine geography.

“This new public data resource equips residents with a valuable tool to better understand the diverse neighborhoods that compose the Atlanta BeltLine’s 15,000-acre planning area,” said Nonet Sykes, ABI’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. “Subarea-level metrics will continue to inform project decision-making as we strive to implement the Beltline in a way that ensures all Atlantans can benefit and prosper from the project’s progress.”

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