22 miles of Pedestrian-Friendly light rail
Transit has always been at the core of the Atlanta BeltLine. Conceived as a 22-mile transportation corridor where pedestrian-friendly light rail transit and urban trails co-exist, every design plan and concrete pour has occurred with this vision in mind. Transit is a solution to address Atlanta’s growing population and traffic. It will empower residents, regardless of the weather, physical ability, income, or neighborhood, playing a major role in linking neighborhoods and creating “whole communities,” in which people can easily access jobs, services, goods, amenities, and the city’s larger transit network without the need for cars.
In 2016, more than 70% of city voters passed a sales tax levy to dedicate billions to transit expansion as part of the “More MARTA” plan, including the Streetcar East Extension and additional BeltLine rail. The City of Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine and MARTA are responding to the will of voters, strategically implementing a popular transit project that has been requested, supported and paid for by everyday Atlantans. This is an exciting first step to building a more accessible, equitable, transit-oriented future for Atlanta.
BeltLine Streetcar Design
The BeltLine transit design marries the “emerald necklace” of urban trails and parks with light trail transit that features greenspace and landscaping. It draws inspiration from other world class transit systems in which pedestrian and bike corridors coexist with transit and greenspace.
The light rail corridor will have grass between the rails, landscaping and many access points to safely cross from one side of the BeltLine to the other. In short, it will fit into the existing landscape without hindering access to neighborhoods and destinations along the BeltLine.
Bring It On: How MARTA, the BeltLine, and City of Atlanta will implement
Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) is committed to seeing light rail transit built on the Atlanta BeltLine with crosstown connections as outlined in the Atlanta Streetcar System Plan, which was adopted by the Atlanta City Council in 2015. ABI is partnering with MARTA and the City of Atlanta to plan, design and engineer the transit system for the corridor. Studies have shown that light rail transit is feasible and supported within the Atlanta BeltLine corridor, and all design work done to date has been implemented with light rail transit in mind.
Starting a Network: Streetcar East Extension
MARTA’s Atlanta Streetcar East extension is the first step in bringing 22-miles of light rail to the BeltLine corridor that will connect with MARTA at several points along the way and expand Atlanta’s transit options.
As of August 2023, the Atlanta Streetcar East Extension project is at 30% design. MARTA has authorized a final design contract to deliver construction documents, with an intended construction start in spring 2025. The project will extend Atlanta Streetcar service from downtown Atlanta to Ponce de Leon Avenue, including three stop locations along the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail.
The Streetcar East Extension will help Atlanta attract more large-scale job creators to invest within the urban core near the Streetcar line. It will connect people to jobs at any level of pay along the BeltLine. The Streetcar East Extension will also expand access into the larger MARTA heavy rail and bus networks, allowing communities along the East extension corridor to connect to a metro-wide transit network.
Expanding the Network: Atlanta Streetcar West Extension & Beyond
The Atlanta Streetcar West extension would be the next phase. With a design and start date for this extension undetermined, City of Atlanta and MARTA officials will decide the timing and phasing for this project in 2023 or 2024.
IDENTIFYING AN EQUITABLE PATH FoRWARD
Launched in spring/summer 2023, the BeltLine Transit Study (BTS) aims to:
- identify the preferred transit alignment and station locations in the northwest quadrant of the Atlanta BeltLine,
- solidify the preferred station locations and corridor cross section in the southwest and southeast quadrants, and
- maximize connectivity between transit networks and trail networks.
Funding by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration and local funds, the study is expected to be completed in 18-24 months. The scope of work includes field investigation, consolidation of previous studies, stakeholder and public outreach, environmental screening, ridership forecasting, capital, operating, and maintenance cost development, and financial planning.
Consultant Team – Kimley-Horn
Public Outreach Contractor – Hummingbird
Equity Strategy & Stakeholder Engagement Contractor – C2G
Shaun Green, BeltLine Transit Study Project Lead
Delving Into Years of Planning
Below is a collection of reports, studies, and documents covering the history of transit planning on the Atlanta BeltLine.
- Final Environmental Impact Statement, April 2012. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) prepared this Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Atlanta BeltLine in cooperation with MARTA.
- Record of Decision: Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Study, August 2012. This Record of Decision from the Federal Transit Authority determines the selection of modern streetcar for transit, transit alignment, and identification of right-of-way along the corridor. It is a major step in securing federal funding for transit.
- Strategic Implementation Plan, 2013. The 2030 Strategic Implementation Plan presents a framework to complete the short- and long-term elements of the Atlanta BeltLine program.
- Environmental Assessment maps for transit, March 2014. This map shows the Environmental Assessment corridors for transit along the east and west sides of the Atlanta BeltLine.
- Atlanta BeltLine/Atlanta Streetcar System Plan, December 2015. The final Atlanta BeltLine/Atlanta Streetcar System Plan (SSP) adopted by Atlanta City Council on December 8, 2015. The SSP documents the City of Atlanta’s approach to building out this streetcar network over time in a manner that is efficient, cost effective, mobility focused, supportive of regional transit, and integrated with the economic development initiatives led by the City, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
- Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Transit Task Force: Final Report, January 2019. The Atlanta BeltLine Transit Task Force convened in June 2018, representing a cross-section of stakeholders and community leaders. As a result of the work of the Task Force, ABI reaffirmed that streetcar should remain the preferred technology for transit on the Atlanta BeltLine.
- MARTA BeltLine LRT Northeast/Southeast Extension Concept Engineering Study, February 2022. The purpose of this report is to assess the engineering feasibility, cost estimates, and environmental considerations of multiple alternatives for the streetcar/light rail transit (LRT) BeltLine northeast and southeast extensions.