The Atlanta Beltline has been no stranger to national attention, especially since the unveiling of the Eastside Trail in 2012, and a recent op-ed by Mayor Kasim Reed continues that trend. In a Huffington Post column titled "Cities Can Solve Our Nation's Transportation Problems," Reed extols the Beltline's potential for making Atlanta a more vibrant and interconnected urban habitat. And he posits that $360 million in public and private funds have been well spent, generating "more than $1 billion in new private real estate development for a roughly three-to-one return on investment" since 2006. He calls cities, in general, "the country's laboratories for innovation" and then makes a claim that could stop ITP haters and TSPLOST naysayers in their tracks: "I believe that Atlanta has been particularly innovative in its approach to transportation." If other recent writings are any indication, Reed isn't alone in that opinion.
In his own recent column, Beltline CEO Paul F. Morris makes the bold prediction that construction on the first segments of light rail transit will begin on the Beltline's east and west sides within the next five years. Those projects will be part of a network that connects to the downtown Atlanta Streetcar, set to open in a few months, Morris wrote in the AJC. "Nothing on the scale of the Atlanta Beltline has ever been attempted or accomplished in the Atlanta region," Morris writes. "This voracious appetite for more progress is understandable."
Morris checks off the list of Beltline major accomplishments thus far: adding seven miles of paved multi-use trails, 200 acres of new and renewed parks and greenspaces, remediating more than 70 acres of brownfields and committing funding to 259 units of affordable housing. But going forward, he says the highest priority is to acquire necessary real estate for the trail loop and transit. "Presently," he writes, "we have control of 56 percent of the 22-mile transit corridor and 72 percent of the 33-mile trail corridor." (Anyone up for donating their backyard?)
In a follow-up compendium of reader commentary — in which rants about rapist boogeymen in the Beltline's bushes were surprisingly absent — one reader seemed to think the five-year outlook for real estate acquisition is too long: "Later on, 20 years from now, people will wonder, 'Why didn't they build a rail line here, back when the land and construction costs aren't as expensive as they are today? There is so much here today!'" Joe Winter writes. "It's like building a stadium far away from a rail station and then later wondering, 'Why didn't they build MARTA near the stadium?'"
· Cities Can Solve Our Nation's Transportation Problem [Huffington Post]
· Next up for Atlanta Beltline [Morris column; AJC]
· Response to recent conversation (above) [AJC]
· All recent Atlanta Beltline coverage, discussion [Curbed Atlanta]