We took a tour of the proposed BeltLine on Saturday morning. The tours have been very popular and we were very fortunate to get a reservation. The 2008 tours are booked but they plan to accept bookings for 2009 tours in mid Jan. Keep an eye on the "get involved" section of the BeltLine website.
The tour bus was almost filled to capacity but all in all it was a very comfortable experience. In my opinion, this really is a fantastic way to see the future of transit in Atlanta and you will also learn some interesting facts and a bit of history while your at it. It's tough to beat given that it is free. Additionally, the tour guide, Heather Hussey-Coker, was excellent and provides a wealth of knowledge about the project and the city.
If you are not very familiar with the BeltLine project, you won't find an indepth explanation in this post. Just check out the BeltLine website. In brief, it is a proposed 22 mile loop of light rail transit around the city of Atlanta that will connect ~48 neighborhoods to area businesses, parks and civic institutions. It is expected to spur residential and commercial development along the corridor. Additionally, there are 33 miles of walking/cycling trails that are planned. These will follow the rail line in most places but will diverge in some areas. One of the really great things about the project is that much of the infrastructure already exists in the form of historic rail lines that encircle atlanta. Most of those rail lines are inactive but some are still active. It will take some negotiation with the companies that use these lines before we know for certain exactly what the final route will be.
The tour is about 3 hours and it takes you through a very well planned route that zig zags clockwise around Atlanta following what will eventually be the route of the BeltLine. You receive a map and informaiton packet that will help you follow along with the tour.
As stated earlier, the tour was very interesting and informative. Having lived in the Atlanta area for about 8 years, I thought I knew a lot about the city but Heather quickly proved that there is still a lot for me to learn. Some of the more interesting parts of the tour include:
- Learning that a Ga Tech grad student came up with the idea for one of his graduate projects.
- A stop at what will be the new Westside Resovoir Park (formerly Bellwood Quarry) with a question answer session about the quarry that will be turned into an emergency water supply for the city. We can definitely use 2.4 Billion gallons which will supply Atlanta for 30 days.
- Seeing D.H. Stanton Park and learning about the environmental problems that existed at that site and what is being done to clean the area up and potentially expand the park along the rail line.
- Seeing the significant number of old abandoned sites along the line that will present opportunity for development. Some of these were the old Georgia State Farmer's Market, the 31 acre property owned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation along University Ave. and the Exide Battery Plant
- Potential combined BeltLine & Marta stations.
- The large amount of mixed use development along Huff Rd. We love this kind of development and feel that the BeltLine will spark more of it around the corridor.
These aren't the only things you will see/notice on the tour but I think they are all notable to the green minded residents of Atlanta. Although there will be challenges as this vision moves toward reality, we believe this is a project that should be supported and embraced by the area. It will set an example for the rest of the country to follow on how to creatively use existing infrastructure to improve the lives of the residents.
Thanks to the BeltLine Partnership for the well orgainzed and delivered tour!