Beltline Streetcar: One of Two Posts

I remember when I was told by someone—correctly or not, I don’t know—that a major Atlanta-based philanthropic institution was declining (at least initially) to invest in a proposal to turn this:

Into this:

“That’s totally and completely nuts,” I thought.

Now, all these years later, I will say up front that my first reaction to a proposal to put this:


Is to think: “That’s totally and completely nuts.”

First let me acknowledge these facts:

  • I am a tree enthusiast.
  • This is a blog about Inman Park’s trees and the work of IPNA’s Tree Watch Committee.
  • My involvement with the Atlanta Beltline Arboretum reaches as far back as hearing Trees Atlanta’s Greg Levine muse aloud, “The whole 22 miles of this proposed project should be one continuous arboretum”; participating as a stakeholder in the design of the arboretum; helping to complete a survey of the trees growing naturally along the route of the Beltline; weeding the meadows; and planting and caring for trees growing along the Eastside Beltline.

So I am not unbiased. I do like the trees and the meadows. I like nature. I do have a viscerally negative reaction to the idea of pouring concrete over what is now native grasses and trees. (According to a spokesperson for MARTA, the new transit line will affect about 150 trees, 111 being “trimmed back” and the rest replaced with species that have smaller root zones.) I find the Beltline experience of people being active in a semi-natural setting very appealing.

But let’s put aside my visceral reaction. Here are some questions I have about MARTA’s proposal to extend the line of the Atlanta Streetcar along the Eastside Beltline from Irwin Street to Ponce de Leon Avenue. No doubt there are already answers to these, but in any case:

  • Who will be riding the streetcar along the Beltline? Out-of-town tourists? Commuters? Atlantans curious enough to ride it at least once, just for novelty’s sake?
  • Why is it better for people to ride in an enclosed, air-conditioned streetcar between Irwin Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue than to walk, bike, scoot, take a pedicab, etc., as they are doing now?
  • The Beltline has been a spectacular success by almost every conceivable measure. How will the Atlanta Streetcar make the Beltline better? If you are walking along the trail, how is your experience affected by having a streetcar glide by on rails? How about if you’re dining somewhere along the Beltline?
  • How would MARTA respond to this cynical assertion: “The Atlanta Streetcar is a marketing gimmick for Atlanta’s hospitality industry. Why should it be allowed to piggyback on the success of the Atlanta Beltline?”
  • What happens to all the concrete, metal, etc., if and when the Atlanta Streetcar along the Beltline proves to be a bust?
  • Is this an instance of shutting the barn door when the horse has already bolted? Or trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube? (I can’t get my aphorisms straight!) In other words, starting with transit and then adding a walking/biking path and some nice landscaping is one thing that might have happened with the Beltline. But it didn’t happen that way. Now that we have the Beltline we have, what do we risk losing by altering it so substantially?

Next time, I’ll try to look more positively on what the Atlanta Streetcar can add to the Beltline experience.

2 thoughts on “Beltline Streetcar: One of Two Posts”

  1. Great questions, Jim. Unfortunately, I believe most of the answers are unfavorable. While I look forward to your next post to grasp at some positives in this horrible idea, I can’t imagine what they are…

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