A proposal to spend $3.6 billion to expand the Atlanta streetcar system to connect it with the Atlanta BeltLine was met with opposition not only by residents, but members of the Atlanta City Council’s Community Development Committee during a June 23 public hearing.
Officials from the Atlanta BeltLine were on hand to discuss the plan to add 50 miles of streetcar lines around the city to connect with MARTA and the 22-mile Atlanta BeltLine loop. One of those streetcar lines would run from Buckhead to Fort McPherson on the south side of the city.
However, it wasn’t the north-south line or any of the crosstown lines that were on the minds of the City Council members at the meeting. Instead, it was the streetcar expansion’s failure to include the southwest corner of the city – including the Greenbriar, Cascade Road and Campbellton Road areas – that drew heated criticism.
Rather than sending the proposal on to the full City Council, the issue was tabled, and additional review and community meetings were called for to address what Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, who represents Southwest Atlanta’s District 11, called the “inequity” of the plan.
“It’s disturbing to me that Southwest Atlanta is left out of this plan,” Bottoms said. “We don’t have a rail station and only a portion of the BeltLine touches a small portion of District 11, which is growing.”
Bottoms said the streetcar expansion planned as presented isolates many communities around the city. “If you can run a streetcar from Peachtree Road in Buckhead and then on to Lee Street to connect with Fort McPherson, why can’t one be run on Campbellton Road?”
BeltLine officials didn’t have a clear answer, but indicated that MARTA was currently completing a study about the possibility of running a rail line to the area and increasing the number of buses. There was also mention that the streetcar could eventually be run there after the completion of the 50 miles already on the table. Bottoms wasn’t buying it.
“I’m ticked off that the streetcar isn’t a consideration now,” she said. “We’re trying to get businesses to invest in the community and telling them to wait for 30 or 40 years and we might get some transit won’t work.”
Bottoms said she would vote no on the current streetcar expansion plan, and she was joined by fellow councilors who shared her sentiment.
Councilman Ivory Lee Young said any expansion of the streetcar and BeltLine should come with a workforce initiative to train residents to become “transit specialists.” Councilmember Kwanza Hall said he was alarmed by the “glaringly obvious” omission of Southwest Atlanta from the expansion plan.