Of the 22-mile BeltLine route, only 7 miles are getting rail with More MARTA tax

Seven miles is a lot of rail. Seven miles is good and I’m grateful to live in a city where we’re making that public investment.

But personally -- and this is just my own emotional investment here and I’m not trying to start a riot or anything -- personally, it’s disappointing to me that we’re apparently not funding the entire 22-mile loop of BeltLine rail with the More MARTA tax. That’s according to an AJC article this week on plans for the funds.

Those funds will build 21 miles of new rail total throughout the city, and at least some of them — apart from the 7 that are going on the BeltLine — will be running in mixed traffic as they connect to the Atlanta Streetcar. (Read this excellent editorial from this week on why that’s a bad idea.)

Yes, maybe I was gullible, but I believed the marketing materials I saw prior to the 2016 tax referendum and thought I was voting "yes" to fund the entire loop with this 40-year tax, along with some other new transit lines elsewhere in the city.

Again, seven miles out of 22 is good. It’s better than what many other cities are doing. But my emotional reaction is what it is. I thought it was going to be the whole shpadoinkle and not just a couple of pieces on the Eastside and Westside.

Two thirds of the BeltLine will now likely remain, for many, many years into the future (note it’s a 40 year tax and those streams don’t appear often), little more than a recreational trail alongside TAD-financed growth with lots of parking -- what I call "drive-to Urbanism."

Drive-to Urbanism with a really cool walking, biking trail. Not awful, but not what it could be. Which is a phrase I could use to describe a lot of Atlanta things.

In my dream scenario for More MARTA funding, we would fund new rail, and new Bus Rapid Transit, only on dedicated lanes (like the BeltLine), and never in mixed traffic. And as for mixed traffic, we would spend a big portion of funds on a Seattle/Houston level of city-bus overhaul. That’s what has been proven to work. But best practices in planning often seem to elude Atlanta leaders.

EDIT: according to BeltLine mastermind Ryan Gravel, there’s still a chance to get the whole route funded. There’s a MARTA Board meeting in September where the final decision will be made.