How Atlanta’s BeltLine is Transforming the City

A 22-mile pathway is bringing placemaking to the forefront of a city long known for its traffic

Driving through Atlanta, you get a sense of how this Southern city was developed around the automobile. Everywhere you look, there are miles of highways, circling around the city and even making their way through the heart of downtown. It’s a commute that residents are used to. But how Atlanta views its transportation options is beginning to change, and much of this change of heart begins with the Atlanta BeltLine.

The BeltLine got its start at Atlanta’s Georgia Institute of Technology in 1999, when then student Ryan Gravel first proposed the idea through his master’s thesis. In his plan, he envisioned turning the former rail line into a unique stretch of public space. Since Gravel’s conception of the idea, citizens have taken up a grassroots effort to develop the BeltLine.

“It’s the most important rail-transit project that’s been proposed in the country, possibly in the world”

It is a project unlike any other in the city. Once complete, the BeltLine will circle the city of Atlanta, connecting neighborhoods and offering numerous parks, greenways and connections to alternative means of transportation including cycling, walking and public transit.

Although not yet complete, this monumental project is seen as one of the top urban transportation projects in the world. “It’s the most important rail-transit project that’s been proposed in the country, possibly in the world,” Christopher B. Leinberger of the George Washington University School of Business told the New York Times.

“There’s a different way to live now because of the BeltLine”
Sluptures along Atlanta’s BeltLine

Many local residents are enthusiastic about the BeltLine. Chantelle Rytter, organizer of the BeltLine Lantern Parade, told the Times that the project has already changed how she lives. “There’s a different way to live now because of the BeltLine,” she says.

Development of the BeltLine comes at a time when Atlanta’s population is experiencing much growth. The city’s current population stands at just under 500,000, but this is expected to double in the next 15 years and many new residents will live within walking distance of the BeltLine.

As more people move into the city, and as urbanism rises across Atlanta and the around the world, residents are increasing their expectations for the need for public transit and better placemaking. The BeltLine is expected to meet both of these requirements.

While the BeltLine isn’t expected to be completed until 2030, as development takes place is stages, residents are already beginning to flock to the 22-mile corridor that is transforming the way residents both think about placemaking and envision the future of Atlanta.

In the years ahead, Atlanta will not be well known for its highways and traffic jams, but for it’s BeltLine.

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