Thoughts on Atlanta’s future, from a Beltline perspective

I honestly don’t recall what people-watching was like in Atlanta before the Beltline. This is a golden age of watching people walk by! This pic was taken on Sunday afternoon at the section of the Eastside Beltline that’s just outside Ponce City Market. Such a lovely scene.

Though I have to add that I feel sorry for all the bicyclists when I see these crowds, because I know that the Beltline gets too congested to serve as a great bike route at peak times. But I also love that it gets crowded. That’s a success. So I’m conflicted.

Speaking of being conflicted…

It can be difficult to imagine the Beltline doing an excellent job of accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, AND a train in this limited width. That difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that we’re doing so little to redesign our street network for prioritizing anything other than car flow.

If Atlanta’s street network is not going to budge in its car-centric design, that puts a huge amount of pressure on the Beltline to fill our needs for non-car transportation. Too much pressure. We need to start expecting this level of pedestrian goodness from streets, and expecting great bike routes too, and bus priority.

All this stuff is interconnected — we can’t just think about our expectations of the Beltline’s design without thinking about everything else happening in the city around it.

That’s why it’s so important to think of urban design in a holistic way that includes:

  • rezoning for density and mixed uses so that we can put more people in walking distance to destinations;
  • affordability and housing security for equitable access to the city;
  • street redesigns to de-center driving and uplift sustainable alternatives like buses and bikes and walking;
  • street trees for beauty and shade over our pedestrians; plus parking reform that reduces the number of car trips that compete with transit.

Those are just a few of the things on our urbanism to-do list. I think about this stuff a lot while walking on the Beltline and watching Atlantans interact with it and the surrounding urban fabric, and envisioning a future for the entire city that’s as inviting and exciting as this scene.

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Darin Givens

Darin Givens

ThreadATL co-founder: http://threadatl.org || Advocacy for good urbanism in Atlanta || atlurbanist -at- gmail.com