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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

The Atlanta Beltline remains the country's best smart growth story, and these short videos show why

Kaid Benfield

Posted January 13, 2010

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Two years ago I called the Atlanta Beltline "the country's best smart growth project."  Although I have seen and learned about many more since then, I have not changed my mind.

The Beltline is an enormously ambitious, 15-year undertaking to use a long-abandoned rail corridor for transit, parks, trails, and revitalization in some of the city's most neglected neighborhoods.  It's a 22-mile loop of an opportunity that just broke ground, and its potential is amazing.

Here are three short videos that tell the story much better than I can.  If your time is limited, start with this one (only 3 minutes), just released last week:


The next one (just under 6 minutes), released last spring, tells the story in a bit more depth, featuring many of the principals and great visuals:


Finally, the most arty of the three (also 3 minutes), shows an exhibit of photos of the corridor in its pre-redevelopment condition, set to an awesome Norah Jones soundtrack:


If Transportation for America is looking for a poster child to sell its vision of a more sustainable country based on more sustainable transportation investments, it can do no better.  If other cities are considering neighborhood-supportive transit investments (I'm looking at you, Cincinnati and Indianapolis), they should follow this model, in both substance and communications, as closely as they can.  I love this project.

Go here for more information about the Atlanta Beltline.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.


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Randy A. SimesJan 13 2010 05:14 PM

The Beltline is a tremendous project, but I'm worried about its future given the current economic climate. Furthermore, Atlanta-area residents have been difficult with transit funding of late which may prove to be difficult for the Beltline.

The videos are great though...I'll be sure to share them with the appropriate people here in Cincinnati as we move forward with our own transit investments.

FYI, news out today is that Cincinnati is "looking good" to land a significant chunk of money for its modern streetcar project. You can also tune in to UrbanCincy tomorrow morning to read about Metro's new articulated buses that hit the streets just recently.

Ellen Dunham-JonesJan 13 2010 08:48 PM

Kaid, I couldn't agree more. The Beltline has tremendous potential - both for the connectivity it will provide along the loop, but also for the connections it will establish across the old railroad where it served as a border between neighborhoods. I think it could serve as a model for other such projects snaking through the netherland in-between suburban subdivisions. I hope you'll come see it yourself at CNU 18, May 19-22!

Kaid @ NRDCJan 14 2010 08:08 AM

Thank you both for reading and commenting.

Randy, in both Cincinnati and Atlanta, we have marathons rather than sprints, no? I couldn't be happier that Cincy continues to make progress.

Ellen, I'll try to arrange a tour next time I am there. I'm a little surprised that this great story hasn't gotten more national attention.

Kaid @ NRDCJan 14 2010 12:11 PM

This just in: federal transportation secretary LaHood has announced a new policy on transit investments that could be very good news for projects like the Beltline that benefit distressed communities. For more, see my colleague Colin Peppard's blog post on the announcement.

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