BeltLine Advocates Pressure MARTA To Prioritize Light Rail Transit

BeltLine transit advocates gathered at MARTA headquarters Wednesday to push for expanded light rail.
BeltLine transit advocates gathered at MARTA headquarters Wednesday to push for expanded light rail.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

At a public meeting Wednesday, BeltLine transit advocates crowded into a room at MARTA headquarters. They had one main message to the board of directors: prioritize funding light rail transit along the full loop.

Advocates are hoping to influence the board before this fall, when MARTA will vote on how to spend $2.5 billion in TSPLOST revenue over 40 years.

MARTA’s current proposal would fund 22 miles of light rail transit and 18 miles of bus rapid transit around the city. It’s an investment known as “More MARTA.”

According to the plan, most of the light rail would be allocated to the Clifton Corridor, which leads to Emory. The 22-mile loop would receive 7 miles of light rail.

Lauren Welsh, a volunteer with BeltLine Rail Now!, said that’s not enough.

“There’s no question that there are other fantastic transportation projects on there. But this one has been a long time coming,” Welsh said. “It’s the only project that will touch all corridors of Atlanta.”

Other volunteers also said that when they voted to approve the half-penny sales tax in 2016, that Emory was not part of Atlanta. Atlanta City Council annexed Emory into the city in December 2017.

“We didn’t vote for a rail line to Emory,” said one speaker. “We voted for a self-imposed tax so that we could pay for rail on the BeltLine. That’s what we vote for. And that’s what we expect.”

Betty Willis, a president of the Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association, pushed back on that sentiment.

“The Clifton Corridor is the largest employment center in the region that has no direct access to MARTA and now we are gridlocked,” Willis said.

She also said that connecting Emory to the rest of the city has been long been discussed by Atlanta Regional Commission and MARTA.

In response, BeltLine advocates proposed that the city could pay for part of the Clifton Corridor, but not all of it, in order to fund rail along the loop.

MARTA’s board said they will be seeking public opinion on the transit plan before voting this fall.