Over the next couple months, the BeltLine is asking Atlantans what they like about the project, what they don’t like and what they hope to see happen in the future. According to the organization, this is the first survey of this scale in more than 10 years.
The survey asks people what they think the priorities should be, such as affordable housing, adding transit, working with small businesses or building parks. And it’s not just collecting online responses, the organization hired a firm to do hundreds of phone calls and go door to door in order to get a balance of people from different parts of the city, different incomes and different ages.
WABE did a wildly unscientific version of the survey by spending a lovely Friday afternoon on and near the recently opened Westside Trail, asking people what they thought.
Antonio Rolling, who was playing basketball near the path in West End, said he jogs on the BeltLine and he likes what it’s done for his neighborhood. He sees it as part of Atlanta’s bright future, along with the Georgia Aquarium getting a shark exhibit and development plans near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I can’t wait to see my hometown, can’t wait to see it lit up,” he said.
He also can’t wait for the BeltLine to be finished.
“We’re glad they put it here, just waiting for it to get done,” Rolling said.
Same here, said Atlanta BeltLine Inc. CEO Brian McGowan.
“We hear that a lot, and we want it to be finished, too,” he said.
McGowan, who’s been on the job for less than a year, said as far as he can tell, the last survey was in 2006, when the project was still pretty much just a big idea. This time, people probably have more — or different — opinions.
“I felt it was appropriate for us to kind of pause and ask the residents of Atlanta and people who use the BeltLine how they feel about the BeltLine itself and about how far we’ve come in 12 years before we start moving forward and making decisions on where we’re going in the next 12 years,” he said.
There have been controversies the past few years over the amount of affordable housing that’s been built and questions about the future of transit.
And McGowan acknowledges the BeltLine could do a better job of reaching out to some parts of the city.
Take David Jeffries, who was waiting for the bus on a bench in West End, sitting about 10 feet from the BeltLine. He’d never heard of it.
“What is the BeltLine?” he asked.
And then there are super-fans, like Kareem Williams, who walks on the path every day with his 14-month-old daughter.
“It’s so much more than recreation because it really should be a lifestyle,” he said. “And it’s going to bring the community together a lot more.”
But he’s not thrilled with trains on the BeltLine, which he hadn’t realized was part of the plan.
“Transit?” he sighed. “I don’t know. Seems like it may take away because it’s serene.”
Transit is absolutely part of the project, said McGowan, and he thinks rail is the best option.
On the survey in general, McGowan said he’s excited to learn people’s opinions and maybe get some surprises.
The BeltLine plans to release the results this summer.