Three candidates for Atlanta mayor stress importance of transportation, push for rail on the BeltLine

Three candidates for Atlanta mayor discussed the future of transit in the city in a virtual forum Wednesday night.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

Along with affordable housing and public safety – transit continues to be among the most talked-about issues of the Atlanta mayor’s race. And what the future of the BeltLine should look like was the main topic at a forum Wednesday featuring three of the top five polling candidates.

Councilmember Antonio Brown says old ideas of how to move people around Atlanta just aren’t working.

“You need to leadership that has a fresh perspective, that’s not caught up in the politics in the city,” said Brown.

Fellow councilman Andre Dickens says transportation is critical, beyond just getting to and from work.

“It’s about connecting people to where they need to get to for educational opportunities, for health opportunities,” Dickens said.

Council president Felicia Moore says the mayor plays a major role in which projects get priority, and who represents the city on the boards of MARTA and the Atlanta Regional Commission.

“You use that influence that you have and that bully pulpit and you scream loudly and make sure you get the right people in place,” Moore said.

The three candidates at Wednesday night’s forum were peppered with questions about the future of the Atlanta BeltLine. All three said adding light rail is a must.

“I am not satisfied with a large sidewalk that people enjoy walking on or cycling on,” said Dickens. “But I am very interested in making sure this 22-mile loop has rail on it.”

Felicia Moore says light rail would add more affordable options for getting around the city.

“We want the BeltLine to be that connective source and we want everyone along that BeltLine to be of a variety of income levels,” she said.

With an estimated price tag of $2.5 billion, Brown says Atlanta should take advantage of federal infrastructure dollars to finally put rail on the BeltLine.

“To ensure that we have the funds to sustain what is necessary and what this city should have already had in place,” he said.

BeltLine Rail Now says it invited candidates polling at 3% or higher in two polls and had raised $300,000 as of Sept. 15 to participate Wednesday night. It said Kasim Reed declined an invitation to take part and Sharon Gay’s campaign did not respond.

Kirsten Dunn, Nolan English, Kenny Hill, Mark Hammad, Rebecca King, Walter Reaves, Roosevelt Searles III, Richard Wright and Glenn Wrightson round out the field of 14 candidates running for mayor.

The forum was also organized by Neighbors for More Neighbors Atlanta, Thread ATL and YIMBY Action.