Once called Terminus after its many railroads, Atlanta is slowly regaining ground as a transit city thanks to voters, city leaders, new organizations and those passionate about making a difference. As 2016 comes to a close, it’s important to acknowledge the progress the city has made — from trains and buses to bikes and the BeltLine. Here are five of the biggest wins that moved us forward this year.
1. City of Atlanta Voters Approve Transportation Funding
The biggest transit win of 2016: a referendum passed in November that will generate approximately $2.5 billion over 40 years for MARTA and fund other transportation projects via a sales tax. MARTA expansion possibilities include improved bus service, heavy rail expansion west of the Hamilton E. Holmes MARTA station, light rail on the BeltLine and the Clifton Road Corridor, bus rapid transit on Northside Drive and up to three infill rail stations.
Stay up to date with MARTA’s current projects on the agency’s website.
2. Bike Sharing Arrives in Atlanta
Relay Bike Share arrived in Atlanta in June with 100 bikes in downtown Atlanta. As Atlanta’s first bike sharing program, Relay Bikes has pay-as-you-go, monthly and semester plans. Since launch, bike docks have been added around downtown and Midtown, with easy access to bikes at six MARTA stations (view bike map). The Westside is the next area to get the two-wheel rides, with 500 total bikes planned for the city.
3. Soccer Field at Five Points
Game on! Unique in the world, the new soccer field at Five Points is the first soccer field on train station property (rendering pictured above). Funded by Atlanta United, the field occupies a formerly unused amphitheater at the MARTA station at street level. Station Soccer organizes adult leagues and pick-up games there for a fee, which allows kids to play for free.
Although the soccer field is half the size of a regulation field, the location makes playing there twice as fun — plus, it’s super easy to get to on MARTA.
4. MARTA Rocks Finances (Again)
In June, the MARTA board approved the 2017 fiscal year budget with no fare increase. That marks the fifth year in a row with one-way fares holding steady at $2.50. The efficient running of the agency, according to GPB reporting, has allowed MARTA to keep fares steady and reinvest in the system. WiFi services and new digital signs as well as investigating a smartphone app to replace Breeze Cards were some areas of investment. Plus, the farmers markets at MARTA stations expanded from one station to four.
A bond refinancing effort early in 2016 also paid off in a big way for MARTA — the agency will save $48 million over 18 years after lowering the interest rate on several bonds.
5. BeltLine Moves Forward
During the summer of 2016, work began on the Eastside Trail to expand it from Irwin Street south to Kirkwood Avenue in Reynoldstown. As a part of this project, concrete pavers were installed in the Krog Tunnel to even the surface of the sidewalk, as the trail will use the tunnel to go under the freight railroad lines. Additionally, a path for the trail has been cleared on the north side of Wylie Street.
Meanwhile, on the Westside, reconstruction of the pedestrian bridge over Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was completed. And the same transportation sales tax approved in November 2016 will allow the BeltLine staff to finish purchasing the remaining right-of-way property to complete the 22-mile rails to trails loop around the city.