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Racing to provide transit: MARTA to serve burgeoning hot spots

By David Pendered

The MARTA expansion plan reconfirmed this summer by MARTA’s board includes projects that are to serve a busy vortex of redevelopment in Atlanta – an east-west corridor stretching from Summerhill to West End.

marta bus

MARTA’s Capital Improvement Plan provides details on the construction projects intended to serve burgeoning neighborhoods south of I-20 and in other high-growth neighborhoods. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

This corridor is on schedule for three separate projects, which are part of the largest expansion of the region’s transit system since voters in 1971 approved MARTA. The $2.7 billion expansion is funded partly with proceeds of the ½ percent sales tax Atlanta voters approved in November 2016.

MARTA’s 2022 Capital Improvement Program provides anticipated dates to start and complete projects ranging from new transit routes to new bus shelters system wide, from tunnel ventilation systems to enhanced cyber security for the control system.

The new routes to serve the Summerhill/West End corridor just happen to be in the works as the market has focused on these neighborhoods for residential redevelopment.

West End, pedestrian

West End is one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods and is facing another round of evolution as house prices rise and MARTA is planning to expand transit service in the area. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Some of these neighborhoods have been fairly gritty in recent decades. The transition to higher price points has already arrived.

Summerhill and West End houses are priced, generally, in the $400,000s with the usual outliers – in Summerhill, $2.5 million for a house valued at $167,600 by Fulton County, which is sited on a lot that could be subdivided; in West End, $225,000 for a vacant lot zoned for one house, according to postings this weekend on redfin.com.

The rate of redevelopment in the corridor is so fast that the Atlanta chapter of the Urban Land Institute plans to devote the 90-minute program at this month’s meeting to a presentation and discussion titled, “From Summerhill to West End: The Convergence of Growth and Responsible Development.”

This is how ULI-Atlanta leaders view the corridor:

west end, warning sign

West End’s commercial district is said to be on the brink of redevelopment, which heralds significant changes for existing residents. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

  • “Over the past three years, the neighborhoods bounded by I-20 and the southside Atlanta BeltLine trail have become ground zero for market-changing development.
  • “Chosewood Park [adjanct to Summerhill’s southern border] has become the setting for dense BeltLine driven multi-family development with over 2,600 class A units in planning or completion.
  • “The West End has become the destination for breweries, distilleries, experiential retail, and creative flex uses with Lee + White and the MET.
  • “The Summerhill neighborhood is the redevelopment of the area surrounding the former Turner Field.”

Transit routes planned in these areas include Summerhill’s bus rapid transit system. The route is to link the Summerhill neighborhood and the Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside Trail, with MARTA’s Five Points Station. Buses are to travel in lanes exclusive to their use and stop less frequently than traditional buses.

Historic West End is to be served by two projects. Both are slated to be open by 2034. The first to open, in 2032, is the extension of the Atlanta Streetcar from a Downtown rail station to the Atlanta BeltLine. The second, slated to open in 2034, is the BeltLine light rail line that’s to connect MARTA’s Oakland City Station to Westview Drive, near I-20.

The CIP budget includes detailed timelines for other MARTA expansion programs. MARTA has identified two of them as potential recipients of funding through the Biden administration’s pending infrastructure bill.

The two projects are eligible because they have local matching funds to draw down federal funding, and they are approaching the ready-to-build stage, according to MARTA.

MARTA’s expansion projects in Atlanta are outlined in the Capital Improvement Program budget approved by MARTA’s board of directors. (Image courtesy of MARTA)

(Photo by Kelly Jordan)

(Photo by Kelly Jordan)

(Photo by Kelly Jordan)

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. Dana Blankenhorn September 7, 2021 10:04 am

    The hardest thing to do in Atlanta right now is get between the east side and the west side. You either go through Midtown or find a way around it. These plans don’t do much for that. You’re still sitting at the West Lake or Ashby stations waiting for a bus that only comes every hour. What’s worse is that right now the West Side isn’t MARTA friendly at all. You need a car to get around up there.

    What you’re building is routes to nowhere, within a residential corridor that doesn’t attach the workforce to the workplace. As usual, you’re doing what developers want instead of what people need.Report


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