Atlanta Beltline

Authors: Georgia Tech - Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Catherine L. Ross, Ph.D.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

The proposed Atlanta Beltline transit station.
Transit opportunities provide users with more opportunities for physical activity, thereby decreasing the risk of chronic diseases.

Completion Date: May 2007

HIA Report: Atlanta Beltline Health Impact Assessment

Summary of the HIA

Proposed Policy or Project

The Atlanta BeltLine is a transit, trails, parks and redevelopment project that uses a 22-mile loop of largely abandoned freight rail line that lies between two and four miles from the city center. It will affect approximately 45 neighborhoods, touching all council districts in the City of Atlanta. The BeltLine will result in improvements to 700 acres of existing parks and the addition of 1,300 acres of new greenspace and parks. The BeltLine vision includes 33 miles of new multi-use trails connecting 40 parks and a 22-mile loop of rail transit service, with an anticipated daily ridership of over 73,000.

Background and Policy Context

"An emerging body of research suggests a linkage between the characteristics of the built environment and human health outcomes, such as respiratory and cardiovascular health, fatal and non-fatal injuries, physical fitness, obesity, mental health , and social capital.[ref] Although causality is not conclusively proven, there is sufficient evidence linking elements of the built environment and health to warrant inclusion of health considerations in project and policy decisions. [ref] As such, there is reason to believe that the BeltLine, which will directly affect over 6,500 acres of the city, will play a role in the future health of the people who live, work, play, and go to school near it. A well-designed BeltLine project can encourage healthy behaviors by providing people with the infrastructure and urban design to encourage walking, biking, and transit as viable transportation options; by providing parks and trails for physical activity and social interaction; and by locating jobs and services. The Atlanta BeltLine: Transit Feasibility White Paper Karson T (2007) Atlanta : Local Initiative Combines with National Support. The Journal of Labor and Society. (10): 27–45

Scope and Methods

A multidisciplinary team with expertise on issues relating to city planning, transportation, land use, economic development, environment management, public policy, and public health convened to conduct the HIA. The team utilized the Atlanta Development Authority’s BeltLine Redevelopment Plan as the basis for the HIA. It provided a framework for the parks, trails, transit, and redevelopment components of the BeltLine. To characterize the health status of the population currently living within the BeltLine study area, mortality data were examined for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, homicide, motor vehicle accidents, suicide, HIV, and influenza and pneumonia. The team used a multifaceted approach to identify the key issues associated with the BeltLine that have the potential to impact public health. Using content analysis of over three years of newspaper articles, a public survey, literature review, and professional expertise the research team identified several critical issues that have the potential to impact the health of the study area population. These included access to amenities, goods, and services; opportunities for physical activity; social capital; safety; and environmental issues as air quality, water management, noise, and brownfields. The team researched and conducted analyses on these topics.

Summary of Findings

Overall, the BeltLine is expected to have a largely positive impact of the health of Atlantans. Quantitative modeling in the HIA estimates increases in physical activity, and improved access to greenspace and transit, with associated increases in social equity and quality of life. Nonquantitve results suggest decreases in injury and crime. No net change in air pollution levels is expected. Based on these findings the authors recommend (1) accelerating implementation of the project in order to maximize health benefits, (2) adding a health professional to the advisory board, (3) adding more parks to under-served areas, (4) assuromg adequate affordable housing is built.

Background Reports


Catherine L. Ross, Ph.D

Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development
760 Spring Street, Suite 213

(404) 385-5133