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Atlanta Beltline

The Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile loop of former railroad tracks surrounding central Atlanta that will be the basis of a new tram system that will expand the coverage of the current MARTA system. The challenge was to develop a wayfinding program that integrates the two transit systems and to provide Atlantans with the information they need to take advantage of the new program.

This was a personal project created for my graduate thesis at Georgia State University. I created all aspects of this project – maps, street furniture, 3D models, wayfinding plans, and branding. I’d like to do more of this in the future.

Role : MFA Student – Georgia State University
Beltline Logo

The logo was intended to show how the Beltline would weave together with the MARTA system.

The System

The Atlanta Beltline project was conceived by a Georgia Tech graduate student when a professor recommended that he look into a 22-mile loop of tracks encircling central Atlanta. His project was to design a tram system that would provide another option for public transit and to create a new set of parks, trails and other public spaces to enrich the lives of Atlantans.

My belief was that the Beltline provided the missing link to Atlanta’s potential for providing a worthy public transit alternative to it’s huge population. My goal was to create a wayfinding system for the Beltline that could both link to the MARTA, and also legitimize pedestrian commuting with maps and and other devices.

Unified Transit System

Many public transit systems around the world provide a train line that loops around the inner-city that connects the other incoming lines. This helps commuters by providing a way to travel around the city without having to go all the way to a central terminus and then transfer. This reduces travel times by creating a short cut between lines, and the Beltline would provide this opportunity to the MARTA. When I created the station map, it was important to represent the utility of the the new “circle” line.

Train System Map (Beltline and MARTA)

A key device for connecting the Beltline to the MARTA was to create unified map that shows how both transit systems can work seamlessly. To maintain familiarity with MARTA customers, the shape of the original blue and orange routes remained similar, while the Beltline loop was added. The proportional size of central Atlanta was increased to give greater emphasis on inner city transit.

Pedestrian Map based on a 30 minute walking time

A primary goal of the wayfinding program was to educate residents on the walkability of Atlanta. A blueprint for a series of maps was created to showcase the walkable areas of Atlanta. The area on the maps represents a distance that would take an average person 30 minutes to walk.

The maps were designed to be placed on a kiosk that would be distributed around central Atlanta. On the kiosk, the user would find a legend with all the streets and landmarks in the local vicinity.

Full Walking Map

As an aid for understanding the walkability of Atlanta, the maps were illustrated in such a way as to give a visual understanding of how the local area is designed.  Atlanta is a conventional American city where there can be a distinct separation between urban and residential areas. Each area type on the map has a distinct visual appearance, which allows users to dramatically improve their commuting plans. For example, the user should find it easier to stay on major streets in more urban areas, rather than cutting through residential neighborhoods.

Bus Post

To further enhance commuting in Atlanta, it would be useful to also show users how the MARTA bus system connects to the Beltline and MARTA train lines.  At the time, the bus system only used a simple post with a transit number to indicate a bus stop.

It would be beneficial to users to know where the bus is going and how frequently it arrives at the stop. I designed a new bus stop post that shows the bus routes, transit connections along the routes, and bus arrival times.

Directional Post

One last additional sign post was created to help users find their way. A series of tall directional posts were used to provide wayfinding assistance to areas where the map kiosks were unlikely to be placed.

These slim posts were meant to fill in the gaps between 30-Minute Map kiosks. The posts simply directed users to popular local destinations, but didn’t provide any other type of local orientation content.