"The transportation dinosaurs of the 20th century love to substantiate their insatiable thirst for new highway capacity for two primary reasons: congestion relief and economic growth. However, highway capacity does neither. In fact…new highway capacity very well might actually hinder these things."

What exactly do you do here? | Walkable DFW

sigitkusumawijaya:

The existence of kids in public space is important. They are the indicator of great public space of a city.
‪#‎urbanism‬ ‪#‎publicspace‬


I’m biased as a Downtown dad of course, but this is very true in our experience.
I generally don’t care for the phrase “urban pioneer” because I think it gets used too often in a pro-gentrification or affluence-biased kind of way. But I think it fits fairly well in our situation in Downtown Atlanta, since we’re pretty unique in having a school aged child here. 

The spot where we live, Fairlie-Poplar went for many decades during the 20th century without having a significant residential population (if any at all). But as a commercial district it was built in an era before automobile dominance to be accommodating to pedestrians and public transportation. It’s resulted in a walkable street grid with good sidewalks. A perfect set of amenities for a family on their way to the park or anywhere else.

sigitkusumawijaya:

The existence of kids in public space is important. They are the indicator of great public space of a city.

‪#‎urbanism‬ ‪#‎publicspace‬

I’m biased as a Downtown dad of course, but this is very true in our experience.

I generally don’t care for the phrase “urban pioneer” because I think it gets used too often in a pro-gentrification or affluence-biased kind of way. But I think it fits fairly well in our situation in Downtown Atlanta, since we’re pretty unique in having a school aged child here.

The spot where we live, Fairlie-Poplar went for many decades during the 20th century without having a significant residential population (if any at all). But as a commercial district it was built in an era before automobile dominance to be accommodating to pedestrians and public transportation. It’s resulted in a walkable street grid with good sidewalks. A perfect set of amenities for a family on their way to the park or anywhere else.

(via humanscalecities)

From Chamblee to Atlanta on a train. A few shots from my ride & walk home tonight. The Chamblee MARTA station, the rear view from the train, and a couple of pics of Peachtree Street during the walk to my downtown home.

A parking apocalypse on Ellis Street, Downtown Atlanta

Thanks much to Janet for sending these great and thoroughly depressing photos. I posted a while ago about the plan to demolish two buildings on Ellis Street in Downtown Atlanta to make way for new surface parking spaces for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. 

The demolition has started and now we can see that the new surface lot will have a central location inside a ring of — parking decks.

Here’s a side photo showing the demolition with two enormous decks in the background (in light blue).

image

And here’s the jaw-dropping view from above. I’ve shaded the Legal Aid Society building in pink but I didn’t bother to shade the parking infrastructure because, from this view, that’s all you can see.

To be clear: in the photo below, everything but the Legal Aid Society building is either a parking deck, surface parking or car lanes. Auto parkalypse 2014 in Atlanta.

image

Normally, new parking lots aren’t allowed here, but the city granted a variance to allow this one by request, for the use of employees of the Legal Aid Society. Even though, as can clearly be seen in the above photo taken in the middle of a weekday afternoon, there is plenty of unused parking capacity all around. And two MARTA station entrances are a stone’s throw away.

There are some truly good ideas in the recently-released report on public parking Downtown, with recommendations for reducing single-car use and making good use of existing public lots. But when it comes to private parking lots like this, Atlanta is in need of clear goals moving forward — ones that fall in line with best practices in good urban design, with pedestrian, transit and cycling mobility given a more prominent place.

Non-profit organizations, bloggers, advocates — we can only do so much by ourselves. We need the decision makers in office to be on our side. From where I stand, it looks like city government needs better leadership when it comes to creating sustainable, livable urban places. This is a shameful situation.

Report released on parking in Downtown Atlanta

image

Central Atlanta Progress, a nonprofit corporation of Atlanta business leaders, has released the documents from a recent assessment of Downtown Atlanta parking. They include reports on the existing parking situation and recommendations for “improving the customer parking experience in Downtown Atlanta.”

As someone who has railed against the amount of land space taken by parking infrastructure Downtown and the car-centric built environments that brought the lots and decks into existence, I knew that reading these reports could be hazardous to my mental health. But I felt compelled. 

image

It wasn’t as painful as it could have been. The first sting was felt when I read this nugget from the report:

A person’s first and last impression of a city begins and ends with parking.

Ouch! I beg to differ.

But there are also passages that promote a reduction in single-occupancy car use, which made me happy. Here’s one:

Parking management strategies recognize that providing more parking is not the only way to ensure that spaces are available. One of the most effective ways of managing parking supply is to decrease demand.

Reduced vehicle ownership can lower requirements for residential parking and prompt businesses to lease fewer parking spaces. Moreover, the data suggests that car sharing reduces vehicle miles traveled, thereby alleviating traffic congestion and improving air quality.

Sweet! Car sharing reduces solo trips. Other ways to reduce them include… also…wait. There is no ‘also’. No mention of boosting public transportation use or cycling is in the report. Mmm hmm. Reducing solo car trips starts and ends with other kinds of car use, apparently. 

Obviously, the set of documents from the parking assessment has the sole aim of improving the experience of parking for drivers. In it’s place, that’s a valid pursuit (though it still doesn’t excuse the bizarre “A person’s first and last impression of a city begins and ends with parking”).

My complaint is that the assessment seems to be happening in a silo. Judging purely from the text within these reports, I’m not sensing an overall plan that includes sensible goals for Downtown such as:

  • Encouraging new housing stock that accommodates use of alternative transportation
  • Reducing the truly soul-crushing amount of land devoted to parking here
  • Establishing the primary importance of improving the experience of walking, cycling and using transit here

Goals such as these should be front and center in the thoughts and actions of city government leaders, taking precedence over concerns about improved parking and strongly informing any initiative regarding automobile use. That they are not present in the recommendations of this report is telling.

The entire report seems to accept the continuation of the status quo of parking infrastructure Downtown as a given. It exists in a silo, set apart from concerns for boosting transit usage and cycling, improving pedestrian safety and reducing our vastly overbuilt parking infrastructure (the report even contains numbers that show how use is far below parking capacity Downtown).

The parking craters that mar Downtown’s urban fabric are problems to be corrected, not assets to be embraced, and local urbanists and neighborhood leaders have been calling the city out on this problem for years. Why are city government leaders absent in this conversation? Their voices should be strongly calling for reuse of parking-only parcels and greater use of transit and cycling.

What Atlanta lacks — and this is becoming a problem of increasing severity — is the kind of leadership that we’ve seen in LA with it’s last couple of mayors and in NYC under former transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, where you have a drive on the part city administration to create a more pedestrian and cycling focused urban environment that enhances urban livability.

Atlanta needs to work harder at being a city of strong neighborhoods that embrace the tools of good urban placemaking, with Downtown among them; accepting the status quo of parking infrastructure here and focusing primarily on the needs of motorists isn’t going to cut it, and neither is a leadership that often appears clueless on best practices in good urbanism.

EDIT: Dan Williams left a series of great comments on my Facebook post about this. I’m pasting part of one here to provide another point of view on these reports:

it is useful to make the distinctions between CAP’s [Central Atlanta Progress] work or that of other nonprofits and local gov’t— as these entities efforts are often confused for one another’s. In sum, this study just wasn’t intended to be a manifesto on best practices for use of parking facilities as it relates to urban design and development (again, those issues are obviously broader than this scope). It’s really just an attempt figure out and begin the process of addressing the concerns of the public that seems to believe that parking is biggest deterrent to spending time downtown.

A visit to Madison, Georgia

We make regular trips to historic downtown Madison, Georgia — about 60 miles east of Atlanta — to meet family. I’ve enjoyed watching it blossom over the last 10 years or so as store fronts have become filled with businesses and activity. 

The downtown commercial buildings are in excellent shape and there are a couple of nice public parks mixed in. It makes for a welcoming pedestrian experience. But during a visit today, we focused on a long walk through the residential streets immediately adjacent to downtown.

[As I mentioned in a recent post about a visit to Carrollton, I’m always impressed with any historic downtown that manages to stay connected seamlessly to homes, instead of being separated by a highway, parking infrastructure or some other pedestrian barrier.]

In addition to narrow, paved residential streets that are perfectly safe to walk along despite the lack of sidewalks in some places, Madison has a series of gravel roads in the center of town with lovely old homes (most of the city center’s homes are much more stately and grand than the rustic beauty pictured above) and horse pastures. It’s a classic small southern city.

I heartily recommend a visit — undoubtedly, this is one of the top historic downtowns of Georgia when it comes to viewing well-preserved old structures in an attractive setting that’s safe to walk around. 

"Joseph Fike, a 28-year-old logistics expert, once thought the idea of the BeltLine was far-fetched. Now he calls himself an enthusiast, walking part of the trail a couple of times each week. “I don’t think we’ll be seen as the poster child of sprawl,” he said. “We’ll be seen as a really good example of how to turn a sprawling city into a walkable city.”"

Atlanta’s Popular BeltLine Trail Still Has Miles to Go | WSJ, 8/1/2014