Broad Street at lunchtime today #Atlanta

Broad Street at lunchtime today #Atlanta

Tags: atlanta

"[Furguson] was simply the place where a flashpoint exposed the tragedy of American inner-ring suburbs, conspired against by large-scale migration and development trends…the suburban sprawl machine that created the inner-ring suburbs in the first place continues to expand, making newer, more desirable places even further from downtown."

The death of America’s suburban dream : The events in Ferguson, Missouri reveal the ‘resegregation’ of America’s once-aspirational inner suburbs, which – far from the social utopias they were meant to be – have become ethnic enclaves: white in one pocket, black in another | The Guardian, 9/5/2014

The rail transit infrastructure of Metro Atlanta: stunted by sprawl
This is a 1990 comparison of Barcelona and multi-county Metro Atlanta, showing the difference between a sprawling land use and a compact one. I posted a previous version of this image a couple of years ago, but Streetsblog has an updated version this week that includes rail transit lines in red.
From Streetsblog:

Urban densities are not trivial, they severely limit the transport mode choice and change only very slowly. Because of the large differences in densities between Atlanta and Barcelona about the same length of metro line is accessible to 60% of the population in Barcelona but only 4% in Atlanta.

When I look at this image, what I see is two things:
1.) a mass of 2.8 million people (Barcelona) in an area compact and walkable enough to be served well by transit
2.) a mass of 2.5 million people (Metro Atlanta) in an area so sprawled out and unwalkable — due to its largely car-centric form — that most of it can’t be served well by transit.
The relatively minor amount of rail transit in Metro Atlanta is, in my opinion, entirely justified. I differ with many people on this point. Without a concurrent plan for building greater densities of population in a format that accommodates safe pedestrian and cycling mobility, I don’t think that there should be an extension of rail transit in the metro. 
Rail infrastructure is incredibly expensive to build. Stretching it out into the car-centric nether regions of Metro Atlanta, where rail stations would be built into an urban fabric dominated by suburban sprawl and that offers safe travel to cars alone, would be a bad move. We’d end up with park-and-ride stations of the type that MARTA is finally getting around to undoing, via new transit-oriented-development plans to convert parking lots into housing.
And worst of all, we’d be spending public money on a transportation system that supports a sprawling, unwalkable environment. We’d be subsidizing the problem instead of offering a solution — and that would be a lateral move for the metro’s built environment when compared interstate infrastructure. We’ve already subsidized sprawl enough with our public money and I’m not eager to donate more to that cause. 
When there is a metro-wide initiative to retrofit suburban sprawl into more walkable forms via infill and rezoning — reversing the car-sprawl damage of the past — then I think it will be time for talking about rail expansion. The key is getting to a place where a significant number of people can safely walk or cycle to rail stations instead of driving to them.
[I’ll add a caveat that there are a couple of nodes of walkable density within the current radius of MARTA’s rail service area that could sensibly be served by rail stations, like Emory University; but without other nearby nodes that could be served by the same new rail line, that would be an overly-expensive expansion to make.]

The rail transit infrastructure of Metro Atlanta: stunted by sprawl

This is a 1990 comparison of Barcelona and multi-county Metro Atlanta, showing the difference between a sprawling land use and a compact one. I posted a previous version of this image a couple of years ago, but Streetsblog has an updated version this week that includes rail transit lines in red.

From Streetsblog:

Urban densities are not trivial, they severely limit the transport mode choice and change only very slowly. Because of the large differences in densities between Atlanta and Barcelona about the same length of metro line is accessible to 60% of the population in Barcelona but only 4% in Atlanta.

When I look at this image, what I see is two things:

1.) a mass of 2.8 million people (Barcelona) in an area compact and walkable enough to be served well by transit

2.) a mass of 2.5 million people (Metro Atlanta) in an area so sprawled out and unwalkable — due to its largely car-centric form — that most of it can’t be served well by transit.

The relatively minor amount of rail transit in Metro Atlanta is, in my opinion, entirely justified. I differ with many people on this point. Without a concurrent plan for building greater densities of population in a format that accommodates safe pedestrian and cycling mobility, I don’t think that there should be an extension of rail transit in the metro. 

Rail infrastructure is incredibly expensive to build. Stretching it out into the car-centric nether regions of Metro Atlanta, where rail stations would be built into an urban fabric dominated by suburban sprawl and that offers safe travel to cars alone, would be a bad move. We’d end up with park-and-ride stations of the type that MARTA is finally getting around to undoing, via new transit-oriented-development plans to convert parking lots into housing.

And worst of all, we’d be spending public money on a transportation system that supports a sprawling, unwalkable environment. We’d be subsidizing the problem instead of offering a solution — and that would be a lateral move for the metro’s built environment when compared interstate infrastructure. We’ve already subsidized sprawl enough with our public money and I’m not eager to donate more to that cause. 

When there is a metro-wide initiative to retrofit suburban sprawl into more walkable forms via infill and rezoning — reversing the car-sprawl damage of the past — then I think it will be time for talking about rail expansion. The key is getting to a place where a significant number of people can safely walk or cycle to rail stations instead of driving to them.

[I’ll add a caveat that there are a couple of nodes of walkable density within the current radius of MARTA’s rail service area that could sensibly be served by rail stations, like Emory University; but without other nearby nodes that could be served by the same new rail line, that would be an overly-expensive expansion to make.]

Weather is so gloomy this evening. Here’s a blue sky pic from a few days ago to remind us of what Atlanta looks like in the sun.

Weather is so gloomy this evening. Here’s a blue sky pic from a few days ago to remind us of what Atlanta looks like in the sun.

Tags: atlanta

The Portman Zone, Downtown Atlanta: great for looking up, not so much when looking down

Along the Peachtree Street corridor in the historic center of Atlanta, there’s a large block of prominent buildings from architect John Portman. Built during the late 1960s through the 1980s, the collection includes iconic towers that help to define the downtown skyline. His work is credited by some as having revitalized a struggling district after the disinvestment that followed the suburban-flight frenzy in the 1960s-70s.

When you’re in the midst of the Portman Zone, you can look up and see some great building-top views — and they make for a nice skyline. But at the street level, many of them are dead. Blank walls, loading docks, and a lack of retail spaces make the experience of walking past some of these building bottoms a bore and leave the streets lacking in good urban activity.

To add insult to injury, the network of Portman buildings is connected with pedestrian bridges — aka ‘gerbil tubes’ — that further reduce activity by removing people from the ground. These tubes were popular in many cities during the 1970s-80s urban-renewal era, allowing office workers to bypass the sidewalks. They might be convenient in rainy weather, but they make for lifeless streetscapes, lifting people away from view and giving street level activity almost completely, in some spots, over to cars (see above, bottom pic).

You’d think that as a society we’d have learned a lesson in good urban place-making and moved on past this era. You’d be wrong: there’s a proposal to build a new gerbil tube between two Portman buildings on West Peachtree. The dream of the 1970s is alive in 2014.

Beautiful clouds this morning, Downtown Atlanta

Beautiful clouds this morning, Downtown Atlanta

Tags: atlanta

Autumn leaves falling in Piedmont Park today despite the very summery heat and humidity #Atlanta

Autumn leaves falling in Piedmont Park today despite the very summery heat and humidity #Atlanta