Red Hot Links! Recent news items on Atlanta urban shtuff11/14/2014
Here are a few article I’ve linked to on Twitter recently that are related to urbanism in Atlanta. Read up! The news about new bike infrastructure is particularly exciting to me. Economic/racial divide, not so much. 
NEW BICYCLE INFRASTRUCTUREWork will begin soon on $400k worth of new bicycle infrastructure in Midtown & Downtown Atlanta, including an extension of the 10th Street cycle track.
TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENTProposals are requested for MARTA’s Brookhaven Station, to turn 1,416 underused parking spaces into a mixed-use development.
ECONOMIC DIVIDEThe recovery divide — Metro Atlanta’s home prices are up 14% over the last year, but minority suburbs (like Riverdale) remain underwater.
DEFYING THE PARKING APOCALYPSEAtlanta’s Castleberry Hill fights a proposal to allow almost 10 neighboring blocks to become surface parking for the Falcon’s stadium.
(My photo above: low clouds over Downtown ATL, from Five Points MARTA)

Red Hot Links! Recent news items on Atlanta urban shtuff
11/14/2014

Here are a few article I’ve linked to on Twitter recently that are related to urbanism in Atlanta. Read up! The news about new bike infrastructure is particularly exciting to me. Economic/racial divide, not so much.

(My photo above: low clouds over Downtown ATL, from Five Points MARTA)

Parking in the bike lane. Please stop.
via andishehnouraee:

Parking in the bike lane forces cyclists into traffic. Please don’t park in the bike lane. Also, it’s illegal, but the first reason is better.

At this point I’m starting to give up hope that anyone in Atlanta is going to enforce the rules and actually ticket cars parked in bicycle lanes (has anyone actually seen bike-lane parkers get a ticket? I have not). The lane on Auburn Avenue, a block north of the above photo’s location, is regularly blocked by people using it as free parking.
And so I’ll join Andisheh here and make a plea to drivers for some courtesy — please don’t park in the bike lanes. My family actually uses this very lane pictured above, on Edgewood Avenue.

Parking in the bike lane. Please stop.

via andishehnouraee:

Parking in the bike lane forces cyclists into traffic. Please don’t park in the bike lane. Also, it’s illegal, but the first reason is better.

At this point I’m starting to give up hope that anyone in Atlanta is going to enforce the rules and actually ticket cars parked in bicycle lanes (has anyone actually seen bike-lane parkers get a ticket? I have not). The lane on Auburn Avenue, a block north of the above photo’s location, is regularly blocked by people using it as free parking.

And so I’ll join Andisheh here and make a plea to drivers for some courtesy — please don’t park in the bike lanes. My family actually uses this very lane pictured above, on Edgewood Avenue.

"Surface parking lots are the lowest common denominator in a city – a visual eyesore that suggests there are no signs of life and activity in an area…We as a city should be getting rid of all our surface parking lots and replacing them with vibrant activities – places where people live, work, shop, eat, play and enjoy nature."

Castleberry Hill opposes ‘park-for-hire’ surface parking lots around stadium | Saporta Report, 8/11/14

Is a walkable built environment a civil right?

As we see often in Atlanta’s real estate market, the newest examples of what I call “good urbanism” are often beyond the affordability range for low-income people. It’s a conundrum: compact, walkable developments near transit and other amenities tend to have high housing costs.

At least as first…

Think about this: the old “drive until you qualify” idea usually entails going away from the more walkable places and into car-centric, sprawling suburbs to find the most affordable housing; which is convenient for those who have cars. But as Rebecca Burns found out in a report this year on the growing level of low-income people in Metro Atlanta’s suburbs, an increasing number of residents there can’t afford a car; they instead depend on what little transit and pedestrian infrastructure exists.

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A recent article in Time also covered the issue:

Poverty in the U.S. has worsened in neighborhoods already considered to be poor, but it’s now becoming more prevalent in the nation’s suburbs, according to the Brookings report.

Is it time to think of walkability as a civil right? As a kind of social justice issue regarding mobility options for those who can’t drive?

When we build car-sprawl for the middle-class car owners of today, we’re also building environments that will be eventually devalued by the common trends of the real estate market and that will likely be housing the low-income populations of the future.

A new article in Governing, on the way poor neighborhoods in the US  are experiencing the greatest rate of pedestrian deaths, mentions Metro Atlanta’s Buford highway as an example:

Brookhaven, Ga., is a well-to-do suburb on the northeast perimeter of Atlanta….Many of Brookhaven’s residents are educated and well-off, but parts of the city have undergone a demographic transformation in recent years. Over the past two decades, the city’s southernmost neighborhood saw an influx of lower-income residents, particularly Hispanics. Many live in apartment complexes along Buford Highway, a thoroughfare that ranks among the nation’s deadliest…With seven lanes of traffic and a 45 mph speed limit, motorists don’t slow down. Much of the highway is dimly lit and doesn’t have sidewalks.

The birth of car-centric suburban subdivisions was tied closely to the concept of exclusion — using zoning laws to establish enclaves for middle-class and wealthy home owner (read this excerpt from Ben Ross’ “Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism” for a good exploration of that subject).

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Exclusionary zoning was a tactic that worked well (for a while, anyway), keeping low-income people separated from many suburban subdivisions. But generations later, poor populations — often the ones most in need of pedestrian infrastructure — have shifted into now-devalued suburban homes that were not built for pedestrian and mass-transit mobility. And  long-time residents who are aging in place are now experiencing these car-dependent environments in a very different way as they begin to lose the ability to drive themselves.

It may be time to turn the tables on the exclusionary zoning ideas of the 20th century. Instead of the old practice of preventing pedestrian-focused, low-income housing and mixed-use developments from being built within car-sprawl, it might be time now to exclude car-centric forms from our development patterns. 

Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill and the railroad tracks

Sights from a walk to Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill today. The neighborhood is separated from Downtown Atlanta by freight rail routes and by the mass of underused property we call The Gulch.

Being on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s a good history of Castleberry Hill on the National Park Service website. Here’s a quote from that site about the district:

Growing alongside the Central of Georgia / Southern Railroad tracks from the 1890s to the 1930s…It is the only remaining collection of railroad service and distribution buildings that document the roots of Atlanta’s beginnings as a railroad town.

The district suffered the same abandonment and disinvestment that neighboring Downtown areas did in the suburban flight era of the mid-20th century. Its fortunes began to turn in the 1980s-90s as the old warehouse buildings were converted to residential apartments. You can read a nice 1996 piece from the AJC about those loft conversions here.

We walked here this morning to have breakfast at the wonderful Adios Cafe (try the blue corn pancakes…so good). It’s cool to pause on the bridge over the rail tracks and to consider the way this rail infrastructure shaped so much of the historic center of the city; and I like that we have some old buildings like these left from Atlanta’s rail-centered past. 

[BTW, that Terminal Box above, found at the corner of Haynes and Peters Streets, was long ago used by fire fighters to call for backup during emergencies via a telegraph system — a very nice artifact to have hanging around.]

The calm, clear air in Downtown Atlanta tonight after a thunderstorm

The calm, clear air in Downtown Atlanta tonight after a thunderstorm

Tags: atlanta

"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