Florence Italy vs. Atlanta’s I-75/I-285 Interchange

Look at Florence above… the blocks are tiny, and the streets are never much more than hairlines. From this high up in the sky, the intersections look like sharp right angles. This is because Florence was laid out for people and horses, which can turn on a dime. Cars drive on these streets today, but they drive slowly, which is far safer for the pedestrians.

The Atlanta interstates are each as wide as 2-3 blocks of Florence. The entire Duomo (the cathedral in the center of Florence that arguably began the Renaissance) could fit in one of the inner loops of the interchange, as you can clearly see. The central core of Florence, from the Duomo to the river, would fit inside the inner box of the interchange. The world was irreversibly changed by the people living and working in Florence who gave birth to the Renaissance. The interchange will never change the world… at best, it gets a small fraction of Atlanta workers to their jobs a bit sooner, barring any accidents.

— Excerpt from The Price of Speed on BetterCities.net

The one quibble I have is with this: “it gets a small fraction of Atlanta workers to their jobs.” I’ll wager it’s more than a small fraction (unsubstantiated hyperbole never helps your arguments, kids). But otherwise I think this a great illustration of the wasteful, car-centric land use we have in much of the Atlanta metro.

This interchange area was once beautiful wetlands and Chattahoochee River-side forest. Now it’s a place where the land area is suited mostly for car traffic and parking. It’s neither an efficient & beautiful built environment for humans nor a natural habitat for the native ecosystem. We’ve got too many acres in the metro that can be described that way and it needs to change for a more sustainable future.

[To be fair to Atlanta, though — all those terracotta roofs make Florence look a bit like a skin rash at this distance. Just sayin’.]