"Paving decisions" in Atlanta

The top image is taken from a 1919 aerial map of Atlanta, at the intersection of Trinity Avenue and Forsyth Street. It’s typical of the compact land use of pre-automobile cities. The bottom photo shows what we have in that spot today.

I shaded in blue what is pretty much the only set of structures left intact after the surroundings were obliterated by the desire to build parking lots. 

How did this happen? The answer comes via a quote posted by citymaus :

In their headlong search for modernity through mobility, American urbanites made a decision to destroy the living environments of nineteenth-century neighborhoods by converting their gathering places into traffic jams, their playgrounds into motorways, and their shopping places into elongated parking lots. These paving decisions effectively made obsolete many of urban America’s older neighborhoods.

What isn’t answered in the quote is this question: why does this urban decay linger? What is preventing us from turning this transit-connected space (that’s a MARTA station on the lower right) with gridded streets into something more valuable, efficient, and uplifting for the city? 

Downtown residents have been wondering for many years, but there are no simple answers and very little initiative seems to exist in city government to find a solution. This, despite the millions of dollars that were spent to build the rail station and the great potential for revenue from transit-connected development.

Quote source: “Transforming the Use of Urban Space – Look at the Revolution in Street Pavements, 1880-1924” Journal of Urban History, 5(3)

EDIT: only after the post has been reblogged almost 100 times do I notice a typo. I originally had the map pegged as 1909. I’ve corrected it to 1919 above. Here’s the source. h/t kvnryn via reddit

Tags: atlanta

Atlanta Streetcar Construction
Here we have a streetcar platform under construction alongside Woodruff Park in Atlanta. Overhead, workers hang wires that will power the cars. And way in the background, you can just kinda see the new GSU law school under construction. Downtown on the rise.
Speaking of, streetcar director Tim Borchers spoke this week about the way that Atlanta is using Portland’s streetcar as an example. In Portland, “More than half of the city’s new development in the last decade has taken place within one block of the line; 10,000 housing units have been developed within three blocks.”
I have no expectation of Atlanta’s line seeing quite that level of success, given that we have so many competing areas of urban density in the city. But we’ll surely see some significant gains in development near the route, and I can’t wait for it to happen.

Atlanta Streetcar Construction

Here we have a streetcar platform under construction alongside Woodruff Park in Atlanta. Overhead, workers hang wires that will power the cars. And way in the background, you can just kinda see the new GSU law school under construction. Downtown on the rise.

Speaking of, streetcar director Tim Borchers spoke this week about the way that Atlanta is using Portland’s streetcar as an example. In Portland, “More than half of the city’s new development in the last decade has taken place within one block of the line; 10,000 housing units have been developed within three blocks.”

I have no expectation of Atlanta’s line seeing quite that level of success, given that we have so many competing areas of urban density in the city. But we’ll surely see some significant gains in development near the route, and I can’t wait for it to happen.

Could parking decks become platforms for new housing?

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This is such a cool project. The Atlanta location of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) has completed three prototype housing units inside a parking deck in its Midtown campus and students are set to move in this month. Above is the view from one of the micro apartments, as posted on the SCAD Twitter account.

An article on Next City has the info. Here’s a quote:

The 135-square-foot micro-apartments each take up one parking space, with an additional space for use as a “terrace” (seriously!), and were designed by 75 current SCAD students, 37 alumni and 12 professors. A dozen students will move into the apartments on April 15.

Are parking decks an untapped platform for new housing? It’s an interesting concept. Studies show that parking decks nationwide are operating at half capacity, and many are centrally located in cities. It’s an idea with big potential for adaptively reusing car infrastructure for housing people in urban areas.

The drawback is zoning laws that would need to be changed to allow for permanent residences in current parking decks. These prototypes at SCAD were able to receive special zoning permits, but they won’t last long:

They aren’t, at least for now, permanent dwellings: The students will only shack up in SCADpads until June, and even then each will only stay there for a week at a time.

Nonetheless, it’s exciting to see this kind of innovation happening in Atlanta. If it gains traction and zoning hurdles can be overcome, I can suggest a buttload of often-empty parking decks downtown that could stand to be adaptively reused.

Forsyth Street, Atlanta. My street.

Forsyth Street, Atlanta. My street.

The benefit of Atlanta being a late-bloomer with bike shares

There’s a must-read article on the Atlanta Magazine website this week for any bicycling advocate in Atlanta: Six lessons Atlanta can learn from New York’s bikeshare woes : The benefit of being a late adopter is learning from others’ mistakes.

The first of the six is this:

Make sure the equipment works. File this under obvious but important. Rampant software glitches and faulty “docking stations” (rental kiosks) marred the launch of Citi Bike and frustrated many riders eager to embrace the system.
Yes to this. I was able to experience the frustration of a glitch-ridden system this week during a visit to Chattanooga, where there is an extensive bike-share program with docking stations all over the center of the city.
After seeing monthly-card-holding locals ride around on the bikes, I tried to get one myself as a daily rental. I walked all around Downtown Chattanooga to six different stations with no luck as the touch screens froze up on every one half way through the process. No bike for me.

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Atlanta is launching its own bike-share program in 2015. I’m glad to read that we’ll be using a different system for bike stations:

The good news for Atlanta is that Cycle Hop has partnered with a company called Social Bicycles to provide a more nimble technology. The booking and tracking device is fitted to the bike itself, rather than to a docking station.
New York City’s Citi Bike program has been a runaway success when it comes to annual memberships, but it has been less successful with attracting casual, one-day riders. By coincidence or not, the system is managed by the same company, Alta, behind Chattanooga’s bike share.
Let’s hope Atlanta can learn from the mistakes made elsewhere and launch a great bike share program. I think there’s a real chance it to be popular here.
From skyworldproject. Even Godzilla appreciates the walkable streets of Atlanta’s urban core.

From skyworldproject. Even Godzilla appreciates the walkable streets of Atlanta’s urban core.