Atlanta as seen from the east-bound MARTA train this morning.

Atlanta as seen from the east-bound MARTA train this morning.

Creative Placemaking & Tactical Urbanism Sought for Downtown MARTA Stations

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Approaching Atlanta’s Five Points MARTA station, above, from the west or south is not an enjoyable experience. I enter on this side to catch the train to my office and I tend to walk with my head down to avoid seeing the bleak surroundings (the Google Street View image doesn’t do justice to the bleakness) first thing in the morning. 

In fact, the entire stretch of south Downtown, from this station to Garnett MARTA station, has long been in need of some extra TLC, a subject that was covered well by Thomas Wheatley in this 2011 article. Below is an aerial view of the stark, asphalt wasteland surrounding Garnett.

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Encouragingly, there is now an effort to improve the experience of entering both of these stations. Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District are requesting proposals from consultant firms to develop ideas for “creative placemaking and ‘tactical urbanism’ enhancements” to them. Read more here.

According to the RFP document available on the page linked above, the organizations want to find “innovative, cost-effective solutions to activate the area around and improve accessibility to the Five Points and Garnett stations.”

This comes on the heels of Midtown Alliance’s proposed enhancements to the Midtown Atlanta MARTA stations, as well as the soon-to-open pedestrian bridge for connecting to Buckhead MARTA rail and the new TOD projects elsewhere. It’s great to see city groups and the transit agency focus on improving the experience of riding and also investing in the full potential of these resources. 

The term “Tactical Urbanism” usually describes temporary improvements such as those implemented by Better Block programs — where you fix up a blighted block of commercial buildings temporarily to show what could be done with investment. See our own Brighten Up Broad Street for a good local example of tactical urbanism in action.

That could be useful at these stations, I’m sure, but I’ll assume that the main focus here is on permanent improvements, which would fall under the “Placemaking” umbrella. A combination of permanent and temporary improvements could be a big boost for the stations and the overall area.

The case of the disappearing parking lots: MARTA’s TOD projects

MARTA’s new transit-oriented development director, Amanda Rhein,talks about Atlanta’s upcoming TOD projects with Atlanta Magazine. King Memorial Station’s development could start construction early 2015! I’ll be happy to see these parking lots disappear and become walkable, transit-connected communities.

Here are the three TODs that have been announced:

1. Avondale Station

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"The developer will transform the 6.6 acre parking lot south of the station into a mixed-use, transit-oriented development. The plans call for 604 apartment units, 74 condos and 25,000 square feet of retail…"
Read more here…

2. King Memorial Station

"Walton Communities plans 386 apartments and 13,000-square feet of retail on about four acres next to King Memorial on Decatur Street, near Georgia State University, Oakland Cemetery and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site."
Read more here…

3. Edgewood/Candler Park Station

"The transit agency recently announced it was seeking proposals to develop its parking lot on the southern side of the Edgewood/Candler Park station."
Read more here…

These projects, put together with the development along the Atlanta Beltline and the exciting things happening Downtown along the streetcar route, have the ability to help transform intown Atlanta into a place that grows primarily on alternative-transportation lines rather than in a car-centric way. Good urbanism.

415,000 — that’s the number of MARTA trips taken on an average weekday in 2013, bus & rail combined. This is according to a ridership report released this week from the American Public Transportation Association.
For perspective on that trip count, here are some other transportation numbers for Atlanta (from Wikipedia):
Hartsfield/Jackson Airport: 260,000 passengers per day
Downtown I-75/85 Connector: 272,000 vehicles per day
Photo from Flickr user Escriteur

415,000 — that’s the number of MARTA trips taken on an average weekday in 2013, bus & rail combined. This is according to a ridership report released this week from the American Public Transportation Association.

For perspective on that trip count, here are some other transportation numbers for Atlanta (from Wikipedia):

  • Hartsfield/Jackson Airport: 260,000 passengers per day
  • Downtown I-75/85 Connector: 272,000 vehicles per day

Photo from Flickr user Escriteur

Buckhead MARTA Station, Atlanta

I made a rookie mistake this morning and caught the wrong northbound train, so I ended up at the Buckhead MARTA station by accident.

This is a station that I don’t often see. The view from the platform is nice. And it was good to see that the new pedestrian bridge to the station over Highway 400 is finally nearing completion (it was previously scheduled to open three months ago).

MARTA expansion could connect more minorities with jobs

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A writer at the Virginia Policy review takes a look at the way race shaped the coverage area of MARTA, and how a proposed new line could help connect minorities to employment opportunities in suburban job centers: MARTA Offers Equality a Seat on the Bus

Here’s a quote:

MARTA’s new plan to expand their transit lines to reach North Fulton County is the first step towards ending racial discrimination in Atlanta’s railway transit system. The transit route will also provide greater access to Cobb, Gwinnett, and Forsyth County, one of Forbes’ 2013 top 10 Fastest Growing Counties in America.

The article doesn’t mention that suburban counties of metro Atlanta are much more racially diverse now than they were years ago, though I’m not sure how relevant that is given the clear segregation in the metro visible in recent mapped data.

To see how MARTA rail coverage compares with racial demographic data in the metro, compare the above rail map to this Racial Dot Map of metro Atlanta:

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Nice! Blogger believeinatl shares some maps and thoughts about what an expansion of rail transit in metro Atlanta could look like.

If MARTA inherits billions of dollars from a rich aunt someday, look out. Until then, I’d like to at least see us build up more walkable, mixed-use density around current stations and take advantage of what we’ve got. For those who don’t know, our current rail map consists of what’s in the top image minus the pink line.