Alternative commuting in US cities: walking rises in Atlanta

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Governing.com has an interesting report on alternative-commuting habits in US cities using census data. Apparently Atlanta (specifically the city, not the whole metro) made the fourth biggest leap in the country with the percentage of commuters who walk to work, between 2007 and 2012. 

The report defines an “alternative” commute as one that involves anything other than a personal automobile.

Some numbers for the City of Atlanta:

  • 5.9% of commuting is done by walking.
  • 10.6% of commuting is by public transportation
  • 2.2% is defined as “other” — bicycle, taxis, motorcycle

This means that roughly 1 in 6 commutes in the city is made with some means other than a personal automobile. Not too shabby, but I hope to see the transit and cycling numbers rise in coming years. 

One thing I don’t see in the report is any mention of multi-modal commuting. I currently use a mix of automobile and transit. And I’m not sure if my telework day qualifies as walking to work or not.

The report also doesn’t address desire. I desire a situation where I could always commute without an automobile. On the other end of the spectrum, I know there are people out there who make an arduous walking or transit commute because they can’t afford a car, but they would prefer to drive to work (or else they would prefer to live closer to work in affordable housing — that doesn’t currently exist — near their job). 

h/t PEDS

Census: City of Atlanta ranks 15th in bike/walk/transit commuting

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According to the US Census’ “American Community Survey” data from 2012, the City of Atlanta (emphasis - the city, not the full metro) ranks 15th in the US among large cities when it comes to commuting by bicycle/walking/transit. See more US data here.

Initially, this may not sound impressive given that MARTA ridership puts the system 8th nationally. But consider that Atlanta has a relatively low population among large US cities, where we rank 40th. And we have a relatively low density as well, barely even ranking at all (seriously, check Wikipedia; it’s sad), So this is a pretty darn good showing for us.

Also consider that our bike-commuting share strangely declined by a considerable degree in 2012. You can download the full stats here, but basically we went from having a kinda-respectable a 1.5% bike-mode share in 2011 (meaning 1.5% of commutes were made on bike) to having a not-so-respectable 0.6% share in 2012.

It’s a suspiciously unbelievable drop; nonetheless, these are the official stats used to inform the chart above.

Yes, we can and will do better as we continue to build compact, walkable places in areas served by transit and bike infrastructure. But given our handicaps, I’d say this is a pretty good ranking for our combined alternative-transportation mode share.

"Recent research out of Portland, OR, showed that cycling customers spent more per month ($75.66) than their car-driving counterparts ($68.56) at bars, restaurants and convenience stores. A 2009 study of Bloor Street in Toronto, ON, found that customers who arrive by foot and bicycle visit the most often and spend the most money per month."

— via irishboyinlondon 

(Source: buildbettercities)

European cities resist car-dependency
Pardon me as I drool after reading today’s New York Times article on European efforts to make cities easier to walk/bike in and more difficult for personal cars. The focus is on Zurich where cycling and use of public transit are more convenient than driving.
A quote:

As he stood watching a few cars inch through a mass of bicycles and  pedestrians, the city’s [Zurich] chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann, smiled.  “Driving is a stop-and-go experience,” he said. “That’s what we like!  Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it  easy for drivers.”

What are European cities hoping to gain from these efforts? Here’s a short list:
Lower carbon emissions 
Increased safety and convenience in the pedestrian experience 
More efficient use of space (“a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three”)
I certainly would never expect Atlanta to be as pedestrian oriented as an old European city like Zurich that grew and matured prior to the automobile. But I do hope this idea of re-building cities to accommodate people more so than cars catches on here. Surely there’s a middle ground between our current car-topia and Zurich’s pedestrianization (is that a real word or did I just make that up?) that a city like Atlanta could embrace.
Read the full article here and be sure to visit the slideshow to see what a city can look like when it isn’t riddled with highway-access ramps, surface parking and garages.
Photo: Christoph Bangert for The New York Times

European cities resist car-dependency

Pardon me as I drool after reading today’s New York Times article on European efforts to make cities easier to walk/bike in and more difficult for personal cars. The focus is on Zurich where cycling and use of public transit are more convenient than driving.

A quote:

As he stood watching a few cars inch through a mass of bicycles and pedestrians, the city’s [Zurich] chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann, smiled. “Driving is a stop-and-go experience,” he said. “That’s what we like! Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it easy for drivers.”

What are European cities hoping to gain from these efforts? Here’s a short list:

  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Increased safety and convenience in the pedestrian experience
  • More efficient use of space (“a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three”)

I certainly would never expect Atlanta to be as pedestrian oriented as an old European city like Zurich that grew and matured prior to the automobile. But I do hope this idea of re-building cities to accommodate people more so than cars catches on here. Surely there’s a middle ground between our current car-topia and Zurich’s pedestrianization (is that a real word or did I just make that up?) that a city like Atlanta could embrace.

Read the full article here and be sure to visit the slideshow to see what a city can look like when it isn’t riddled with highway-access ramps, surface parking and garages.

Photo: Christoph Bangert for The New York Times

downtown atl

Jeanne Bonner at Atlanta Unsheltered posted this great photo of the crowds filling the sidewalks of downtown Atlanta for Dragoncon (her full post here). She points out that one of the best things about this kind of event is just seeing so many pedestrians in Atlanta’s urban core.

I love that, too. I don’t get to see downtown during its busy 9-5, M-F time since my job takes me elsewhere. When I’m here at nights and on the weekends I end up seeing the often empty streetscapes of this northern downtown area around Peachtree Center (the area around Five Points, Underground Atlanta and elsewhere in southern downtown is much more active) where cars outnumber pedestrians. It’s great to have an event like Dragoncon or Streets Alive so that we can see the pedestrians have the upper hand.