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Posts from the "Atlanta" Category

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A New Bike Network Takes Shape, and Atlantans Turn Out in Droves

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

The capital of the New South is working on its latest “highway” network. This one is going to be a lot quieter.

The massive Beltline trail and an impressive grid of protected lanes that will connect the trail system to key urban destinations are poised to remake transportation in the city that anchors the country’s ninth-largest metro area. Striving for Mayor Kasim Reed’s goal of making Atlanta one of the country’s top ten cities for biking, Atlantans have shown their enthusiasm with their feet: An estimated 95,000 to 106,000 people attended the open-streets event Atlanta Streets Alive on September 28 — shattering the previous record by at least 12,000 people.

For comparison’s sake, Portland’s Sunday Parkways festivals also set an attendance record in 2014 — by drawing 109,000 attendees to all five events combined.

As the video above shows, Atlanta’s embrace of open streets is part of a bigger shift in a city that’s shaking off its old “Sprawlville, USA” image with a combination of new housing and bike and transit infrastructure.

“It’s really shifting the way people think about living in the City of Atlanta,” says Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “The focus is on the core of the city.”

You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

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The 10 Best and Worst Cities to Catch a Bus to Work

This chart shows the number of jobs accessible by transit in Atlanta. Red indicates better accessibility by transit. Image: University of Minnesota

This map shows the number of jobs accessible by transit from a given point. Few parts of Atlanta have good transit accessibility compared to the nation’s top performing cities. Map: University of Minnesota

It’s been called “the geography of opportunity.” And David Levinson is trying to make a science of it.

In a new analysis, Levinson, a University of Minnesota transportation engineering professor, and his colleague Andrew Owen have ranked the 50 largest U.S. metro areas based on job accessibility by transit [PDF].

Levinson and Owen used transit schedules and walking routes to chart how many jobs are accessible in each region from a given point within a given amount of time. Adding Census data about where people reside, they were able to calculate the number of jobs the average worker in each region can reach via transit within 10-minute intervals. The rankings are based on those stats — the more jobs a typical resident can reach via transit in a short amount of time, the higher a region performed.

This chart shows job accessibility by 10-minute intervals for the Charlotte region. Image: University of Minnesota

This chart shows the number of jobs accessible via transit for an average worker in the Charlotte region, within 10-minute intervals of travel time. Graph: University of Minnesota

The top 10 cities for job accessibility by transit, according to Owen and Levinson, align fairly well with what you would expect:

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Wowza: Scale Maps of Barcelona and Atlanta Show the Waste of Sprawl

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This graphic was created by Alain Bertaud, a senior researcher at NYU’s Stern Urbanization Project. He was formerly principal urban planner for the World Bank. Part of his work has focused on comparing densities of world cities.

In this stunning comparison of metro Atlanta and Barcelona, you can see that the two regions have almost the same population. Barcelona is actually a little bit bigger in that respect. They also have a roughly similar total length of rail transit: Barcelona has 99 miles of rail lines to Atlanta’s 74. But the living patterns couldn’t be more different. Atlantans are just way, way more spread out. In fact, the urbanized area of Atlanta is 26.5 times that of Barcelona. That has an enormous impact on the usefulness of the transit systems, Bertaud explains:

Urban densities are not trivial, they severely limit the transport mode choice and change only very slowly. Because of the large differences in densities between Atlanta and Barcelona about the same length of metro line is accessible to 60% of the population in Barcelona but only 4% in Atlanta. The low density of Atlanta render this city improper for rail transit.

Bertaud counts “accessible” as within one-third of a mile of a rail transit station.

Bertaud’s comparison focuses mainly on how low-density development affects one aspect of city life: the efficiency of transit. But there are many, many other ways Atlanta’s spread out nature produces waste, inefficiency, and high costs. Atlanta’s sprawling scale means it needs roads, utilities, and public services that cover 26.5 times as great an area as Barcelona’s public infrastructure and services do. And it means individual people must travel farther — at great personal and environmental expense — as they go about their daily lives.

h/t @joesarling and @m_clem.

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Re-imagining Parking Spaces as Micro-Apartments

These 300-square-foot micro apartments, designed by Savannah art students, were installed in Atlanta parking spaces. Photo: SCADpad.com

This 135-square-foot micro apartment was one of three designed by Savannah art students that were recently installed in an Atlanta parking garage. Photo: SCADpad.com

Can parking spaces get a second life? A student project in Atlanta helps demonstrate the possibilities in every stall.

Students at the Savannah College of Art and Design created three “SCADpads:” 135-square-foot micro-apartments designed to fit in the space defined by a single parking spot. Three prototypes for these modular homes, which cost $40-$60,000 to construct, were installed in an Atlanta garage this spring, to help model what might be a more sustainable paradigm for the city.

Each micro-apartment was designed by the students to reflect the culture of a different continent: Asia, North America, and Europe. Each was outfitted with a small kitchen, a sleeper-sofa, a bathroom, and some high-tech features like iPad-controlled “smart glass” windows that can be obscured for privacy. In addition, each apartment included a “porch” area, the size of an additional parking space, and a shared community garden that harvests “grey water” from the sink and shower.

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The Whole City of Florence Could Fit Inside an Atlanta Interchange

This is the city of Florence, Italy, and an Atlanta interchange at the same scale. Image: Steve Mouzon via Treehugger

This is Florence and an Atlanta interchange at the same scale. Image: Steve Mouzon via Treehugger

It’s incredible how much we’ve given up in the United States all so we can travel slightly faster by car. The above graphic, revived by Lloyd Alter at Network blog Treehugger this week from an old blog post by author Steve Mouzon, really makes you stop and think.

On the left is Florence, Italy — a global treasure. On the right, a nameless interchange in metro Atlanta, just about the same size. Alter says:

Florence, Italy is perhaps the most wonderful place to walk that I have ever been in. In a discussion I had recently about the city, I remembered a post architect and writer Steve Mouzon did a few years ago on the true cost of sprawl. Steve wondered why cities give up so much land that supports no retail, no residential, pays no taxes, just to move people out of town on highways. He showed this extraordinary coupling of two photographs at the same scale: one of Florence, Italy, and one of an interchange in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Why Atlanta’s Better Off Without Turner Field

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A proposal from Georgia State University and a local developer would replace Turner Field and its enormous surface parking lots (left) with mixed-use infill development (right). Images via ATLUrbanist

When the Braves announced they were leaving Atlanta for suburban Cobb County, it was interpreted in some quarters as a blow to the city, another symptom of the city’s notorious suburban sprawl.

But it looks like Atlanta might come out of this thing smelling like a field of roses. Not only did the city avoid shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the Braves, Atlanta could get a better neighborhood out of the deal as well.

Georgia State University and local developer Carter and Columbia Residential are proposing a mixed-use development on the site currently occupied by Turner Field and its enormous parking lots, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The plan calls for a large sports complex, and it doesn’t look like a great walkable street grid. But it will have a mix of uses, including academic buildings, housing, and retail. It beats an ocean of surface parking, without a doubt.

Publicly-financed stadiums are often sold to cities as an economic development boon. But Turner Field didn’t do much for the surrounding neighborhood. In a piece last July, Atlanta Magazine wrote that “outside this ballpark there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go but home” and compared the atmosphere on non-game days to a wake.

The AJC said the new development would represent a “profound investment in a stadium district that has failed to draw many businesses since the original Atlanta Stadium was built there in the 1960s.” Multiple developers had been in talks with the mayor about the site, according to the paper.

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Anthony Foxx Kicks Off Nationwide Project for Better Bike Lanes

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx praised bike infrastructure as a way to get more value out of existing U.S. streets. Photo: Green Lane Project

Staring down a highway trust fund that he described as “teetering toward insolvency” by August or September, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Monday that better bike infrastructure projects are part of the solution.

“When you have a swelling population like the USA has and will have for the next 35 years, one of the most cost-effective ways to better fit that population is to better use the existing grid,” Foxx said.

Foxx made his comments to a gathering in Indianapolis of urban transportation experts from around the country, welcoming six new cities into the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project, a two-year program kicking off Tuesday that will help the cities — Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle — add modern protected bike lanes to their streets.

“I know you are the vanguard in many was of these issues, and we at U.S. DOT want to do everything we can to be supportive,” Foxx told the crowd.

PeopleForBikes Vice President for Local Innovation Martha Roskowski singled out Indianapolis, the host city, as a particularly bright light in the constellation of towns using using curbs, planters, parked cars or posts to create low-stress streets by separating bike and auto traffic.

“This city is on fire,” Roskowski said. “You look at the Cultural Trail, you look at the other projects in the works. … You don’t really know that you’re at a tipping point until later.”

Roskowski praised Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, for six years at the front of an Indianapolis transformation that has seen the city use better bike infrastructure “to be resilient, to be sustainable, to be competitive and to beautiful.”

“Five years from now we’re going to look back and say, we really changed how we thought about transportation in America,” Roskowski said. “Yes, we’re all going to drive cars still. But there are other elements to transportation.”

Six focus cities

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Parking Madness: Detroit vs. Atlanta

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Yesterday, Chicago’s United Center parking lots bested Denver’s Court Place parking crater in the first match-up of Parking Madness 2014. Today, two heavyweights are facing off: It’s the motor city versus sprawl city in a bare-knuckle brawl of car infrastructure run amok.

Without further ado, here’s the Detroit entry. Warning: This could get ugly.

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This picture really needs no further elaboration. Submitter Gerald Fittipaldi says these lots are only used infrequently, during sporting events, and that there’s potential here for mixed-use development.

On to Atlanta:

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Green Lane Project Picks Six New Cities to Make Big Progress on Bikeways

Austin, Texas, built this beauty of a bike lane by the University of Texas campus while it was participating in round one of the Green Lane Project. Photo: The Green Lane Project

More than 100 cities applied for the second round of the Green Lane Project, the program that helps cities build better bike infrastructure, including protected lanes.

People for Bikes, which runs the program, announced its selections for round two today: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.

“The selected cities have ambitious goals and a vision for bicycling supported by their elected officials and communities,” said Martha Roskowski of People for Bikes. “They are poised to get projects on the ground quickly and will serve as excellent examples for other interested cities.”

Several of this year’s choices already have good wins under their belts. Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Seattle had protected bike lanes on People for Bikes’ list of the country’s ten best new protected bike lanes last year. And Pittsburgh, with its star urbanist mayor, seems poised to make big strides.

Beginning in April, the selected cities will receive expert assistance, training, and support over a two year period to build safe, comfortable protected bike infrastructure.

During the first two years of the Green Lane Project, the number of protected bike lanes in the country nearly doubled from 80 to 142, People for Bikes reports. More than half of those new lanes were in its six first-round focus cities: San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Memphis, Austin, and Washington.

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State Farm Opts for Atlanta Transit Over Sprawl

Massive new development in Atlanta will be walkable and convenient to transit. Image: Business Chronicle

State Farm’s massive new office and retail development in Atlanta will be right next to the train. Image: Business Chronicle

It was a major coup for the Atlanta region when State Farm announced yesterday locate one of its three national hubs there, a move that will bring 3,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. But what really makes this news interesting is that State Farm chose to put its new campus right next to a transit station.

The insurance giant will eventually house a total of 8,000 employees at a truly massive mixed-use development connected to a MARTA rail station. Developer KDC is planning a 2.2 million square-foot project at a 17-acre site by the Dunwoody MARTA station near Perimeter Mall. The development will include 585,000 square feet of office space for the initial lease to State Farm, which plans to expand, as well as 100,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space and a 200-room hotel, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

State Farm and KDC touted the transit connection in announcing the arrangement. “KDC is excited to continue our relationship with State Farm through the creation of a transit-oriented development in Dunwoody,” KDC’s Larry Wilson said in the press release. “This project will provide State Farm’s work force a continued platform for success with direct access to a true live-work-play environment and a MARTA station.”

Charlie Harper at Georgia politics blog Peach Pundit said the announcement gives Atlanta something to celebrate at a time when concerns about the regional economy have been growing:

State Farm is bringing the state 3,000 jobs. By choosing to develop a campus adjacent to an existing MARTA station, they’re likely bringing less than 3,000 new commuters for the region’s roads. Sounds like a win-win.

State Farm examined sites along major highways to the north of the city before settling on the Dunwoody location, according to the Business Chronicle. The company also houses its Dallas hub in an enormous mixed-use development.