Archive | April, 2011

Old film, new bus schedules

28 Apr

From Pattern Cities, a 1908 film shot from a Barcelona streetcar. Either Barcelona’s pedestrians and bicyclists were utterly fearless in their zeal to be in a movie, or the camera was mounted waaay out in the front of the streetcar.

Also, changes to routes and/or schedules for 25 MARTA bus routes went into effect Saturday. Toss out those old schedules. Again.


What happened at Allen Plaza, plus an ARC transportation “wish list” database

18 Apr
W and 12 hotel and residence buildings

An undeveloped parcel of land on Ivan Allen Boulevard sits in the shadow of Allen Plazas W hotel and condominium tower and Novares Twelve Centennial Park

Rachel Tobin wrote a brief but through history of downtown’s troubled Allen Plaza development for Friday’s AJC.

Developer Hal Barry summarized the events leading up to the recent foreclosure of one of the project’s buildings. It’s a story that’s become all too familiar in the last few years:

“We did well and made a lot of money…[a]nd we turned around, as risk-taker developers do, and reinvested a lot of it in operating expenses and project investments. And then the market hits you broadside.”

Also on Friday, the AJC published an overview of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s transportation “wish list,” with a database of all the prospective projects on the region’s list .

Among the items MARTA requested are a variable regional fare system (sometimes referred to as “zone fares”) , on-board security cameras for all buses, trains and paratransit vehicles, an advertising system for the agency’s 10 miles of tunnels and the establishment of a cloud computing system to assist in post-disaster recovery and service continuity.

The 436-item list, with projects totaling about $29 billion, will be pared down first by the GDOT’s planning director, then by the 21 members of the Atlanta Regional Roundtable. Voters in each of the state’s 12 regions will decide during primary elections in 2012 whether to approve a new one percent sales tax to fund their regions’ projects.

History of the Future

13 Apr
Atlanta downtown 1919

Image: The Big Map Blog

From the Big Map Blog, an interactive 1919 city map in which Atlanta’s oldest downtown buildings appear in their original context and the city’s core isn’t yet incised by the Connector.

The Flatiron Building, the Imperial Hotel, Candler Building, Hurt Building, the Capital City Club and the Healy Building, now dwarfed by their neighbors, are prominent landmarks in 92-year-old map.

Try the full-screen option, then zoom in for a much better view. H/T to AtlUrbanist.

Also, check out Atlanta’s 1946 “Highway and Transportation Plan” from Georgia Tech’s College of City and Regional Planning.  The plan  (PDF – 97 pages) is divided into sections related to increasing the efficiency of auto traffic,  improvement of parking facilities, enhancing the transit system and even the need for a passenger rail terminal downtown.

In the opening of the plan section titled “Improvement of the Transit System,” the authors wrote that 

Highway and transportation plan cover
Image: Georgia Tech Library and Information Center

“Public transportation improvements were integrated with all other phases of the study so that the large number of Atlantans using this form of travel might enjoy benefits comparable to those envisioned for motorists.”  But just a few paragraphs later comes this: “Substitution of motor or trolley buses for essentially all streetcars in Atlanta was planned by the Georgia Power Company prior to the start of our study. We have checked this policy against probable future traffic and find it wholly sound.”

Buses had proven “particularly popular with the riding public in Atlanta,” the authors wrote, “and are especially appropriate for this city because of low power costs and the hilly terrain encountered.” They also estimated that a transition from streetcars to trolley buses or motor buses would result in a 20 to 25 percent increase in transit ridership, “other factors remaining constant.”

Even with such “modernization” as switching from electric trolleys to electric or gas-powered buses, the authors were certain that “Atlanta and its traffic will grow to such proportions that subways…not only will be desirable but almost imperative.”

But the subways they envisioned weren’t steel-wheeled vehicles traveling on steel rails:  “These subways would be designed to accommodate trolley buses but otherwise would have all the characteristics of urban rapid transit subways … It is probable that by the time these subways are built it will be practicable to accommodate motor buses in them, if necessary, without excessive cost for the control of fumes.”

Finally, the planners discussed the need for a central terminal to serve the high volume of passenger rail traffic Atlanta was then known for. One of the proposed sites for the terminal was approximately where the downtown railroad gulch now lies. The authors had an ambitious vision for the proposed terminal. “The station could have 10 or more tracks,” they wrote, “with capacity for 18 to 20 passenger cars each.”

Cost projections for the terminal illustrate just how much things have changed : “The cost of the property needed for the proposed station would be approximately $150,000. The construction cost including all track work would be about $4,500,000.”  For comparison, the price tag for a proposed new Amtrak station near Atlantic Station is $39 million.

In the Wind

7 Apr

Still some lingering damage downtown from the storm Monday.

Weekly Reader

5 Apr

Suntrust towers on Peachtree and Peachtree Center Ave.

Ever read so much you nearly forget to write about it?

  • From What Now, Atlanta? : The acres of chainlink and gravel on Clifton Road north of the CDC are scheduled to re-start becoming a mixed-use project in June. “Urbanist,” a frequent WNA commenter suggested that ready-made communities like this one diminish the prospects for development in existing neighborhoods in the city. He’s suggested in the past, for example, that if the concentrated development in Atlantic Station had been spread throughout Midtown, we wouldn’t still be wondering when the vision of the “Midtown Mile” is going to come to fruition.

But putting vacant spaces in already high-density areas into service can be risky because those neighborhoods don’t offer much parking. Or, maybe not. This 2008 post from the Urbanophile suggests that parking is oversold as an obstacle to successful retail development.

  • From the AJC: The Atlanta University Center neighborhood was awarded a $250,000 grant last week by HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative program. The program’s Web site says the grants’ objective is to “transform distressed neighborhoods and public and assisted projects into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods by linking housing improvements with appropriate services, schools, public assets, transportation, and access to jobs.”


  • From The Architect’s Newspaper: Qatar plans to deploy robo-clouds to provide shade from the desert country’s brutal summer sun during the 2022 World Cup.


  • Also from the AJC: A couple on Edgewood Avenue are suing graffiti artists who they say have been doing uncommissioned work on their property for years.


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