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Complaint Desk: Almost, but not quite

14 Dec

Adequate, designated pedestrian areas in parking decks are pretty rare. When crosswalks or paths are provided, they sometimes look as if the designer had only a vague idea what they’re used for.

An example:

One entrance to this Buckhead shopping center has good pedestrian access. Unfortunately it’s neither of the two most likely to be used by people who walk there. Those two entrances lead through the parking deck and feature a crosswalk that runs into columns twice, then vanishes just when it reaches two opposing lanes of traffic. Having it continue toward the store, however, would have required eliminating a few parking spaces close to the door. It’s probably not easy to get something like that past developers who expect that most people will drive to their project. But even people who do drive there have to walk to make it to the stores.

Crosswalk, facing westCrosswalk looking east

Near the truncated crosswalk is what appears to be a sidewalk leading to Target’s entrance. It’s in fact just a curb barely wide enough for one person. But even that single person has to step off and out into the the traffic to edge around more columns.

Not a sidewalkCurb width

All this has to be done while watching out for cars driven by people talking on the phone and trying to swoop into the nearest vacant parking space. If that’s not enough of an adventure, there’s always doing it again on the way out to look forward to.


Complaint Desk: Is it something I said?

20 Feb

Are you mad at me, Route 110 bus?

You said you’d be there at 6:00 Saturday evening. I left home at 5:50, with plenty of time to get to the place where we usually meet. I waited.

I counted the people sleeping in Mayor’s Park (three). I counted the Cheersport cheerleaders with tell-tale be-ribboned ponytails (nine). I stared at that ghastly Medical Arts building. Fifteen minutes passed.

I read part of a book. I made a phone call. Ten more minutes passed. One of the people sleeping in the park finished his nap, packed up his things and left. The other person who was waiting for you got disgusted and left. Then you passed by going toward downtown, with another 110 bus right behind you.

Another ten minutes passed. Finally you arrived, 35 minutes late. As you got close to where I was standing, you slowed down as if to stop, then sped up again and drove away as if you hadn’t seen me there at all. I just stood and watched as you cruised away toward Midtown.

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Grand Plans, Iffy Execution

7 Dec

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I made it to the afternoon sessions of the Grand Plans, Everyday Life symposium at Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture Saturday.

For someone completely unfamiliar with the Atlanta Beltline or who hasn’t been following its progress, it would have been a highly informative afternoon. Just about anyone else would have been contending with a raging case of Powerpoint fatigue and hoping to not hear the word “Beltline” again for a long time.

The streetcar projects, which are finally getting off the ground, warranted scarcely a mention the whole afternoon, perhaps because they’re municipal projects and the Beltline is more of a bottom-up undertaking. The streetcar is also lacking a  “face” like Ryan Gravel, who originally conceived the project, and evangelists like Angel Poventud. That’s not a complaint, just an observation.

Jennifer Clark moderates the panel discussion at Grand Plans, Everyday life. From left: Jennifer Clark, Fred Yalouris, Albert Churella, Angel Poventud, Ryan Gravel, Brian Leary

Albert Churella’s presentation – “Race, Railroads and Federalism” – just about made the trip worth it, though. Churella, who holds a doctorate in business history, is an assistant professor of social and international studies at Southern Polytechnic State University. He discussed (as thoroughly as one can in about 30 minutes) the effects of race, class and politics on transit planning in the Atlanta metro area, which is a topic that could easily be a day-long symposium of its own.

Maybe all the speakers were talked out by 6:15 p.m., when the time for the panel discussion rolled around. It was a bit lethargic, although it did briefly address concerns that the Beltline will be Atlanta’s version of a “Starbucks urbanism” project by and for upper middle-class people. That’s another topic that could easily warrant a long discussion on its own.

Strangely, the Q&A portion of the panel discussion was cut off after about three questions from the audience because of time constraints. Just from where I was sitting, I could see three more people with their hands raised to ask questions when the moderator said that they absolutely had to end. If you schedule an event in such a way that only allows for 10 minutes of questions from the people who sat there and listened all day, maybe your planning needs some work. But, the event was free, so I supposed one can only expect so much.

It was drizzling a little when I left, but I walked back to Midtown Station. It was a much quicker walk than I expected, and thanks to the many improvements to the campus and 5th Street, vastly more pleasant than it was eight years ago.

The trip to the campus is another story.  I’d planned to try the Tech Trolley, but the online weekend schedule simply says that it starts running from Midtown Station at 10:00 a.m. and runs “every 36 minutes.” Why 36? Couldn’t they just have it wait the extra four minutes to make the arrival time easier for riders to calculate? Or, better yet, actually list the times?

The long wait between Trolley runs put me off that idea, so instead I rode the #12 MARTA route for the first time. I caught the #110 about two blocks from my building, got off at Peachtree and 10th at 1:05, and scurried down to the station just barely – I thought – making it in time to catch the #12 that was scheduled to leave at 1:10. The bus was sitting there when I arrived and I got one of the few remaining seats. The driver, however, didn’t appear until at least 1:16. Is that normal?

Many’s the time I’ve sat on the #110 at Arts Center for several minutes past the scheduled departure time. I understand leaving late after arriving late, but what’s the reason for buses arriving at a station on time or early, then leaving several minutes late?

It seems like a little thing, but being kept waiting, for no reason that’s apparent, is something that riders really resent, especially those who don’t have another option to get where they’re going. It’s also one of the things that will keep choice riders off the buses forever. MARTA really can’t afford that.

Complaint Desk: Quit scribbling on our new buses!

30 Oct

On the way to Civic Center station this morning, I made it across Peachtree at Ralph McGill/Ivan Allen just in time to board the Route 110 bus that was stopped at the intersection, heading south. On days when the timing is exactly right like that, it’s faster to ride the 110 from there to Five Points than to walk the rest of the way to Civic Center Station, wait for the train, (especially with the longer headways now) and get to Five Points that way. Instead of spending another ten minutes walking and waiting, I’m in motion toward the the destination during that time. Saving ten minutes might be of little consequence to most people, but for the chronically tardy like me, that’s serious business.

It was one of the new, black, partially stimulus-funded buses that started appearing this spring and frequently service the 110 route. I walked to the first seats past the the rear door, sat down, and encountered this:

Bus poetry, left side


I can almost (while strongly objecting) understand someone scrawling trite, usage-impaired verse on a bus that’s been in service for well over a decade and looks every day of it. But, these are only about six months old. Worse yet, I realized later that I’d seen these same substandard compositions when I got on the 110 at Buckhead Station some time during the summer. That means the bus was barely in service for three months (at most) before these underinspired wordsmiths got to it. Three months. MARTA keeps its stock for 12 years or 500,000 miles. Shouldn’t they at least get broken in before we give them the public restroom stall treatment?

And who are these people who walk around with a Sharpie, expressly for the purpose of vandalizing? Sharpies are to be used for good, not evil.

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