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Piedmont Avenue Re-do

31 Jan

A virtual one, anyway. Below is a potential reconfiguration of the five-lane, one-way section of Piedmont Avenue that runs through Downtown and Midtown, created with Streetmix. Two lanes have been reversed to reinstate two-way traffic, with bike “sharrows” added to the outside lanes. The center lane was removed to make room for a median and to widen the sidewalks enough to accommodate bus stop shelters.

If you’d like to give it a try yourself, there’s no shortage of candidates. Spring Street, West Peachtree, and Courtland/Juniper, for example, all have at least four lanes of one-way traffic slicing through Midtown and Downtown as well.

Streetmix: Piedmont Ave.



Regional rider surveys reveal locations, destinations, situations

1 Jul

Lindbergh Station_south end

Research from the Atlanta Regional Commission suggests that while geography is a pretty good predictor of where to find the most frequent transit users, who those users are is harder to pin down.

The ARC’s research concluded that “the percent of those using transit to go to work doubles in neighborhoods with close proximity to transit, and more than triples in areas with ‘premium’ transit access.” In short, to paraphrase William Whyte, people tend to use transit where there is transit to use.

Those “premium” transit areas, which the researchers define as neighborhoods within a half-mile of a transit station, tend to be populated by a higher percentage of college graduates and renters than the 20-county Atlanta metropolitan region as a whole. But those areas also have more residents living in poverty and who have less than a high-school diploma compared to the rest of the region.

Despite their easy access to transit, only about 13 percent of the people who live in those transit-rich neighborhoods said that they usually take transit to work. But that relatively small number is still close to four times more than the region as a whole, at less than 4 percent.

People between the ages of 18 and 34 make up more than 52 percent of transit riders, while they make up only 24 percent of the region’s total population. Most of the trips riders took – almost 62 percent – were between home and work or school.

Although 71 percent of the surveyed riders said they had a driver’s license, 41 percent said they didn’t have a vehicle available. At the other end of the spectrum, 27 percent of riders lived in households with at least two available vehicles.

The survey also found that about 51 percent of transit riders had household incomes of less than $30,000. That’s more than twice the percentage of households in the region as a whole falling into that income range.

See a full summary of the data in the ARC’s May “Regional Snapshot.”

How we get around – the big picture

24 Jun

Via GerdFuturist:

Nation on the Move” is the second episode in PBS’s “America Revealed” series. The 53-minute survey of the country’s air, rail and road network explores the infrastructure that keeps the massive systems running and explains why capacity chronically lags behind demand.

Around the 10-minute mark is an interesting piece of information: If the public school bus system was a public transit system, it would be by far the largest one in the country, carrying about 26 million passengers a day. Could some of Americans’ general apathy toward public transportation be partially rooted in memories of the often-unpleasant decade or more many of us spent riding school buses?

Forgotten But Not Gone: Old construction webcams

13 Apr

Curbed Atlanta’s Monday post about the new construction webcam for the Ponce City Market project brought to mind the time, just a few years ago, when there were always at least a couple of construction cams online. While the cameras for these completed projects are no longer active, many of the sites are still up. You can flip through the monthly calendar drop-downs or use the “time lapse”  button near the center of the top of the page to watch the buildings go from site work to top-out in just a few minutes.

For example, you can still watch the Twelve Centennial Park hotel and condo project go from this:

Twelve Centennial - Dec 2005

To this:

Twelve Centennial - Aug. 2007

Or the dramatic changes between 10th and 12th on Peachtree that took the area from this:

12th and Midtown: March 2007

To this:

12th & Midtown: Feb. 2010

Continue reading

Lingering Effects

5 Mar
loitering is good

Photo by Flickr user nitrodog

Among the many and varied complaints about urban life in Atlanta, one rarely hears “There aren’t enough people just hanging around.” It’s much more common to hear the opposite (see any discussion of Atlantic Station or Five Points). But places where people of all ages and backgrounds can just spend time during almost any part of the day – without being expected to buy something or pay admission – have long been known by urban planners as vital to successful cities.

Emily Badger at The Atlantic Cities reflects on how being out on the street, especially at night, became something that people in most American cities just don’t do.

“We went to great lengths to discourage the wrong people from hanging around, but this of course discouraged everyone else as well.”

Increased suburbanization and car ownership in American cities during the last 50 years have also meant increased privatization of leisure activities. For people who can afford them, home theaters, gym memberships, backyard playground equipment, indoor malls and chain coffee shops now replace the city centers, public parks and plazas that used to serve as community living rooms. People with other choices for places to spend their time drifted away from the streets. People without those choices stayed. Soon almost the only people hanging around on the street were people with nowhere else to go, leaving the impression that the streets were no place for “regular” people. At that point, Badger says, what would have once been called “lingering,” became “loitering.”

Laws and design standards meant to combat loitering led to the creation of even more uninviting, and thus emptier, streets. People like places where there are other people. Therefore, nobody goes where nobody goes.

Some cities are successfully throwing that trend into reverse with projects like Chicago’s Millennium Park and New York’s High Line. Less wealthy cities will have to get more creative, Badger says, by carving out smaller, cheaper “oases” of public space for lingering. Until then, the streets will remain places where the police keep trying to chase the “wrong” people away, while everyone else stays home.

Pruitt-Igoe, “Going Solo” and going with the flow

14 Feb

There’s no direct reference during the film to a specific myth, but when it comes to public housing, there are plenty to choose from: Who lives there and why, what it’s like to live there, what the residents need, how much design matters, what the role of public housing is in cities, whether its failures are built in, whether it can ever be done right.

Something that immediately stands out in aerial photos and site models of Pruitt-Igoe is the degree of “overdimensioning”. Everything is so big and so far apart that it’s out of scale with what humans can see and interact with, which contributes to a sense of isolation, even with thousands of other people around.

  • One of the demographic trends to surface in the 2010 census was the historic increase in the number of people living alone, especially in major cities. According to census data, 44  percent of households in the city of Atlanta now consist of someone living alone. That’s well above the national rate of 28 percent, which is seven times what it was 60 years ago. Eric Klinenberg, an NYU sociologist took a look at the causes and effects of living in a country where more and more people are – by choice or circumstance – living on their own. He talked about his book “Going Solo” on last Monday’s Diane Rheme show. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole show, Klinenberg has also written for  and been written about in the New York Times in the last couple of weeks.  His opinion piece has some infographics and an interactive map for demographic and geographic comparisons of who’s living alone and where.
  • The words “traffic planning” probably bring to mind a preoccupation with quick, efficient movement of cars, but as more people move into cities, and car use in cities declines, the science of managing pedestrian traffic is becoming more important. Two Zurich-based physicists are working on models to help architects and planners predict and guide pedestrian traffic in the most crowded places.

If this happened every day…

27 Jan

No one would ever want to drive to work again. 

(Full-screen and headphones highly recommended.)

KNUCKLES | BLAKE – WHAT I LIKE from Paul Bryan on Vimeo.

What “It doesn’t go anywhere” really means

10 Jan

In an outtake from his recently published book, Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker discusses a list of seven criteria that he says transit has to address to effectively compete with driving:

1.    “It takes me where I want to go.”

2.    “It takes me when I want to go.”

3.    “It’s a good use of my time.”

4.    “It’s a good use of my money.”

5.    “It respects me.”

6.    “I can trust it.”

7.    “It gives me freedom to change my plans.”

While no mode of transportation meets all seven demands perfectly, Walker says, “[t]he dominant mode in a community is the one that best addresses the seven demands, compared to the available alternatives, in the perception of the majority of people.”

That observation goes a long way toward explaining why so many people who live well within MARTA’s service area still drive most of the time if they have that choice. Walker’s list unpacks what they mean when they say MARTA “doesn’t go anywhere.” It’s not that people are looking for reasons not to use transit, but rather that they so often have more reasons to drive. In relatively low density areas, he says, “the automobile meets all seven demands handsomely.”

He also pulls apart the multiple meanings tangled up in the word “convenient” here.

What was there? Glad you asked.

21 Sep
Spring Street, looking north from Marietta Street

Now and then: Spring Street, looking north from Marietta Street

If browsing Atlanta Time Machine is your idea of a good time, prepare to burn a few hours at WhatWasThere.

Have you ever thought about what the building that houses the shelter at Peachtree and Pine used to be, or tried to imagine what Five Points looked like when it really was the center of the city? Do you know what used to be on the empty lot at the northeast corner of North Avenue and Argonne? Now you can very nearly go back in time to see.

WhatWasThere imposes historical photographs onto Google Maps street view images, showing what altered or long-demolished buildings would look like if they were neatly dropped right back into their former locations. Atlanta National Bank, for example, can be re-installed on the corner of Peachtree and Alabama Streets. The creators’ goal is no less ambitious than to use Google Maps and contributed photos to “build a history of the world.”

Each mapped location includes information about the archive image and the transparency can be adjusted to make either the older or newer buildings disappear.

H/T to The Atlantic Cities

Transportation Investment Inter(Act)ive

2 May

If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around the wheres and whats of the Atlanta Regional Roundtable’s transportation project “wish list,” or if you’d just like a quick, easy way to get more information on projects close to you, check this out:

The Roundtable has created an interactive map of all 437 projects that were submitted for funding. (Keep in mind that this list will be trimmed considerably during the next several months.) Just use the text, graphic or address function to specify an area and the map produces a list of proposed projects submitted for the area you highlighted. Alongside each item on that list is a link to its project submittal form. The project submittal form provides a description of the project as well as information about the purpose, submitting agency and cost and completion time estimates.

After you finish playing with the map, make sure to take the quick transportation priorities survey  here or here.

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