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Very early, something’s gone very wrong

2 Feb

Nineteen cars from at least two law enforcement agencies – APD and Georgia State Patrol – just went past my building faster than I’ve ever seen anything go on this street. (That’s saying a lot, as this part of the street is five lanes one-way.) Lights, sirens, the whole business.

The first 15 cars came from the south on Piedmont Avenue and continued north toward Midtown. The last four came from the same direction, but turned east on Ralph McGill Boulevard toward Atlanta Medical Center, or they came from the west on Ralph McGill Boulevard and continued east that way.

Does anyone know what happened?

Update: Still nothing anywhere on the news about a chase, a raid or anything that would explain that.

Seems like yesterday

29 Jan

Trash tree

Was Christmas really just a little more than a month ago?

This tree appeared on the ground next to the trash can Tuesday night. Wednesday night it had migrated about 10 yards down the sidewalk. Thursday it looked like this. Last night it was gone.

It’s possible that the Department of Public Works picked it up but there’s just no telling around here. I won’t be surprised if it’s back tomorrow.

Closing the Borders – and the chocolate boutique

19 Jan

Bad news: The Borders in Brookwood is closing. The loss of a bookstore is always unfortunate, especially when its one of a development’s anchor tenants. But it’s just a bit worse in this case because of a novel feature that the store has: A street-facing door that’s kept unlocked so that people can use it. Brookwood borders "Store closing" sign

It sounds like a small thing, but locked, blocked and otherwise inaccessible street-level doors in ostensibly “urban” developments are epidemic in Atlanta. (The Kroger just a couple of doors down comes to mind.) It’s a shame to lose places with thoughtfully executed pedestrian access.

Good news: They’re having a BIG sale. Signs indicating 30, 50 and 75 percent markdowns were visible through the windows Monday. So, now’s the time to buy that grotesquely expensive coffee table book you’ve been flipping through and reluctantly leaving behind over and over again.

The Lindt store in Lenox Square is also in its last days. Mall store closings aren’t normally within this blog’s purview but I probably spend about half the price of a used hatchback on Lindt chocolate every year. Also, the cashier working there Monday night said the Lenox location is the last Lindt store in Georgia, so we’re all officially cut off when they close on Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Everything in the store is 70 percent off and the stock is getting sparse. The normally tidy product placement was much less so and even some of the fixtures had notes attached indicating that they’ve been sold. The area behind the counter was a welter of cases of chocolate in various stages of unpacked-ness and customers were weaving between the tables, gathering up armfuls of cheap sweets.

Yes, you can buy Lindt chocolate in Walgreens and Target, but only a few varieties. For example, you won’t find these in either of those stores, nor in World Market:

These were the last 23 Sorbetto truffles in the store Monday night. I’ll be back Wednesday to check for more.

The escalator problems at Lenox Station are still unresolved, by the way. The down escalators on both ends of the platform are still shut down and barricaded. It could be worse. A lot more people are able and willing to walk down two long sets of stairs than up.

Even though last year’s five-month, system-wide escalator inspection process was completed, at least two dozen remained closed due to a lack of parts to service them. Several more have repeatedly been in and out of service after being repaired.




A few more MARTA notes:

  • There was no elevator access on the Southbound platform at Five Points Station Tuesday morning. The train operator announced that anyone needing elevator access would have to remain on the train, get off at Garnett Station ride back to Five Points and use the elevator on the northbound platform.
  • MARTA will hold public hearings Jan. 24 for input on proposed changes to bus routes 42, 56, 120, 121, 125 and 126. The proposed changes would go into effect April 23, 2011.
  • The agency will also make a decision Jan. 19 regarding giving refunds to weekly farecard holders who lost several days of bus service last week. Check the site for more information.

Transit dependency’s Catch-22, or Why my rent’s so high

15 Jan

Waiting about 25 minutes for a train at Lindbergh when it was 20 degrees was decidedly un-fun. Walking down and back up the icy hill to Publix has been more excitement than I really require. I could have done without three days of having to choose between scooting along the edge of the street and gambling on the hazardously glazed sidewalks between my building and Civic Center Station as well.

But because I live and work close to rail stations, and I’m in good enough health to walk any distance I might need to, I can do those things. And because I can do those things being transit-dependent isn’t the sort of hardship for me that it is for many other people in the city.

From Thursday’s AJC:

“For many MARTA riders, its historic decision to shut down bus service completely this week might as well have shut down the food supply or access to the hospital.” Continue reading

Snow days, pedestrianism and prime real estate

12 Jan

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It’s now been so long since I’ve gone to work that it’s going to take me the two remaining work days in this week just to remember how to do my job. Then Monday is a holiday, so I’ll be off for another three days, during which I’ll forget again.

Since I’ve been home so much I’ve noticed at least twice as many people walking by my building the last few days than I normally do. I can even hear someone crunching by right outside my window right now. A lot of homeless people live in the area, so pedestrian traffic is pretty high around here by Atlanta standards, but the last few days it’s practically been a parade.

I guess it’s not just me.

Many of the people picking their way along the the sidewalk or occupying the far right lane appear to be students from the Georgia State dorms just down Piedmont going to Publix and Walgreens. Being cooped up in a house or apartment is one thing. Three days trapped in 120 square feet of dorm room – probably with another person? Yikes.

MARTA is slowly coming back on line. I heard the #16 bus sliding and sloshing up and down the hill today and a few other routes were also back in action.

Finally, in case you missed it, Busnow reported that Avanti Properties Group, which is based in Orlando, purchased the lot at the southeast corner of 14th and West Peachtree – the one where the Einstein Brothers is. EB has gotten a little grubby over the years and I noticed some…inhabitants in the ladies room on my last visit there. It would be really nice to see them as a ground floor tenant in a brand new building.

The story says the parcel that Avanti purchased is 1.5 acres. That’s not quite enough to encompass those two long-vacant residential buildings at West Peachtree and 13th, is it? I hope so. Somebody, anybody, do something with those.

Why so fancy, Zipcar?

16 Dec

I drove an Audi A3 last week. Under normal circumstances, that’s not a sentence I would have anticipated ever writing. But the Civic and Mini convertible that used to reside in my closest Zipcar spaces have been replaced by the A3 and a Mazda 3.

While I appreciate the novelty of the experience, getting to Spa Sydell to retrieve my forgotten umbrella wasn’t any faster or easier than it would have been in the $7/hour Civic. The A3 cost $4.25 more per hour to rent, and had I been in an accident, would have certainly cost more to fix.

What’s with the luxury encroachment at so many Zipcar spots lately? It’s hard to imagine that people are complaining that the cars aren’t “nice” enough. Of course it’s possible, likely even, that there’s some marketing effort afoot here. What could be better than having people paying by the hour to drive your company’s car around a large city, especially one in which your brand’s popularity has taken off? Have you noticed how many more Audis are on the streets here now than there used to be? That can’t be a coincidence.

At MARTA, lost service = lost revenue = lost service…

15 Dec

From the AJC: A little more than two months after the fare increases and service reductions were put in place, MARTA reported that the changes have caused  loss of ridership.

Well, yeah.

“Although ridership can vary seasonally, that doesn’t appear to be the problem. Comparing October of this year with October of last year brings the same result, a decline. MARTA passengers took 670,000 fewer bus trips this October than last October, and 131,000 fewer train trips. That’s a decline of 11 percent of bus ridership and 1.9 percent of train ridership”

The difference between the ridership loss on the buses and on the trains is pretty interesting. In MARTA’s service area people who use the buses are less likely to be “choice riders” than those who ride the trains. Of course, many people do both, which complicates the matter further. But something happened to those 670,000 trips. Either they didn’t get made or those riders found (or created) another way to make them.

I have to admit to being the source of a few of those missing train trips. I rarely leave work before six, so by the time I walk to the station rush hour service is over and the trains are back to at least 15-minute headways. If I get there and find that I’m going to be waiting at least ten minutes for a train, I’ll usually just walk the rest of the way home.

The walk from Five Points to my apartment is about 25 minutes, which is often less than the combined total of train-wait time, the ride from Five Points to Civic Center and the 11-minute walk from Civic Center to my apartment.  I’m now walking home from work at least three days every week whereas I was riding the train at least four days per week during the spring and summer. But I buy a monthly pass, so it’s not as if my decision to walk is depriving MARTA of any revenue. My reduced use of their escalators and fare gates could even be thought of as saving them money.

Now if only those unused trips would “roll over” like unused cellphone minutes.

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.

Scene Cafe

25 Oct

Scene Cafe south viewAnyone know whether Scene Cafe is still on schedule for a partial opening in November?

What Now, Atlanta reported in mid-summer that the cafe portion of the cafe/lounge/office space would open next month. Next month starts in a week and I still can’t find a Web site for the place.

Scene Cafe southeast viewThese photos were taken during the last week of July and the place still looks more or less exactly like this on the outside. Could be that they’re waiting for some custom glazing for that C-shaped window on the east side. Scene Cafe east viewYou’d think the parking lot would have been paved by now, or that some painting might have been done, though.

That corner is in dire need of some life, so let’s hope the neighborhood didn’t scare the owner off already.

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