Posts filed under ‘Pedestrians’

LaVista/Briarcliff Intersection Improvements

Barbara_WheelerBelow is a report from our DeKalb Transportation Coordinator, Barbara Wheeler, following her conversation with Dave Pelton, Supervising Engineer at DeKalb County Transportation.

The current proposal for Briarcliff and LaVista is at a standstill, the county is working on a concept to improve the intersection, but there are some objections by the commissioners to making the intersection any bigger.

Among the constraints, the church on the corner, Peachtree Baptist Church, is historic and cannot be altered, and the Whole Foods retaining wall is also immovable.

The commissioners inquired if the intersection could be converted to a roundabout, but the available space is not adequate for a large roundabout.

GDOT has set aside some money to improve the intersection, but the commissioners are not supportive of this current concept, so it is not moving forward.

The county would welcome any creative ideas for improvements that make the intersection flow better AND be more pedestrian friendly which Mr. Pelton believes is the commissioners’ point of view (hence the roundabout idea).

Click HERE to see the current concept drawing.

March 25, 2014 at 6:42 pm 1 comment

What’s Up With Trail Under SR-400 & I-85

Love the Bright Orange Road Construction Barrels? You’re in Luck!

February’s weather cost the Georgia DOT contractor two weeks of work on flyover ramps linking Interstate 85  to SR-400. Traffic on Cheshire Bridge Road and Lindbergh Drive will keep dodging construction barrels at least until April.

Loren Bartlett, DOT project manager, says the project continues to move as fast as possible because of financial penalties in the state contract with Archer Western.

“The contract calls for $1869 daily penalties,” she says, noting it was to be complete by January 14, 2014.

What about the two weeks when ice and snow kept Atlanta immobile?

 

The Department will consider inclement weather as
reason to be exempt from daily fines.  The project construction budget is at $21 million. (AW’s contract is $21,423,500 for better accuracy.)

The nature trail along the creek is coming into clearer view as the ramps above are connected. By March 1 contractors laid beds of large stone along the creek, topping it with smaller gravel and compacting them into a smooth trail. The largest bridge across the main span of the North Fork is in place.  Several smaller culverts across feeder creeks will be part of the trail. At least one is poured on site, and others are expected in early March.  Decorative fences and approaches leading to the main bridge are likely to be among the last elements to be built.

Sally Sears 

Executive Director, The South Fork Conservancy

March 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

What the Steamship and the Landline Can Tell Us About the Decline of the Private Car

Emily Badger for The Atlantic Cities

Steamship

This prediction sounds bold primarily for the fact that most of us don’t think about technology – or the history of technology – in century-long increments: “We’re probably closer to the end of the automobility era than we are to its beginning,” says Maurie Cohen, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “If we’re 100 years into the automobile era, it seems pretty inconceivable that the car as we know it is going to be around for another 100 years.”

Cohen figures that we’re unlikely to maintain the deteriorating Interstate Highway System for the next century, or to perpetuate for generations to come the public policies and subsidies that have supported the car up until now. Sitting in the present, automobiles are so embedded in society that it’s hard to envision any future without them. But no technology – no matter how essential it seems in its own era – is ever permanent. Consider, just to borrow some examples from transportation history, the sailboat, the steamship, the canal system, the carriage, and the streetcar.

All of those technologies rose, became ubiquitous, and were eventually replaced. And that process followed a pattern that can tell us much about the future of the automobile – that is, if we’re willing to think about it not in the language of today’s “war on cars,” but in the broad arc of time.

“There’s not going to be a cataclysmic moment,” Cohen says of what’s coming for the car. “Like any other technology that outlives its usefulness, it just sort of disappears into the background and we slowly forget about it.” The landline telephone is undergoing that process right now. Your grandmother probably still has one. But did you even bother to call the phone company the last time you moved into a new home? “It’s not as if we all wake up one morning and decide we’re going to get rid of our landlines,” Cohen says, “but they just kind of decay away.

“I think cars will kind of disappear in much the same way.”

They may still exist at the periphery (there are still canal boats out there). But, for the most part, in all likelihood we’ll move on. History is full of these “socio-technical transitions,” as academics like Cohen call them. The history of the steamship has particularly influenced this line of thinking. Society spent a good hundred years transitioning from the sailing ship to the steamship. “It wasn’t as if steamships instantly demonstrated their superiority,” Cohen says. There were problems with the technology. Kinks had to be worked out. Sometimes they blew up.

We often think of the car as having arrived with a flourish from Henry Ford around the turn of the last century. But the history of the automobile actually dates back more than a hundred years earlier to steam-powered vehicles and the first internal combustion engine. Early prototypes of the car used to blow up, too. People were afraid of them. You had to acquire a special skill set just to operate them. And then there were all the networks we needed to develop – roads, gas stations, repair shops – to make cars feasible.

“We tend to focus on the car itself as the central element,” Cohen says, “and we fail to recognize that it’s not just the car.” Like any ubiquitous technology, the car is embedded in a whole social system. In this case, that system includes fuel supply lines, mechanisms for educating and licensing new drivers, companies to insure them, laws to govern how cars are used on common roads and police officers to enforce them. In the academic language of socio-technical transitions theory, all of that stuff is the regime around the car.

“People who are part of that regime get up in the morning, put their shoes on and reproduce that system on a daily basis,” Cohen says. “So that system also has a profound ability to beat back any challenges to it.”

But we can already start to see cracks in the regime. New automobile registrations have plateaued in the U.S, even as the population has continued to grow. Rising gas prices have made some housing patterns predicated on the car unsustainable. Twentysomethings are now less likely to own cars and say they’re less enamored of them. The 1973 classic car flick American Graffiti, Cohen points out, would never be made today.

Within any social system, there also exist what Cohen calls “insurgent niches” challenging the regime. Niches are fragile, they’re underfunded, they’re stigmatized. The car was once an insurgent niche in the age of streetcars. Now in the age of the automobile, we might think of those niches as car-sharing companies or bike advocacy groups.

Some niches eventually grow to replace the prevailing regime, as cars themselves once did. But that process is equally dependent on so much more than technological invention. Look at how the cell phone has evolved to replace the landline. Our need for cell phones didn’t arise in a vacuum. Work practices changed. Commuting times got longer, creating the need for communication inside cars. Batteries got smaller. Cell phone towers proliferated.

These are the unnoticed events that happen in the slow course of technological transition. We didn’t even recognize that the car was a fundamentally new thing until around World War I, Cohen says. Until then, many people viewed the car as just a carriage without a horse.

“The replacement of the car is probably out there,” Cohen adds. “We just don’t fully recognize it yet.”

In fact, he predicts, it will probably come from China, which would make for an ironic comeuppance by history. The car was largely developed in America to fit the American landscape, with our wide-open spaces and brand-new communities. And then the car was awkwardly grafted onto other places, like dense, old European cities and developing countries. If the car’s replacement comes out of China, it will be designed to fit the particular needs and conditions of China, and then it will spread from there. The result probably won’t work as well in the U.S., Cohen says, in the same way that the car never worked as well in Florence as it did in Detroit.

We’re not terribly well positioned right now to think about what this future will look like. Part of the challenge is that, culturally, we’re much more accustomed to celebrating new gadgets than thinking about how old technology decays.

“And people don’t have the perspective that extends beyond their own lives,” Cohen says. “They were born into a society and culture where cars were everywhere, and they can’t envision – with good reason – living their lives without a car.”

He worries that in the U.S., we’ve lost our “cultural capacity to envision alternative futures,” to envision the Futurama of the next century. More often, when we do picture the future, it looks either like a reproduced version of the present or like some apocalyptic landscape. But this exercise requires a lot more imagination: What will be the next carriage without a horse? The next car without an engine?

March 21, 2013 at 8:24 am Leave a comment

Website to ‘Save Lindbergh’ Launches

A website has been officially launched in opposition to the controversial Lindbergh development.

NPU-B Board member Abbie Shepherd spoke about the site at last week’s meeting of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods (BCN), during Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook’s lengthy and informative discussion about the development.

Buckhead Patch originally reported on the BCN meeting here.

The site aims to inform the public on why the development is bad for the community, show ways that those interested can contribute to the anti-development initiative and enable others to get the word out about the movement. It features a listing of contact information for Atlanta City Council members and signed letters of opposition.

The webiste reads:

Savelindbergh.org is made up of the people in opposition to this project. We are local residents, neighborhood organizations, homeowner and civic associations, business owners, concerned citizens and voters. You can join too by commenting on this very site and contacting your local City Council members.

Shook, who said he had seen savelindbergh.org, asked Shepherd to make her name and the names of others directly affiliated with the site more visible — in order to make it easier to engage in “meaningful dialogue.” While Shepherd pointed out the signed letters, she agreed to post those names elsewhere on the site.

by Michael Packer for Buckhead Patch

August 13, 2012 at 10:53 am Leave a comment

Lindbergh Rezoning Could Have ‘Profound Negative Long-term Effects’

Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association president writes a letter to the community asking for help in opposing development on Lindbergh Drive

As a resident of the City of Atlanta, I am reaching out you each of you and bring to your attention an issue that will have profound negative long-term effects on residents in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods.

On July  12, 2012, the City’s Zoning Review Board (ZRB) heard a rezoning  application (Z-11-19) for an 18-acre property located at the  intersections of Lindbergh Drive, Morosgo Drive, and Adina Drive, all  located in the Northeast section of the City.

The applicant has  proposed developing approximately 18 acres of land to include a mixture  of commercial and residential uses.

The development would include at  least one major retail store (150,000 square feet of space).

In  addition, the applicant indicates that there will be space for a  multi-family residential building and several smaller commercial spaces  as well as a 3-acre park, an area smaller than if the current zoning  were to remain the same. The applicant requested that the property be  rezoned from a residential subarea within the Special Public Interest  (SPI-15) area to a commercial subarea.

The Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) B, in which the property is located, recommended denial of the application,  stating inconsistencies with the transit-oriented development goals  encompassed in the SPI-15 plans.

However, at the July 12 meeting and  despite clear opposition to the change by nearly 100 citizens from other  NPUs and neighborhoods, the ZRB voted 4-1 to recommend approval of the  rezoning request.

Still to come is a review by the City Council Zoning  Committee slated for August 1, 2012; its recommendation will be heard  and voted on by the full City Council on August 20, 2012. The  recommendation of Council then will be forwarded to Mayor Kassim Reed.

Issues

  • This ZRB-recommended rezoning constitutes a clear change in  policy regarding the value of SPIs across City in promoting and  maintaining a vibrant urban core. The ZRB decision clearly discounts the  work and dedication of NPUs, individual neighborhoods, and the business  community to foster this new urbanism through SPIs. Approximately 10  years ago, Carter and Associates, neighborhoods, and the City engaged in  a 2-year planning process to establish the Lindbergh Transit Station  SPI. Now, we have to ask why we should continue to put the time and  energy into efforts such as SPIs if the City simply ignores the  recommendations of its citizens. NPUs clearly see this decision as a  signal to some developers that SPIs across the City are “free game.”
  • Traffic  conditions on Lindbergh Drive will deteriorate even further. As a major  east-west corridor, this state highway, which is primarily a two-lane  road, will be clogged with the additional traffic the development will  attract. For example, the development calls for 642 parking spaces!  Other major roads (e.g., Piedmont, Sidney Marcus) will be affected as  well. Citizens in neighborhoods along Lindbergh already have difficulty  entering and exiting their neighborhoods. Disabled people also use the  sidewalks to maneuver wheelchairs along this certain-to-become-more-dangerous thoroughfare.
  • Environmental  concerns are real. Currently, the property is residential, comprising  mostly apartments. If this property is developed as the applicant  describes in its plans, the 642 parking spaces will add to the amount of  impervious surface on that property and the runoff (including surface  contaminants) into the nearby South Fork of Peachtree Creek will greatly  increase. Flooding, always a concern in this area, would likely be more  severe as a result.
  • Current residents of the  apartments on the property will have to relocate. I do not know whether  these residents have been informed about what is in the offing. I do  know that the majority of them are minorities and that many of them use  public transit. Many of the children who live in these apartments  currently attend nearby Garden Hills Elementary School and middle and  high school in the area. Thus, demolishing their homes will also affect  the school system.

I am asking each of  you to please contact the Council Zoning Committee. This issue will  affect all of us in and around the neighborhoods. Please email and call  the following members to stress your concerns. The next meeting on this  very topic is August 1, 2012. The following people list below could  reverse the ZRB recommendation.

  1. Alex Wan Chair 404-330-6049 alexawan@atlantaga.gov
  2. Keisha Lance Bottoms, Vice Chair 404-330-6054 kbottoms@atlantaga.gov
  3. Howard Shook 404-330-6050 hshook@atlantaga.gov
  4. Carla Smith       404-330-6039  csmith@atlantaga.gov
  5. Aaron Watson   404-330-6302 aaronwatson@atlantaga.gov
  6. Lamar Willis      404-330-6041  lwillis@atlantaga.gov
  7. Ivory /young JR 404-330-6046 ilyoung@atantaga.gov

Thank you for helping and tell our Council Zoning Committee, how   this could change our neighborhood and surrounding areas if ZRB starts   over ruling local SPI’s.

Sincerely,

Roxanne Sullivan, President Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association

July 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Where It All Went Wrong: If only we could undo the MARTA Compromise of 1971

Doug Monroe for Atlanta Magazine
8/1/2012

Like ghosts rising out of a Confederate cemetery, Atlanta’s past lapses in judgment haunt the region today, leaving a smoky trail of suburban decay, declining home values, clogged highways, and a vastly diminished reputation.

At the heart of the rot eating at metro Atlanta is the Mother of All Mistakes: the failure to extend MARTA into the suburbs. It wasn’t just a one-time blunder—it was the single worst mistake in a whole cluster bomb of missteps, errors, power plays, and just plain meanness that created the region’s transportation infrastructure.

As we look at the future of Atlanta, there’s no question that battling our notorious traffic and sprawl is key to the metro area’s potential vitality. What if there were a Back to the Future–type option, where we could take a mystical DeLorean (heck, we’d settle for a Buick), ride back in time, and fix something? What event would benefit most from the use of a hypothetical “undo” key?

The transit compromise of 1971.

Before we get into the story of what happened in 1971, we need to back up a few years. In 1965 the Georgia General Assembly voted to create MARTA, the mass transit system for the City of Atlanta and the five core metro counties: Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett. Cobb voters rejected MARTA, while it got approval from the city and the four other counties. Although, as it turned out, the state never contributed any dedicated funds for MARTA’s operations, in 1966 Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment to permit the state to fund 10 percent of the total cost of a rapid rail system in Atlanta. Two years later, in 1968, voters in Atlanta and MARTA’s core counties rejected a plan to finance MARTA through property taxes. In 1971—when the issue was presented to voters again—Clayton and Gwinnett voters dropped their support, and MARTA ended up being backed by only DeKalb, Fulton, and the City of Atlanta.

In 1971, given the lack of support for MARTA by the five core counties, then Mayor Sam Massell came back with a new plan: to provide an ongoing subsidy for MARTA through a sales tax levied in Fulton, DeKalb, and the City of Atlanta. No other jurisdiction in Georgia had a local option sales tax, so the General Assembly had to approve the idea. When the notoriously anti-Atlanta legislators gave the go-ahead, Massell called a press conference that featured a flatbed truck pulling up in front of city hall, facing the Capitol, with a large billboard that said, “Thank You, Georgia Lawmakers!” Massell then dug a hole in the city hall lawn and buried a hatchet to symbolize his appreciation for the state’s rare support of the city.

In a promotional stunt worthy of Mad Men, Massell sent a bevy of young women to the Capitol in pink hot pants with little keys to the city, a proclamation expressing the city’s gratitude, and invitations to city hall for a lunch featuring fried chicken (for Lieutenant Governor Lester Maddox), peanuts (for Governor Jimmy Carter), and, of course, Coca-Cola. “We got a four-column picture—the biggest exposure we ever got from the Atlanta newspapers,” recalls Massell, now president of the Buckhead Coalition.

After getting the legislative approval for the sales-tax option, Massell had to persuade voters to pass the sales tax. “We were going to buy the existing bus company, which was then charging sixty cents and a nickel transfer each way—$1.30 a day—and they were about to go out of business. I promised the community we would drop that fare to fifteen cents each way immediately,” Massell says. The daily fare would plunge from $1.30 to thirty cents. Not everyone believed him. City Councilman Henry Dodson cruised the city in a Volkswagen with a PA system that blared, “It’s a trick! If they can’t do it for sixty cents, how are they going to do it for fifteen?”

Massell countered the VW with higher visibility, chartering a helicopter to hover over the Downtown Connector, congested even then, while he called through a bullhorn, “If you want out of this mess, vote yes!”

“This being the Bible Belt, they thought God was telling them what to do,” Massell quips today. Still, to make sure Atlantans voted his way, he rode buses throughout the city, passing out brochures to riders, and he visited community groups with a blackboard and chalk to do the math on the sales tax. Voters approved the plan by just a few hundred votes.

Another of the blunders that crippled MARTA at the outset—and haunts it to this day—was engineered behind closed doors by the segregationist Lester Maddox, according to Massell, who believes Maddox’s intervention was even more devastating than the vote not to extend MARTA into the suburbs.

After the Georgia House of Representatives approved funding MARTA through the sales tax, Massell had to approach the Georgia State Senate, where Maddox held sway. Maddox told the mayor he would block the vote in the senate unless MARTA agreed that no more than 50 percent of the sales tax revenue would go to operating costs, Massell recalls. “He called me into his office and told me that was it. Either I swallowed that or he was going to kill it and it would not pass.”

That has meant that whenever MARTA needed more money for operating expenses, it had to cut elsewhere or raise fares. As a result, MARTA has raised the fare over the years to today’s $2.50, making it one of the priciest transit systems in the country.

Although the 50 percent limit has resulted in higher fares, few people realized the ramifications of the so-called “Maddox amendment” at the time, Massell says. In fact, it actually was viewed favorably by DeKalb legislators because they were afraid MARTA would spend all its money in Atlanta before extending rail service to DeKalb, according to a thirty-six-page history of MARTA written by former State Treasurer Thomas D. Hills.

Hills’s MARTA history also illuminates why the state never contributed funds for MARTA, despite that 1966 vote that would have allowed it to. One early plan was for the MARTA sales tax to be three-quarters of a penny, with the state chipping in up to 10 percent of the cost of the system as approved by Georgia voters. But early in his administration, according to Hills’s history, then Governor Carter called MARTA attorney Stell Huie—who was on a quail-hunting trip—and said the state couldn’t afford its $25 million share for MARTA. Carter offered to raise the sales tax to a full penny if the state didn’t have to pay, and Huie agreed. The lawyer said the 1 percent sales tax plan came out of the House Committee on Ways and Means and “there was a tag end, not even part of the act, that just said the state won’t put any money in.”

Hills wrote that the events help to “explain why some representatives of state government and others in the community understand that the state’s support in allowing the local option sales tax for MARTA was a bargain in exchange for a reprieve for the state from future funding for MARTA.”

The 1965 and 1971 votes against MARTA by residents of Cobb, Clayton, and Gwinnett weren’t votes about transportation. They were referendums on race. Specifically, they were believed to be about keeping the races apart. Consider the suburbanites voting back then. The formerly rural, outlying counties had exploded with an astonishing exodus of white people fleeing the city as the black population swelled during the civil rights era. This mass migration came at a time when Atlanta was known through its public relations bluster as “The City Too Busy to Hate.”

The 1960 census counted approximately 300,000 white residents in Atlanta. From 1960 to 1980, around 160,000 whites left the city—Atlanta’s white population was cut in half over two decades, says Kevin M. Kruse, the Princeton professor who wrote White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. Kruse notes that skeptics suggested Atlanta’s slogan should have been “The City Too Busy Moving to Hate.” “Racial concerns trumped everything else,” Kruse says. “The more you think about it, Atlanta’s transportation infrastructure was designed as much to keep people apart as to bring people together.”

In the early 1970s, Morehouse College professor Abraham Davis observed, “The real problem is that whites have created a transportation problem for themselves by moving farther away from the central city rather than living in an integrated neighborhood.”

The votes against MARTA were not the only evidence of the role of race in Atlanta’s transportation plans. The interstate highways were designed to gouge their way through black neighborhoods. Georgia Tech history professor Ronald H. Bayor, author of Race and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century Atlanta, says the failure of the 1971 MARTA referendum in Gwinnett and Clayton was the beginning of the region’s transportation problems because of the lack of mass transit in the suburbs. Yet his research goes back to the racial reckoning behind the route of the interstate highway system that began construction in the 1950s.

The highway now called the Downtown Connector, the stretch where I-75 and I-85 run conjoined through the city, gutted black neighborhoods by forcing the removal of many working-class blacks from the central business district. It could have been worse. The highway was first designed to run smack through the headquarters of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, the city’s major black-owned business. “The original intention was to destroy that black business,” Bayor says. A protest by the black community saved the structure and moved the highway route a few blocks east, where it still managed to cut through the black community’s main street, Auburn Avenue.

Interstate 20 on the west side of town is a particularly egregious example of race-based road-building. Bayor wrote: “In a 1960 report on the transitional westside neighborhood of Adamsville . . . the Atlanta Bureau of Planning noted that ‘approximately two to three years ago, there was an “understanding” that the proposed route of the West Expressway [I-20 West] would be the boundary between the white and Negro communities.’”

The strategy didn’t work, of course, as whites fled by the tens of thousands. One of the unintended consequences of the race-based road-building is today’s traffic jams. “What happened didn’t change the racial makeup of the metro area but led to congestion within the metro area,” Bayor says.

Aside from political vengeance and racial politics, another enormous factor was at play in transportation policies of the 1960s and 1970s: Atlanta’s love affair with the automobile. The great migration out of the city started in the late 1950s—just as workers at General Motors’ vast Lakewood assembly plant in southeast Atlanta put the finishing touches on one of the most iconic cars in history: the 1957 Chevy.

The allure of roaring around Atlanta in cool cars took over and never let go. Once MARTA started running, who would ride a bus or subway when they could drive a sleek, powerful car and fill it with cheap gas? Only the people who couldn’t afford the car. MARTA became an isolated castaway, used primarily by poor and working-class blacks. Racist suburbanites brayed that the system’s acronym stood for “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.”

While MARTA was struggling to crank up the bus and rail system, the State of Georgia and its powerful highway department had other, bigger ideas.

David Goldberg, a former transportation reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says the road-building binge that led to the gigantic highways that course through metro Atlanta—some of the widest in the world—diminished MARTA’s potential. “It’s not a single mistake but a bunch of decisions that add up to one big mistake—the failure to capitalize on the incredible success we had in winning funding for MARTA by undermining it with the incredible success we had in getting funding for the interstate highways,” says Goldberg, now communications director for Washington-based Transportation for America. “We were too damn successful—it was an embarrassment of success. Like a lot of nouveau riche, we blew it before we knew what to do with it.”

As metro Atlanta’s geographic expansion grew white-hot, developers had to move homebuyers—those fleeing the city and others moving South from the Rust Belt—in and out of the new subdivisions they were carving from the pine forests and red clay. Georgia started “building highways expressly to enrich developers,” Goldberg says. “A whole lot of land owners and developers who knew how to do suburban development had the ear of state government and the money to buy influence. They took all that money we had and put it into developing interchanges way out from town. A lot of what was new suburban development back then is now underused, decaying, and part of an eroding tax base in the older suburban areas.”

The vast highway system sucked up billions of federal dollars while the state refused to put a penny into MARTA—until the past fifteen years, during which it helped buy some buses. “The sick joke of it all is that we built the place to be auto-oriented and designed it about as bad as we could to function for auto use,” Goldberg says. “The highway network we did build was designed in a way almost guaranteed to produce congestion—the land use around all that development put the nail in the coffin.” He refers to the neighborhoods full of cul-de-sacs that force cars onto crowded arterial roads lined with commercial activity, then force them to merge onto the freeways, which eventually funnel down to one highway through the heart of Atlanta.

More than forty years later, what does the failure to create MARTA as a regional system mean for Atlanta? Christopher B. Leinberger, a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution and professor at George Washington University, has been watching Atlanta’s growth—and decline—for decades. In January he declared, “Atlanta is no longer Hotlanta.” He cited the free fall from the number eighty-ninespot on the list of the world’s 200 fastest-growing metro areas to ranking at 189 in just five years. Not to mention the plunge of 29 percent in average housing price per square foot between 2000 and 2010. Not to mention that Atlanta has the eleventh-most-congested traffic of 101 metro areas in the country.

“The big mistake was not taking advantage of MARTA,” Leinberger says. “Atlanta was given by the federal taxpayers a tremendous gift that they squandered as far as MARTA. It’s not just that Atlanta did not take advantage of it. They didn’t expand it and they didn’t recognize that it could allow them to build a balanced way of developing.”

Leinberger agrees that part of the region’s blindness toward MARTA’s potential was the belief “that the car was the be-all and end-all forever. The other part was the basic racism that still molds how Atlanta is built.”

The most maddening realization is that the once virtually all-white suburbs that voted against MARTA years ago are today quite diverse and reflect Atlanta’s evolution from a biracial city to a multiracial, multiethnic one. Today’s suburbs are not only home to African Americans, but also Latino, Asian, and Eastern European immigrants. The city’s diversity is projected to increase over the coming decades (see page 68). Many of the people who voted against MARTA decades ago are dead or retired. The suburban lifestyle they were so eager to defend has lost much of its cachet as gas prices soar and houses don’t sell. Smart young people up to their necks in college debt don’t want to spend their money and time driving cars back and forth; they want to live in town. Atlanta’s only neighborhoods to gain inflation-adjusted housing value in the past decade, Leinberger notes, were Virginia-Highland, Grant Park, and East Lake.

The Georgia Sierra Club’s opposition to the July 31 referendum on a regional transportation sales tax—on the grounds that the plan, despite including a majority for transit, was a sprawl-inducing road expansion—troubled Leinberger. “That’s a dangerous strategy. From what everybody tells me, this is a one-off.” He says the state legislature has traditionally treated Atlanta like a child, and is saying, “Finally, one time only, children, are we going to let you decide for yourself. This is it.”

The July 31 vote is “an Olympic moment,” he says. “If the vote fails, you have to accept the fact that Atlanta will continue to decline as a metro area.” Forty years from now, will we look back at failure to pass the referendum as a mistake as devastating as the 1971 MARTA compromise?

Atlanta faces a classic problem. It boomed in the go-go decades at the end of the twentieth century when everyone zoomed alone in their cars from home to office to store. Now it must move beyond what worked in the past to a new era that demands a new way of building, with up to 70 percent of new development oriented around transit, Leinberger says. “Atlanta has a lot of catching up to do, but it’s hard for old dogs to learn new tricks.”

The never-ending ramifications of a race-based transportation infrastructure, built to accommodate a suburban driving lifestyle that has started to die off in a state that has traditionally refused to embrace mass transit, could doom Atlanta to a future as a newer, sunnier Detroit.

“It only takes a generation-plus of yinning when you should have yanged to wake up and say, ‘Oh my God! How did it happen?’” says outgoing MARTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott, who watched from afar the decline of her hometown, Cleveland.

Atlanta’s failure to build out MARTA looks even more shameful when compared with what happened with similar transit systems in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., which started at the same time as MARTA, she says. “The reality is, this region got stuck. We have about half the build-out of what it was planned to be.” But San Francisco and Washington “kept building and moving . . . they had plans regardless of whether folks were red or blue. They had a vision and the fortitude to make purple and keep moving. We just got stuck.”

MARTA was born out of Atlanta’s giant ego in the days when the city was entering the major leagues across the board—baseball, football, international airport—bolstered by a racially harmonious reputation unmatched in the South, deserved or not. “You said to yourself, ‘We’re top-notch. Everybody’s got to have a rail system,’” Scott says. “But it was built as a manifestation of ‘we have arrived’ without a bigger vision of ‘what do we want to do for our region?’ You built it like a trophy.” Indeed, some of the Downtown MARTA stations were built on a scale that would please a pharaoh.

Yet Scott says she is no doomsayer. During her tenure at MARTA, she has seen marked progress in forging the civic- political infrastructure necessary to build an integrated transportation network. Her concern is that the region is at a critically urgent juncture in the process and can’t afford to lose focus or momentum.“There’s still much work to be done,” she says.

Word about Atlanta’s transportation muddle has gotten around. Scott says she’s been privy to meetings during which corporate relocation experts tell Chamber of Commerce members: “Hey, Atlanta is not only not at the top tier anymore, we’ve got companies saying, ‘Don’t put the Atlanta region on the list.’” It’s not just the congestion and pollution—“they’re not seeing leadership or plans to get yourself out of the fix.”

Atlanta’s leaderless transportation fix is the ultimate example of the admonition, “Be careful what you pray for.”

“This is the irony: The majority of whites in Atlanta wanted to be isolated when they thought about public transportation,” says historian Kevin Kruse. “As a result, they have been in their cars on 75 and 85. They got what they wanted. They are safe in their own space. They’re just not moving anywhere.”

July 24, 2012 at 10:33 pm Leave a comment

City, Neighbors Have Long Discussion Over Sewer Tank

ByEden Landow

The city of Atlanta, under the gun to meet a federal court-ordered consent decree deadline to substantially improve its wastewater management infrastructure, is trying a third time to build a massive storage tank somewhere near the confluence of the south and north forks of Peachtree Creek, but once again running into neighborhood concerns.

Neighbors turned out last week for a meeting at Rock Springs Presbyterian Church to find out more about the project and voice their concerns, which included security, odor, effect to property values, unsightliness, sewer gas odors and unforeseen problems.

They complained the community is “taking one for the team” by being unduly impacted with massive projects, including the Ga. 400 interchange, Clifton Corridor rail construction, Georgia Power Co.  transmission lines — and now this water-management project.

“What is our neighborhood doing to get in exchange for this,” some asked.

The project is about 60 percent through the design stage and would include building one 10-million gallon, raised overflow tank off Cheshire Bridge Road at 2061 Liddell Drive. The tank would be about 55 feet tall and 185 feet wide, with a pumping station and electrical station on the flood plain at 2001 Cheshire Bridge Rd., near the north end of Lenox Road.

Plans call for tunneling diluted sewage overflow under Cheshire Bridge Road to the Liddell Road tank when the main system is overcapacity, which is usually about once a month, said EDT Waterworks principal engineer Donald Fry, who explained the project in a slideshow presentation.

By email, Lindbergh-Lavista Corridor Coalition board member Courtney Harkness said, “The City of Atlanta has a decision to make: Does it want to redevelop the Cheshire Bridge corridor or does it want to make the area an industrial dumping ground? If the City goes forward with this sewer project off of Cheshire Bridge Road, we will know what path they have chosen.”

Fry said the city needs to do something to protect the creeks and environment and that the city believes this is the best and most cost-effective way to do it.

The project is estimated to cost about $35 million.

“We selected the center of the only commercial and industrial area in the vicinity,” Fry said.

The project, sited on city-owned land, will effectively double the capacity of the current flow. He said the project is not foreseen to ever have more tanks, though he said the site is large enough for  a second one.

The city initially planned to build the overflow tanks off Zonolite Road, then relocated the project off Kay Lane. Both locations were taken off the table after residents and business owners fought against building the project.

According to Sharon Matthews, senior watershed director for the city of Atlanta, to comply with the consent decree, the city must have construction completed in June 2014 and that construction would begin on this facility around the first of the year.

Harkness said the group is concerned the city’s 1999 Cheshire Bridge redevelopment plan would be jeopardized.

“This is the future Cheshire Bridge neighborhood, a multi-ethnic community that integrates open-air shopping, dining and entertainment with new residential development,” Harkness said. “A 55 ft. x 185 ft. sewer tank that will only be used, by the City’s estimation, for four to six hours each month to handle sewer overflow, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $40 million, does not jibe with this redevelopment plan at all.”

Area residents, who worked to get the City to develop this plan in 1999 and then again to get the City to rezone Cheshire Bridge Road to Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning in 2005, feel abandoned by the City and its leadership with the proposal of this sewer tank project, she said.

Matthews said the tank can be built with architectural features and landscaping so that it will not diminish the looks of the community.

Harkness said the community feels the “burden of achieving clean water is being ‘dumped’ on in  this area of town, even though the issue affects a much larger area. They feel that other neighborhoods and jurisdictions (Buckhead, DeKalb County) that are affected by Peachtree Creek should also have to come to the table to solve this issue.”

“The only positive part of this project is that it (supposedly) will keep sewer run off out of Peachtree Creek,” Harkness said. “However, area residents feel that the burden of achieving clean water is being ‘dumped’ on this area of town, even though the issue affects a much larger area.”

An initial community meeting was cancelled last month “due to issues that have to be addressed with internal stakeholders.”

To read the entire article and add your comments, go to the Virginia-Highland/Druid Hills Patch by clicking on this link:

http://vahi.patch.com/articles/city-neighbors-have-long-discussion-over-sewer-tank

July 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

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