Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Future of a Car Reliant City

I grew up in suburban Florida where mass transportation and a walkable community were outlandish topics so Atlanta, comparatively, is a transportation mecca. Not to say that Atlanta doesn’t have work to do. Like many other cities, Atlanta is faced with setbacks that are up to the city leaders to address. After the initial implosion of TSPLOST the dreams of Atlanta becoming a city that doesn’t depend as much on their cars seemed doomed. A year and a half later, there’s been a lot of rumblings around town lately about Atlanta’s transportation “issue” and ways the City is trying approach it and prove that it – in certain areas – is an alternative commute-friendly place. Below are some examples of how Atlanta is trying to incorporate new and old ideas into its transportation infrastructure.

I’m sure everyone is well aware of Atlanta’s traffic woes but significant strides are being taken to offer other options to residents. Progress has been most noticeably evident over the past couple years in areas like Midtown and parts of Downtown. To solidify that statement, the City of Atlanta was recently awarded a bronze level “Walk-Friendly” honor. The “gold level” wasn’t achieved but at least it means the City is making progress and hopefully will continue to work on its walkable options. With more walkability comes positive attributes like less car reliance, healthier communities, supporting local business, more green space, etc. Supporting efforts include the newly paved bike paths around Atlanta and, of course, the always popular and one of my personal favorites – the Beltline.

Another effort to help with transportation that has been getting a ton of press is the streetcar that’s currently being built downtown. Atlanta is looking to its past for inspiration and currently constructing a 2.6 mile path from Downtown to the Martin Luther King Jr. historic district, which is located about a mile away. The streetcar will be the first modern line in Atlanta and hopes to reach North Atlanta in the coming years. The “past” is referenced here because back in the day – before cars – Atlanta was reliant on streetcars as the main source of transportation. Now – due to congestion issues and lack of transportation options downtown – the City has decided to bring back the streetcars to provide a more efficient system and hopefully put an ease to traffic.

Atlanta Streets Alive! is another program that the City is backing – allowing people to get out and just be social. The streets are closed for four hours in a participating neighborhood and the whole objective is to encourage people to take part in outdoor fun by walking or biking. According to the Streets Alive! website the three goals they strive for are to celebrate neighborhoods, expose attendees to outdoor fun, and to encourage people to take the streets by foot or bike.

While Atlanta still has to overcome a lot of obstacles to truly become a walkable city with a plethora of transportation options, progress is happening. It might not be as swift as many may like but as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.