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TSPLOST no, Crum & Forster yes! What a great day for preservation and for the idea that the city is a rich fabric of old and new, and that buildings like C&F contribute to that fabric. And that there are just some buildings so significant that they simply MUST be saved. C & F can and will be re-developed into a modern use, economically viable as part of a dense block in the heart of midtown, whether by GA Tech or someone else.
9 months, 1 week ago on Atlanta Urban Design Commission denies demolition permit for Georgia Tech’s Crum & Forster building
@The Last Democrat in Georgia Dear Last Democrat,
is the sale tax the best way to fund transportation projects for the region? As you point out, it is not the ideal way. However, it is the only way that is "on the table" right now, and the list of projects developed through consensus of the constituencies (and not through regional empirical planning) is ready to go once the funding stream arrives. Are there better ways to fund transit and road projects, like an increase in the motor fuels tax and a commuter tax for those coming into the city?Most definitely. The problem is that these are not likely to be voted on in the legislature, and, following this debate for years tells us that depending on the state at large to help Metro Atlanta with its traffic and transportation needs is not going to happen.
So that leaves us with a choice: support a less-than-perfect and not-entirely-fair TSPLOST, or settle for nothing in the near term. The problem with the latter is that the status quo is something we've lived with for more than fifteen years, and if we don't get off the ground with needed transit and road projects, we are likely to wait another decade, falling even further behind our counterparts like Dallas, Denver, and Washington. The time is now, even if the now is not perfect. After we get something built around here, we can debate the funding stream for how to expand it!
9 months, 4 weeks ago on Metro Atlanta faces ultimate test of whether we are a cohesive region
@The Last Democrat in Georgia @SteveBrown
9 months, 4 weeks ago on Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's team disagrees with Saporta's column
Thank You for pointing out what is possible if we want to transform our relationship to our food! Our fifty-year + policy of subsidizing fossil-fuel-based agriculture dependent on vast mono-culture farms far from cities and communities is unsustainable and has cost us dearly in health, environmental degradation, and employment. Some of the best former farmland is now paved over by our suburbs- cities grew up in areas near these desirable agricultural areas, and our "highest best use" thinking has resulted in a disaster. Apple Computer is resuscitating an apricot orchard on its new Cupertino, CA campus, recalling the world-class fruit-growing area that was there before the boom of Silicon Valley.
It's an irony that Georgia, the 10th leading state in agriculture, is near the top of the list of net food importers for human consumption. Food deserts are not only in our cities, but also in the rural communities producing so much food for export to other states.
The answer is that we vote with our food choices, but also that policymakers begin to remove the tremendous financial incentives for the huge dislocated agriculture system we have, and to incentivize local food initiatives. In Europe it is difficult to change farmland near the city to another purpose: they recognized long ago there that feeding the populace with locally grown food was a goal worth enshrining into policy. Beyond that, If really good food choices are to be available and affordable to a broad range of the population, it will take more local production and ways to access it (distribution). Large chains, even supporters of local farmers such as Whole Foods, seem reluctant to retail products that don't have a steady and voluminous supply chain.
One idea: Perhaps the historic Municipal Market on Edgewood Ave, soon to be accessible by streetcar, can expand its mission to support local farmers and CSA's and offer a comprehensive buying experience for all. Not just those with a car, not just the upper middle class and the well-to-do. Many local markets already accept food stamps and that is a start, but having the "public square" access to all would help turn one food desert into a food oasis.
Another idea: encourage the use, temporary or permanent, of vacant land inside the city itself for agriculture. For every skyscraper in midtown Atlanta there is a corresponding asphalt parking lot. The problem is not that we don't have enough land, it's what we do with it! The rooftops of our skyscrapers are another opportunity- we have to think outside the box as you point out in your article.
1 year ago on What’s ailing our food system can be partly fixed with locally-grown food
I hope the unique mix of shops and services in and around Decatur will survive the arrival of Walmart. This mix of retailers is one of the best parts of the "Decatur Experience." It sounds like these retailers are getting ahead of the curve and anticipating how they will have to change to continue to provide the added value a big-box store like Walmart cannot.
A larger point that all of the protests brings up is how small communities that are part of a larger urban/suburban area can both maintain their character, promote the individual entrepreneurs who are so valued by the community, and grow in the reality of the modern American retailing scene. It's important to note that the Suburban Plaza site sits just outside the Decatur City Limit, subject to the DeKalb County review process and not the City of Decatur process. Annexation to the city of this and other areas has long been a subject of debate. Small communities like Decatur have to weigh the downside of annexation with the upside, which includes the ability to shape development outcomes that affect it while increasing a commercial tax base to pay for the kind of development the community values.
1 year ago on For Decatur’s Intown Hardware, family and creativity will survive Wal-Mart
What a great conversation going on here! The conversation is shifting, from whether or not we will have streetcars at all in Atlanta, to which line should be next. That's a sea change and an important milestone for those that believe in transit. The beauty of the initial east-west line that was chosen is that it is relatively small, can serve both commuters, students, and tourists, and connects to MARTA.
As Maria points out, it wasn't the first choice of planners or leaders, but the first choice, the line on Peachtree St, even in its abbreviated midtown-to downtown form, could not muster the funding to get started. Peachtree St. still represents the biggest (both in length and possible ridership) corridor that could use a streetcar. It's a great and worthwhile debate whether a north-south segment or a send east-west segment should be next. Empirical study by planners, public input, and practical consideration of what is possible in funding should be guiding forces in deciding what is next. As others point out, it is important that there be significant ridership from the beginning.
Where to build next is a question about implementation and strategy, in the overall context of system thinking and planning rather than incremental design. If an east-west line gives better connectivity both to the Beltline system and to MARTA at other points, that's a strong argument for it. But capturing people's imagination by serving one of the more notable, recognized, and congested corridors (Peachtree St.) and allowing people to complete a trip to or from MARTA in Buckhead, midtown, or downtown, is a powerful argument to make the next segment be a north-south line.
What I think is assured is that the demand by the public for more streetcars will jump as soon as the rails start being laid downtown for the east-west loop, and will accelerate when the first passengers ride next year. The conversation will change again in a way that will be great for this city.
1 year ago on Deciding Atlanta’s streetcar future —lines along Peachtree, 10th Street and MLK belong high on the list
Maria, thanks for putting the spotlight on what is not exactly a secret but what has been, in the typical boosterism climate of our leadership, a little-publicized fact. There has been a major failure in leadership, design, and planning at the new Jackson international terminal covered by assertions that providing direct, easy, and seamless access from the new terminal to MARTA and eventually other modes of transit is unaffordable and won't be used by very many people anyway.
Do any of the people you interviewed actually ride MARTA to the airport and see who is riding? I do, and take MARTA almost exclusively for both domestic and international departures, an average of 6-8 times per year. I don't think my experience is unusual either: I see many many riders continuing past the College Park Station who are clearly travelers. And as a group, I believe foreign visitors are more likely to be MARTA users than residents. They are used to this kind of connectivity almost everywhere else in the modern world.
Our Mayor Reed is on a mission to Shanghai, China right now to solicit business and investment in Atlanta, following similar visits to Amsterdam and other cities in Europe. In all of these places the Mayor has visited, travelers enjoy a direct connection by rail to the city center and, in most, as you point out with your example of Paris CDG, a connection to other cities beyond. Think Macon, Columbus, Athens, Gainesville, Dalton, Chattanooga, Augusta, even Savannah. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport is the economic engine to pull this investment to Atlanta, and connecting it to the metro area and beyond by rail is one critical piece in spreading more economic development to the rest of the state.
What's not being said is that there was not even an attempt in the design of a brand new state-of-the-art world-class international terminal to integrate the provision for a rail terminal for MARTA and other as-yet unrealized modes of travel. I can believe that there was not $300 million extra dollars today, but I don't believe that the planning for an intermodal station could not have occurred right from the get-go. It's much more difficult and expensive (not to mention less attractive and user-friendly) to retrofit such huge projects into existing designs than to plan for them fromthe beginning. Long-time residents may recall that the existing MARTA station at the airport was built with the terminal in the late 70's and remained an empty shell for years until MARTA could reach the airport in time for the 1996 Olympics.
As other readers point out, maintaining international check-in and maintaining the existing if cumbersome baggage re-check to the domestic terminal is a $0 cost and more convenient option than a 15 minute bus ride to the MARTA station. Extending the Skytrain that serves the MARTA station and the rental car center is also a less expensive and perhaps better short-term option until MARTA can expand, as it could connect destinations like the airport hotels and Delta Airlines headquarters to both terminals.
Mayor Reed has stated he wants Atlanta to become one of the "green" leaders in the country within 10 years of the start of his term. Bringing transit connectivity to Atlanta's international gateway is a great opportunity to start.
1 year, 1 month ago on New international terminal lacking direct MARTA access; future airport master plan should focus on transit, rail
Maria, this is a brilliant analysis and commentary. On any given convention day, there can be TENS OF THOUSANDS of visitors at the GWCC, along with the employees of the Dome, GWCC, hotels, and CNN Center. As the map of the streetcar route shows, http://a8.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/71722_446699916316_124566361316_5487762_7870755_n.jpg,
the loop stops about 1/4 of a mile short of the front door of all of these places. Is that the kind of connectivity the planners are proposing?
Successful projects get the maximum number of people from where they are to where they want to go in the least amount of time practical. The streetcar can be a powerful "complete the trip" option for MARTA riders (there is one connection at Peachtree Center) or a convenient option for Atlantans or visitors who want to make a trip within the downtown area they would not otherwise make on their lunch hour or break. Whether as a part of a larger visit downtown, or for visitors to have a car-free option to connect to all our city has to offer, easy and frequent connections to major attractions and centers of employment are key. The 1/4 mile gap from the GWCC to the corner of Andrew Young International and Centennial Park is a bridge too far for most. The planners have really missed the boat on this last roughly 1/2 mile of track.
The good news is that streetcars are easily expanded, and if that is the goal, the planners should make it clear from the onset that is their intention, as more money becomes available.
1 year, 6 months ago on Atlanta Streetcar holds great promise — but only if trains run often and link key places
As an Atlantan who values the built environment of our city both past and present, and as a Tech Alumnus, I urge my Alma Mater to find a way to save the last remaining good example of commercial Renaissance Revival architecture in Midtown. This building is significant in so many ways as well as being beautiful. In Maria's article and the subsequent post, it's clear the debate has moved from where it stood in 2008, which was to tear down or not, to "how can we incorporate this historic structure into a new vision of development for this block?"
The renderings shown for the new High Performance Computing Center are exciting indeed. But I suggest that with the extra acquired land, there IS a way to BOTH adaptively reuse the Crum & Forster building in its entirety AND create a state of the art computing center. The most exciting urban streetscapes in the world have both the historic and the modern sitting side by side.
In a way, it is an irony that Georgia Tech, where so much invention, so much creativity, so much changing of the world as we know it has originated, is the institution challenged with thinking of this particular problem outside its own box and having to find an as-yet-undiscovered way to achieve both its goals and those of preservation as well as being a good member of the community at large. The same brilliance that sends Tech grads out into the world to change it can solve this problem in a way no preservation problem has yet been solved in Atlanta.
1 year, 6 months ago on Fight to save historic Crum & Forster continues; Georgia Tech has big plans for block
I think the Neel Reid Brookwood station would make an excellent Neel Reid Museum, when it has outlived its life as our Amtrak depot, and where Atlanta could celebrate not only Neel Reid but the architecture of the many important architects from Georgia. Something we don't have today.
Neel Reid was one of Atlanta's most celebrated early 20th c. architects; today, his neoclassical homes sell for premiums and have a special quality not surpassed in his day and since. His public architecture is less well-known but equally important- let's not lose a chance to save this beautiful Renaissance Revival mini-Beaux Arts station.
1 year, 6 months ago on Georgia Trust unveils its 2012 list of 10 Places in Peril
What Ms. Kiernan points to again, as others have here before her, is the failing of what is spliced-together provincial process that validates the merits of projects purely on the basis that a local jurisdiction wants that project. The project list is so politically based rather than based on sound transportation planning, that good projects have been left off or underfunded, and traditional road-widening and roadbuilding occupy the preponderance of the funding now, even though there is a dedicated revenue-stream already provided for by the state in the way of the motor fuels tax.
The lack of state leadership, from both the governor and DOT, on mass transit, has been well-documented, so I won't belabor that point, but at least the Roundtable should understand that this TSPLOST referendum may be the ONLY way to direct any significant funding to transit for the next decade.
Yes, federal money may become available for several of the transit projects on this list, such as the Light Rail line to Cobb Country. But this Roundtable list is an opportunity to really get transit going: Beltline, Light Rail, Streetcars, Commuter Rail, and more, and I hope we don't miss that chance before the vote is even put on the ballot.
1 year, 7 months ago on Metro Atlanta turning winning transit season into losing one
Maria, to think we might really be constructing transit on the Beltline in 2013 is a truly exciting idea. One we've waited for for years and are really on the eve of seeing come to fruition. In combination with the other streetcar projects, Beltline Transit will bring a transformation of how we experience our own city. Making the central city work better does have an impact in outlying areas, such as North Fulton, which you mention in the article. All of the outlying areas have a benefit from the economic, cultural, educational and commercial assets of the central city, and connecting to them without relying upon the automobile will be a major breakthrough for the whole region.
I understand that there is only so much political capital to go around, but agree that Mayor Reed should have spent a little on the Atlanta-Macon commuter rail. This project is also widely supported, and has a commitment from many of the smaller communities along the way, which also stand to benefit from the Beltline and contribute to the economic vitality of Atlanta. There is federal money available for this project as well. We can do more than one thing at time!
1 year, 7 months ago on Atlanta BeltLine tour reveals the opportunities for transit in our city and our region
Professor Dobbins, Thank You! Finally we read from an experienced voice urging us to make sense of all of the projects the Roundtable has approved! For the major transit and road projects to be effective as a group, there has to be evidence that they work together to move people from where they live to where they work, play, study, and shop.
The schematic flow map included in the article shows graphically how challenging this is and how Atlanta has become multi-nodal, with major flows between all of the nodes. This is a new reality that has emerged over the last 30 years here, diminishing the importance of the single central downtown as the only major node.
Subjecting the whole list of projects to objective transportation planning criteria and analysis would make for "smarter" projects and ones that are both seen as effective and can be built upon later. This may not be popular with some, as some beloved projects may not pass muster, and others that never made the list may come to the forefront as more important in solving the region's mobility problems.
Let's not lose the momentum of the Roundtable process. Having attended one of the hearings at the Atlanta City Hall, where the city council chambers were filled to capacity with interested citizens who asked pointed and intelligent questions, I see there is a wide-held sense that we have to get moving, and if the state won't lead then at least for this round, the local governments can start....
1 year, 7 months ago on Transportation Investment Act — are we spending money on yesterday’s problems?
The refrain is familiar and disappointing, but not very surprising. 1) Put referendum that takes broad support to pass and put the vote into an election cycle where narrow interests generally show up; 2) say you've let the voters decide and that they were against more taxes, against transit, and 3) at least we gave them the chance. I've lived here long enough that this isn't the first time or the first issue I have seen play out this way.
While it is not a foregone conclusion, defeat is far more likely in the July election than in November, and, having already killed commuter rail to Macon, for which there was a federal funding source and a willing partner in the NS railroad, the Governor will now assure that there is no funding for the projects that the region decided it needed. The entrenched interests against transit are quite skilled at assuring that measures like these get a lot of attention, sprout a bubble of hope, and then are scuttled at the last moment, only to leave a void that will then take yet more years to overcome. The hope now is that there can be a public campaign to get the voters out to end gridlock, and to educate them through the media. Can anyone step up and fund such a campaign?
Perhaps those of us who live in the city need to look inward or wait for the second stimulus. One of the things I like about the Beltline and Streetcar projects is that they don't require the legislature or the Governor to move forward, even though they are more difficult to fund without the state as a partner. Both projects are showing that they can move forward and achieve momentum in spite of the backwardness outside the metro area. Both will create the experience of different modes of transit, greater connectivity to MARTA, and greater opportunity of mobility for all.
1 year, 8 months ago on By not moving the referendum date, regional transportation tax may be destined to fail
The Last Democrat in Georgia I personally would vote against the TSPLOST tax if it were yet another way to fund roads alone. We already have a mechanism to fund roads, the motor fuels tax. Maybe it is not enough to fund what we need in Georgia. I agree with you that some of the motor fuels tax should fund mass transit.
Georgia is so behind the rest of the populous states when it comes to mass transit that we need something to break the back of the roads-only mentality.
1 year, 8 months ago on Improve list of regional transportation projects; fix flaws in HB 277; and the region stands to benefit
Mason Hicks Great Points all. Right now we have neither commuter rail nor light rail/streetcar in Georgia. Georgians have no experience of the benefits that both would add to the mix of transportation choices they have. If we can get the first of each built and make sure the initial segments connect to the infrastructure we already have, then there will be a demand for extensions and additions to both these technologies as well as expansion of MARTA.
Soon construction will begin on the "tourist loop" streetcar circulating through downtown Atlanta. Portland, Oregon started its famed streetcar with just a mile of track, and the demand grew once people could take a ride and see the benefits.
I am hopeful that Georgia Forward will bring about both better understanding among the many diverse communities in our state, and acceptance of certain economic realities. As I drive outside metropolitan Atlanta, I am struck that Georgia is still a poor state, with those in most parts of Georgia without the access to the level of education, economic development, and transportation options that urban Georgians, particularly metro Atlantans take as part of the air they breathe.
Bringing prosperity to other parts of Georgia means accepting the reality that Atlanta is the economic engine for the state, generating over 2/3 of the wealth produced in Georgia. Connecting Georgia to the wealth and education opportunities here, building a network of transportation options such as commuter and intercity rail within the state with connections to Atlanta's gateway to the world, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and politically accepting that much of what's good for Atlanta is also good for the state: these things can draw investment toward Georgia's smaller cities and towns and reverse the brain drain that occurs when young people must flee to have a better education, a better job, and a better life.
1 year, 9 months ago on GeorgiaForward highlights the state's regional differences and shared challenges
When you compare the cost of public transportation with the cost of owning, insuring, maintaing, and fueling a private car that serves one commuter twice each day, public transport is a bargain, even at twice the price. A problem in Atlanta is not that public transport is not affordable, but that it doesn't collect enough of its operating costs through fares. All public transport is subsidized, and not expected to make a profit, but agencies like MARTA must have a reasonable business model. What was the point in installing the BREEZE system if we cannot contemplate a graduated-fare system that charges more for traveling farther? Just to keep track of where riders are going and to eliminate tokens? The BREEZE system gives MARTA the capability to charge for distance traveled.
In cities like San Francisco, it will cost you $8+ to go from the airport to downtown, and over $10 one way for the longest distance. In Washington, DC a similar graduated fare system applies. There are peak and non-peak fares, and still there are discounts for daily pass holders, seniors, and others. These two systems are still expanding, while MARTA languishes. Perhaps some fares could be less if others were increased- get the fare of traveling one or two stops down to a dollar and charge $5 to go from Harstfield-Jackson to North Springs. This might actually encourage more trips by MARTA rail during workers' lunch hours. More riders equals more revenue equals more constituency for better and more frequent service.
1 year, 9 months ago on Fair Share for Transit urges Roundtable to add more transit projects to draft list
Here is an idea for an aviation project to be placed on the list: A rail connection to MARTA from the new Maynard Jackson, Jr. International Concourse. When the new terminal opens next year, the entry and exit point for international travelers will be at the east end of the airport, while all of the transit connections are at the west end. Will international arrivals have to check their luggage again to ride the AirTrain to get from the east to west side, or will they have to ride a bus, or take a cab? Was there even a future in-terminal rail connection planned?
I travel internationally 2-3 times a year, and always take MARTA to and from the airport. What appears to be a design oversight and lack of public planning could be the reason that even those who want to can no longer practically access the airport using mass transit.
1 year, 9 months ago on Public theater begins in battle for projects to be paid with 1 percent sales tax for transportation
Bravo for pointing out specifics and politics involved in the proposed 1-cent transportation tax.
Any regional plan that is not just "pork" has to be viewed in terms of projects that fit into an overall goal, not just a pasted-together wish list of individual constituencies. If we are to truly connect the metro area to itself and to Georgia at large, there has to be a process that sets the priorities and identifies the critical pieces.
Metro Atlanta, and therefore Georgia by extension, used to be a leader in attracting the "creative class", those mainly aged 25-35, to relocate here and become part of a dynamic and growing economy. But that growth has stopped.
As a recent series in the AJC entitled "Atlanta Forward" points out, Atlanta lags behind other metropolitan areas in the 2000's, not only in attracting this dynamic group of people, but in overall employment as well. Could one of the reasons be the lack of interest and investment in public transportation, i.e. MARTA, commuter rail, urban streetcars, etc? The under-40 crowd don't want to be bound by traffic and cars to have a life, and they are mobile enough to vote with their feet.
Cities like Dallas and Charlotte, once backwaters in public transit, are moving forward to build the modern urban infrastructure the 21st century demands. Dallas has now outstripped Atlanta in miles of track of urban rail, and sprawling Denver will soon soon overtake us, having started 20 years after Atlanta! San Francisco and Washington, D.C., which began their rail systems in the 70's simultaneously to Atlanta, are still growing their systems, while MARTA has stopped serious planning and has stopped growing.
What's needed is unity of purpose and planning, and shared funding at the state level. How do we achieve that?
1 year, 9 months ago on The vision for a regional transit system getting lost in the 'project list' process