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Nice, timely article, Maria. Metro Atlanta faces a challenge because of it's sprawling, low density development. Transit is definitely needed to address the area's lack of alternative transport, but last mile connectivity has to be solved to make the system truly viable. Berlin, Germany is doing this with low speed EV;s. Atlanta's overuse of high speed roadways will not permit this to happen in a big way, but it can work in pockets, such as Brookhaven, where our organization recently assisted Southface in a TOD study that aims to incorporate higher usage of PTV;s and LSV;s. These two forms of LSEV's that make a lot of sense for the area, given Georgia's heavy manufacturing base in the industry. Atlanta produces neither cars nor petroleum, so it currently exports millions of transport dollars from the local economy. LSEV's are good for walkability, excellent for last mile connectivity, and for connecting people to jobs. The coup de gras for the maladies of conventional transport is both the environmental damage and the economic cost to the region.
3 months, 1 week ago on Chris Leinberger: Atlanta region ‘absolutely needs rail transit;’ question is will you lead or be a laggard?
Sounds like I missed an important Roundtable. It is always good to look at what other cities and nations are doing to raise the bar on sustainability.
Atlanta has done a really good job with sustainability in the realm of architecture, but a poor job in the bigger picture of city planning, urban design and transportation. Much of this is a legacy of the rapid growth during the 70's, 80's and 90's, when the almighty, single-occupant automobile reigned supreme in the minds of city and transport planners.
This has turned into a liability for Metro Atlanta, as it was recently ranked 220 out of 222 US cities for urban sprawl. The recent defeat of the transport funding referendum may have been a blessing in disguise, as it was still too beholden to 20th Century auto-centric planning.
It is time for bold ideas Atlanta. It's not just about climate change (which alone should compel us to action). It's about the economy and jobs, too. Atlanta produces neither petroleum nor automobiles in sizable numbers. Yet it is highly dependent on both., leading to the outflow of tens of millions of dollars annually.
Americans are increasingly rejecting suburban sprawl with their feet and legs. Automobile ownership and travel are down. The downward trend began before the Great Recession hit, and has since continued.
3 months, 2 weeks ago on Time for U.S. elected leaders to address climate change issues
@The Last Democrat in Georgia @whatshisface @Burroughston Broch @Bob Munger
Actually they were built to make the landowners, developers and road-builders wealthier. A secondary benefit was providing housing and shopping to consumers.
The heavy traffic was a byproduct of that proven process of enriching folks. But too much of a "good" thing led to Atlanta became a sprawling city with inadequate water and resources to maintain Frankenstein. The legacy is a huge geographic footprint of development to maintain, and the size of it has killed the golden goose.
It is a development model that works with cheap transportation and head in sand vis a vis climate change. Those days are gone.
As for the gas tax, it is woefully inadequate. The "guvna" needs to man up and raise the gas tax, including money for alternative transport.
12 months ago on We must invest in all transportation modes to compete in today’s economy
@Burroughston Broch @Bob Munger
So let's agree to stop building more roads. We have more than we can take care of already. Let's convert some to alternative transport infrastructure.
The correlation between long automobile commutes and health problems is well documented, despite what "you see." Are you a gifted seer?
There are many forms of sustainable transport, including transit and alternative transportation, that use far less oil, and have a far lower carbon footprint than the single occupant internal combustion vehicle which is the norm of suburbia. If the USA exports it's auto-dependent suburban lifestyle to China, India, Vietnam, Mexico etc., it is game over for the climate and life as we know it on earth. Instead of fighting over oil, we will be fighting over food and water.
@Bob Munger The transportation industry is designing for the last war of the 20th Century, as is typical of the government, which is captured by lobbyists and special interests. The DOT is a cookbook-driven bureaucracy with a bunch of robots programmed to carry out transportation plans that were set in stone a decade or two ago. The powerful real estate developers have bought up all the land and placed their bets on the execution of those plans. A serious course correction is needed but it's not gonna happen without goring some big oxen.
On the other hand, do the suburban-sprawlers expect other tax payers to subsidize their lifestyles for the massive road infrastructure, the added healthcare costs associated with asthma and obesity, that goes with their lifestyle? The destruction of forests and farmland? The empire-sized military designed to protect their oil addiction? And for the damage to the economy? Metro Atlanta's economy has been dealt a blow by it's sprawl, as is well-explained in the following linked article. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/opinion/krugman-stranded-by-sprawl.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1&
Pass the Georgia Alternative Sustainable Transportation Act so that we can bring informed and rational decision-making to our transportation planning.
Well done, David.
1 year, 4 months ago on Georgia’s green building lead at risk as state sides with forestry industry
If you zoom in on Peachtree City on the H+T map by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, you will see that Peachtree City is a small yellow area surrounded by blue. This means that it is a more affordable place to live than it surrounds, due (I hypothesize) to it's low automobile dependency. I will also go out on a limb and suggest that it's real estate foreclosure rates have been (conversely) relatively low and its home values more resilient, despite the high number of airline industry workers.
Might make for an interesting masters thesis.
1 year, 5 months ago on Poverty in metro Atlanta’s suburbs growing faster than in the city
@The Last Democrat in Georgia The Center for Neighborhood Technology has a nice data-rich map called the H+T Index of affordability (Housing plus Transportation)which illustrates the way affordability changes once transportation costs are factored in. It's not a pretty picture for Metro Atlanta. http://htaindex.cnt.org/map/
I dare say that Atlanta's infamous auto-dependency is coming home to roost, in this era of higher oil costs.
Here's an interesting observation in looking at the map: Peachtree City, with its extensive network of alternative transportation, is free of red. My hypothesis: Even the 'burbs can be less auto-dependent and therefor economically resilient. Extend a commuter rail line to Peachtree City and watch auto ownership drop even more.
These "what if' scenarios are the sort of thing GASTA is all about.
It sounds to me like the trail may be missing an opportunity to incorporate low speed electric vehicles, which would be a shame. Peachtree City's multipurpose trails have proven that this can work, thereby providing a secondary mode of clean and quiet electromechancal transport, which reduces dependence on internal combustion automobile, reduces foreign oil imports, keeps transport dollars in the local economy, reduces air pollution and lowers the city's carbon footprint.
1 year, 5 months ago on Buckhead Trail to move ahead with design/build agreement with GDOT
Yes, LDIG, in my home state of Arkansas, a rather well known politician named Bill Clinton lost his only gubernatorial race after raising gas taxes during his first term. Rising vehicular MPG via new Cafe standards for fleets are eroding the power of gas taxes. I think it a matter of educating voters to that fact. The newly announced standards (yesterday) are going to really take a bite out of gas taxes. Tolls are a hassel and do not incentivize cleaner forms of transport. Every gallon of gas burned puts 19 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That piper will soon have to be paid.
1 year, 11 months ago on Challenging transportation myths after the failed regional TIA vote
Georgia has very low gas taxes in a nation with the lowest gas taxes in the industrialized world. Why should taxes on food and clothing pay for roads? This shifting of the revenue source away from petroleum is an incentive for more automobile travel. Is that wise, given the links between automobile use and air pollution, asthma and global warming? If more revenue is needed it should came from a higher gas tax. Higher gas taxes will incentivize alternative, heathier modes of travel that use less gasoline. Remember too that the majority of every dollar of gas that goes into your gas tank leaves the State. Oil-based transportation is a very effiective from of wealth transfer from Georgia to foreign lands and multinational oil companies.
Bravo. Broadening the definition and the diligence via financial cost/benefit analysis, Health Impact Analysis, etc. is very important to getting it right. We have spent the last 75 years pandering to the auto-centric gods of oil, Detroit and suburban-sprawl-type real estate development.
Such analysis should not be conducted in a vacuum. We need to look at alternative modes of transport as well as whether or not Road A makes sense.
President, Augusta Greenway Alliance
Do roads have to be for automobiles? Why can;t they be for alternative, sustianable transportation?
1 year, 11 months ago on Gov. Deal’s choice — lead in helping make metro Atlanta a global city or let it regress into a small Southern town
@The Last Democrat in Georgia
The referendum passed in the East Central Georgia and Augusta areas thanks to high support in the City of Augusta which is over 60% African American. This despite the fact that less than 5% of the spending goes to transit. Despite the support of the Chambers of Commerce, the suburbs voted it down.
The Augusta Greenway Alliance seeks to make Augusta a successful laboratory for the overlay of sustainable, affordable transportation systems onto Augusta’s urban environment, providing a valuable example for others to follow. The city is the global capital of the low speed electric vehicle industry. If it leads to economic vitality in Augusta, it will be of great interest to other communities.
Demographic and population trends predict that global, urban population will reach 6 billion people by 2050. This is nearly double the earth’s urban population at the dawn of the 21st Century, and twice the total human population of only 3 billion in 1960.
The advent and proliferation of automobiles in the 20th Century has hugely impacted the planning of cities, and resulted in highly automobile-dependent lifestyles. Rapid auto proliferation continues in developing nations, with global autos set to double in 20-25 years. The overwhelming majority of these automobiles utilize climate-altering, internal combustion engines reliant on dwindling resources. Clearly these trends are not sustainable.
Atlanta has historically been a leader in transportation, and would be wise to heed this in planning it transport systems for the 21st Century. MARTA should plan for much higher multi-modal connectivity with sustainable transport, which will boost livability,transit ridership and economic growth.
1 year, 11 months ago on It’s time for Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb to retake control of their own destinies
As the global leader in production of low speed electric vehicles (LSV), Georgia should throw LSV's into the mix for walkable communities. They are very affordable, emit zero tailpipe emissions, have dramatically lower carbon emissions (as compared to internal combustion cars), are quiet, compact and operate at speeds well-suited to coexist alongside cyclists and pedestrians.
They are excellent starter cars for the young and ender cars for the elderly. Bicycles are arguably the healthiest form of transportation, if you can ignore the obvious safety hazards of mixing bicycles with high speed vehicles. Bicycles are not, however, for everyone, and many will never feel comfortable cycling on roadways where massive, 4000 lb vehicles routinely zip past at 45 MPH.
2 years, 3 months ago on More cycling, walking and green space will make Atlanta a more competitive and livable city
Imagine how much money would be kept in the local economy if 5000 Atlanta auto owners stopped pumping gas and instead used an LSV or PTV.
Bob Munger AIA, CCM, LEED AP
President, Augusta Greenway Alliance, Inc.
Nice article, Maria. Georgia really needs to capitalize on its homegrown low speed electric vehicles as a major form of sustainable transportation, including making the infrastructure and local governmental changes to faciliate their use. They are certainly more compatible with cyclists and pedestrians (thus conducive to walkable environs), than internal combustion vehicles. Much cleaner, more affordable and no more filling up your tank with dollars bound for foreign lands. Our GASTA bill did not make it this last session, but rest assured we'll be back.
Augusta Greenway Alliance
2 years, 4 months ago on Can Georgia and U.S. compete while other countries continue investing in infrastructure?
The author makes some good points, including the importance of recognizing the paradigm shift that has occurred in housing preferences, and how they impact economic development.
Perhaps more important is that we plan for the likelihood of a future with much higher oil prices. Political hot air notwithstanding, the price of oil, like so many commodities in today's global economy, are no longer driven primarily by what happens in the USA. Growing economies in developing nations abroad are driving up global vehicle ownership at rapid rates. The best chance of slowing that down is unfortunately an oil-induced price shock, leading to another global recession.
Transit and use of Georgia's homegrown low speed electric vehicles (and other forms of sustainable transportation) as "segways" to connect to transit make for a nice contingency plan for oil price sticker shock.
2 years, 5 months ago on Transportation referendum a defining moment for Atlanta
Thanks so much. I just read the study and it is excellent! I'd love to talk offline sometime, if you are willing. I can be reached at email@example.com
2 years, 5 months ago on Georgia can lead the way to a healthier future with low-speed electric vehicles
LSV's are street legal on low speed roads, which are often found in urban environs. They emit zero emissions at the point of use, are quiet, are very affordable, and are less taxing on land for parking. They are mostly produced in Georgia by Georgia workers and tax payers. They do not use foreign oil. If 10K of these take the place of 10K internal combustion autos, helping Atlanta achieve air quality attainment, what's not to like?
Another point to make is that GASTA goes far beyond the suburban model. IMO, existing urban environments are where sustainable transportation can really shine, Dense urban environments need lower speed, walkable environments, High speed internal combustion vehicles in such locales is like swatting mosquitoes with shotguns--very inefficient and in fact harmful to health. Provide mini parking spaces and plug-ins in urban areas, and use zoning ordinances to make it sing like a virtuoso.
Why not marry low speed electric vehicles to transit, for instance? Your swath of sustainable transport increases from 1/2 mile wide to 8 miles wide. Provide mini parking spaces at MARTA stations, and maybe even use flat cares than one can drive right onto.
Good questions, Burroughston Broch.
1. Peachtree City is a multipurpose trail system that has been quite successful. It segregates golf cars and PTV;s from automobile traffic, placing them with bicycles, which is fine. However, bicycles are still allowed on low and medium speed roads, while PTV's are more restricted. LSV;s which travel up to 25 MPH, are sort of "in-betweeners" and my understanding is that they are not allowed on multipurpose trails, or if allowed, are restricted to lower speeds. So there are some holes in the logic, perhaps. Overall, a great system, but the LSV is sort of left out of the equation, as their "sweet spot" is around 25 MPH..
They eliminate a tremendous amount of auto traffic from their road systems. The high schools for instance have as many low speed electric vehicles as automobiles in their parking lots.
2. One cannot simply retroactively apply the Peachtree City concept to existing suburbs. Peachtree City has been planned for decades with alternative transportation in mind. Many of the concepts are transferable, but IMO they won't happen in a meaningful fashion (see Suburban America of the last 30 years) including the sorts of connectivity required to really accomplish much, without a level of governmental involvement. Most of our suburbs are designed for "exclusivity," which effectively makes them reliant on high speed arterial roads, making us highly reliant on autos. A neighborhood of $300K homes does not want to consort with ones of $200K homes, etc. thus they avoid street connections.
3. You make a good point about railroads, although much of the land was practically donated in the early days because the economic incentives of having a railroad were so clear.
4. I don;t completely understand your question, but the point is that transportation projects should be vetted by legitimate cost/benefit analysis. The key is "legit," because too often the studies are biased to a predetermined conclusion. Would you support funding of alternative transport projects without such analysis?
Adding to the preceding comments:
1. Our entire transportation system is paid for with taxpayer dollars.
2. Were those projects vetted with cost/benefit analysis?
3. Most of the current projects in the pipeline were planed 1-2 decades ago, when gasoline was around $2 per gallon. When the projects are completed, the price might easily be $5 or $6 per gallon, mainly due to the rapid proliferation of autos in developing nations like China. Lliving patterns and densities are dynamic as well.
I was in Peachtree City last week looking at their systems. They have a great thing going, but it can be improved, and it obviously hasn't spread much to other locations in Georgia.
We are talking about much more than what Peachtree City has done. It is a very nice suburban model, but why hasn't it caught on elsewhere? Nearly all of our planning is based on the single occupant internal combustion auto, that is why.
GASTA will also look at urban environments, which badly need better alternatives to compliment their resurgent intown living.