Stepping Stones Can’t Break My Bones

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***CITY OF ATLANTA RESIDENTS***

You have a referendum to vote on today. I know all of this news came quickly and there hasn’t (and won’t be for some time) explanation of which projects will be selected and executed, but let’s think on a grander scale of where we go from here. Yes, we will still have a LOOOONG laundry list of infrastructure work to do if it passes. No ,not everything put on this list will be fixed immediately. What I can say is that if it doesn’t pass, we can no longer brag on the fact that T-SPLOST passed in the City of Atlanta. Think of this referendum as a mini T-SPLOST. No, it doesn’t have all of the projects for transit or a whole bike network or sidewalks on every street, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s a step just like that new streetcar is a step to a more expansive system. It’s a step to open Downtown buildings to become tech incubators so all those jobs won’t move to Alpharetta. It’s a step to be proud of the way our city looks instead of cracking jokes about how ugly it is.

It’s obvious what my vote was, but here’s my other point. The naysayers will always vote down initiatives like this until something perfect comes along. That’s never going to happen. Point blank period. Atlanta is too old for a brand new, perfectly planned out referendum where everyone gets what they want. So if you vote no on this, you most likely voted no for T-SPLOST because of the management. You picked your councilmembers the same way you pick your greens because Kroger got theirs from a truck off of a truck of a truck. You don’t have control over this infrastructure but you do have a say in investing in it. If you didn’t like this plan, vote them out of office. Don’t sacrifice the progress over bitterness towards the administration. If you feel that strongly about Atlanta, leave.

So with that being said, you have a couple of hours left. No excuses. Also, don’t hit any potholes on your way to the polls.

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King Krugman

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If you haven’t read or been forwarded an article showing that Hotlanta isn’t so hot when it comes to upward mobility, you must be one of the ones penny-pinching to get to the club in your beat up Toyota Celica. That hasn’t passed emissions. Lately, Atlanta has become the butt of every sociologist, urban planner, economists’ joke, including the honorable Paul Krugman who spared “Sprawlanta” no rod and beat us to a pulp.

Krugman claims that, 

 

“…And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities. This would make an effective public transportation system nearly impossible to operate even if politicians were willing to pay for it, which they aren’t. As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can’t get there.” – Paul Krugman

 

He couldn’t have been more right.  Of course, his claims came with great resistance from none other than yokels.  More specific, a sort-of-known host of a WSB radio show and Fox News contributor, Erick Erickson (fake name this guy says) voiced his pain over Krugman’s harshful words. Erickson says that Krugman should stop bashing Atlanta becuase, 

 

“Atlanta is middle of the pack for Sunbelt cities. It’s more dense than places like Montgomery County, Maryland and Westchester County, New York, which nobody seems to have a problem with.”

 

So wrong, He listed the density of the City of Atlanta and not the 28-county metro area which CLEARLY was what Krugman was alluding to.  Also, no one has a problem with places like Montgomery or Westchester County because maybe they are exemplary jurisdictions that don’t really need density because:

1. They are NOT the main sphere of influence for D.C. and New York City respectively

2. Both counties rank in the top 20 wealthiest in the COUNTRY.

3. Westchester County developed WAAAAY before most suburbs. Atlanta is a new age city. They have three commuter rail lines that span three states while Atlanta has 0. 

 

But density STILL doesn’t play in Atlanta’s favor when talking about mobility.  Krugman relayed heavily on our transit system that he claimed was inecffective because most lower-income residents can’t reach it to get to their jobs not near their home.  He was speaking on the Lithonia single mother who can’t get to her job in Kennesaw on time because she would have to take a bus, two trains, and another bus all equating to a three-hour trip because our system isn’t compatible together. So she drives, like everyone else here, and complains, INSTEAD, that traffic made her late. Apparently, Erickson still covers for Atlanta, er… Brookhaven perhaps, in saying that, 

 

“Krugman clearly has no idea what’s going on in Atlanta right now, what both the business community and civic leaders are pushing for. I live in Brookhaven now and there are two large apartment developments going up right next to Brookhaven’s MARTA station. “

 

Maybe the clueless one is Erickson again because if we’re still talking about the city vs. the metro, Brookhaven would not be included. And two apartment complexes??? If they were groundbreaking enough as the BeltLine or Krog Street Market, which Erickson also mentions as projects ACTUALLY being done in the city proper, this blogger would’ve heard about it by now.  Brookhaven MARTA Station has to be one of the worst examples of TOD due to the recently-constructed mixed-use development complex known as Town at Brookhaven located ONE MILE from the station. There’s literally NOTHING adjacent to the station that you wouldn’t have to cross six lanes of traffic to get to . 

In saying, Krugman is teaching us a valuable lesson, yet again.  Our knack of creating jobs in any particular location without thought of how we get there has once again put us in the bad spotlight.  It is bad when you can start from the bottom and make it to the top in Detroit easier than here.  It’s no wonder why much of the population is being sucked to D.C. or out West. I will say this, though. We have to make our voices heard because believe it or not, it is OUR commute, OUR city, and OUR metro.  We have the power to change and influence what gets built and where.  If we don’t have a say, we can’t make a change.  To Mr. Erickson, maybe it is YOU who should stop talking about Atlanta since you technically don’t live here. 

 

 

Put A Cap On It!

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Apparently, Curbed Atlanta won’t let me comment on any of their posts without technical issues, so I thought that I’d deliberate on their latest post.  There was a conversation just today about “capping” the Downtown Connector.  Aesthetically, when Atlanta is viewed, what you see is a huge gray scab running through a sea of green and tall skyscrapers.  Or someone would give you a peach. But what if all that gray was covered?

I absolutely LOVE this idea.  Imagine the possibilities that could be done if the Downtown Connector was out of sight and out of mind.  Of course, we have to pay homage to the geniuses at Georgia Tech who were already over this idea with the Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge.  If there were residential abodes in that area, THAT would be the prime example of smart growth in Atlanta.  

But back to the cap. Whenever I bring family into Atlanta for the first time, driving down the Downtown Connector is one of my bucket list items for them.  They MUST see the view. This would put a damper on that, but in retrospect, it would put our city in a healthier light.  Of course, we can’t bulldoze the two major interstates to make Atlanta look better. However, we can turn a negative into a positive by dressing up the top and adding flare for others to enjoy.  The Buckhead financial district is basically built on a Georgia 400 Overpass.  Why can’t we build more of Midtown over the Connector?

Midtown and Downtown have been cut off to this behemoth highway and created the biggest eyesore for the city (Well, unless you count those fast-pace pictures where you see the car taillights in a skinny, red line). I would encourage others, and the city of Atlanta to embark on this endeavor.  Boston has done it, Montreal has done it, and Atlanta can definitely do it. 

Neighborhood Highlight: Inman Park

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The grass is always greener on the other side, right?  In this edition of neighborhood highlight, “greener” isn’t even the half of it.  Winner of best Atlanta neighborhood multiple times by Creative Loafing, Inman Park sits on a fence of what Atlanta once was and the direction Atlanta is heading in. Step over to the green side of things.

Atlanta’s first original suburb, Inman Park is located a little over a mile east of Downtown.  Suprisingly enough, Inman Park was what Gwinnett County is today: the last bit of civilization before you venture into the jungle.  It was created by engineer and real estate tycoon Joel Hurt who envisioned, like all streetcar suburbs, a place to get away from the city.  Evidence of this once rural gem is left through the many Victorian and Queen Anne-style homes that tower through the luscious greenery.  Of course, the automobile spelled death for the neighborhood but the bounce back came through willing folks who never wanted to see the neighborhood die.  Today, homes that were once worth only thousands of dollars now range into the million range.  It is also the focal point for local entertainment as our favorite nook Little Five Points lies within its boundaries. Two big projects are also slated to begin construction on and near the BeltLine, one being the Krog Street Market, on the location of Tyler Perry’s old soundstage, and 280 Elizabeth, a new mixed-use development in Inman Park’s neighborhood core.  

Admittedly one of my favorite neighborhoods in Atlanta, Inman Park shows great craftsmanship not because of its homes, walkability, or even amenities, but for its GREENSPACE!!! Parks, grassy nooks, and walking paths o’er the river and through the woods are everywhere here, which proves why the butterfly is placed with pride on the neighborhood’s emblem. Never a dull moment, Inman Park shines as an Atlanta original, and top notch for young couples, families and retirees alike.  See? It is easy being green. 

Neighborhood Highlight: Cabbagetown

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I figured that this might work where I highlight a very unique and well-planned out neighborhood that stuck in my mind as a staple of what Atlanta should look like.  Let’s start with a very unique (aren’t they all?) nook just east of Downtown.  Ladies and Gents, I give you: Cabbagetown

From walking through these sort of one-way streets, I felt like I was back down in Savannah from the one lone palmetto and the cottage-style homes.  It also had to do that the neighborhood sat next to the famed Oakland Cemetery.  It’s history is even more intriguing.  It was once a mill town before and after the Civil War, as noted by the large and hard-to-miss Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts, known as one of the largest loft communities in America.  The name association of “Cabbagetown” is debatable, but I will stick with the most reasonable of being that the residents planted Cabbages in the front yards to hide the foul odor of the neighborhood.  Yeah.   I grew up in a mill town in south Georgia, so I can relate. 

Today, the neighborhood boasts a mix of younger and older couples alike, a few unique spots like Little’s Food Store, which in my mind is the LAST REMAINING TRUE SOUTHERN GENERAL STORE IN ATLANTA!!!  They have great sliders, too.  Agave, the southwestern eatery at Boulevard and Carroll Street adds a high-class touch to the very laid-back ‘hood (expect long lines).  Also, 97 Estoria is a pretty hoppin’ pub near the famed Krog Street Tunnel, which connects the neighborhood with Inman Park with whom I’ve complimented both neighborhoods on their pride neighborhood conservation.  I love the feel of this neighborhood planning wise because it gives off the most close-knit family feel out of any neighborhood in the area.  It is small enough to walk from one side to the other, and the look of the neighborhood would give any guy looking to recreate the movie “Project X” a run for their money.  I mean, wouldn’t you rather walk through this neighborhood than have to hassle a vehicle around these alleyway streets? C’mon…

Much Ado About Avondale

ImageGreetings, Loyal Followers!  Sorry that it’s been so long without a blog.  If it gets this way, I also blog on MARTA Rocks! from time to time.  However, I have soooo much to go on about!  Most recently, I attended the first meeting for the Atlanta Railvolutionaries meeting at the Avondale MARTA Station.  If you haven’t followed with this group, you should.  They are beginning their nonprofit group of advocating transit-oriented development around MARTA stations and encouraging residents and civic leaders alike to engage in conversations to enhance transit accessibility in various communities.  Thursday was the first meeting to discuss the comprehensive plan to surge mixed-use development around the Avondale MARTA station.  Joining us that day was Amanda Thompson, Planning Director with the City of Decatur, Patrick Sweeney, Senior Project Manager for Transit and Transportation from the Atlanta BeltLine, and a host of MARTA representatives.

The study was revived from a 2002 plan to bring life back into the busy commuter station.  If you haven’t been past Decatur, it doesn’t look anything worth traveling to. Local points of interest are the DeKalb Farmers Market (1/2 or so mile walk away), the Waffle House Museum (which opens every once in a while), the town of Avondale Estates, and a handful of buses that will take you anywhere but there. The plan is to redevelop 7 acres north of the station into mixed-use development, but the land is owned by DeVry University, who cleverly moved their campus to Downtown Decatur to better service MARTA commuters.  There is also plans to renovate the southern portion of the station (which is actually in the city of Decatur) to make the station more of a town center station like the Decatur MARTA station.  This would include: sharing half of MARTA’s parking lots with the “new development”, connecting nearby streets to enhance walkability, and adding restaurants and shops to entice residents and commuters to walk around instead of to their car.  

The plans are still being developed even more and the engineers and developers that attended the meeting, which ended with a formal presentation at Cakes and Ales in the Decatur Town Square, said that it would be possible but would have to go through many hoops to reach success.  I believe that it would be a wonderful gem for the Blue Line as this station does not get the love that it should.  Come to think of it, has anyone visited the nearby breweries that are over there? Keyword: cashcow.

Dump the Pessimism

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It is here!  Happy Dump the Pump Day for all of you who made a conscientious decision to leave your car at home and try transit today!  If you have been caught in the whirlwind of Dump the Pump week here in Atlanta, you are probably already aware and have riding transit all week.  But today is the National Dump the Pump Day!

 

For you naysayers and skeptics who still pick fault at MARTA for not being “doable” and complain that “It just wouldn’t work for me”, leave your reservations at the door today, huh? Today is a day to TRY it. You are not signing away your life to continue taking the train to work or riding a bus to your office, but this week encourages you to realize that there are alternatives to driving.  No, MARTA isn’t always the best option and it could be better.  But we as a society tend to be stuck in the “I wish MARTA was better so I could take it to work” conversation so long that we tend to do more talking than trying. Maybe it’s not MARTA (although I do blame the misguided Afrocentric though process of how they manage themselves), but maybe we don’t care as much.  Our heightened apathetic attitude leads MARTA to deteriorate even more and we wonder why it isn’t 24-hours or on time or that it doesn’t go to Gwinnett. I’ve been to too many a MARTA meeting and have seen more MARTA reps there than citizens.  We voted down the biggest payday to the system in over 20 years, (see T-SPLOST), and we haven’t taken a stand against the State government in funding the damn thing! It’s not MARTA’s issue. It’s OUR issue. WE must fight for them just like we’re fighting to stop the NSA from watching our every move.  

We have a billion-dollar system in our midst, folks.  If you think for one second that the government (whomever you think they may be) can magically provide funding to make this system better, you are dead wrong. Someone has to take a stand or else we all fall.  Atlanta cannot live without MARTA, and I would not a tourist to ask me why there are empty train tracks running all around town.  For once in our life, let’s do something to help the greater good.  Below are ways to get started. Happy Dump the Pump Day. 

 

Google Transit: https://www.google.com/transit

Bing Transit: http://www.bing.com/maps/TransitDefault.aspx

MARTA Trip Planner: mycommute.itsmarta.com/

Gwinnett County Transit: http://www.gwinnettcounty.com/portal/gwinnett/Departments/Transportation/GwinnettCountyTransit/RoutesandSchedules

Cobb Community Transit: http://portal.cobbcountyga.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=167&Itemid=593

Georgia Regional Transportation Authority: www.grta.org/