Hope you didn’t drown in Atlanta’s roadwork weekend extravaganza these past two weeks! If you missed it, don’t worry. It WILL be back next year. All of these backups got me thinking why we have such gridlock. Last week, Los Angeles’ A+D Museum unveiled their newest exhibit, “Windshield Perspective”, a visual representation of the modern city that automobiles built. Unfortunately. Atlanta shares that same vice with the City of Angels, as it is no surprise that our traffic rivals that of cities the size of Los Angeles and New York, just in a smaller space. But why? We don’t have as many people as they do, right? WRONG. The Metropolitan Statistical Area of Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell just passed the 6 million mark, meaning that there are people that commute from Meriwether County southwest of Newnan to jobs in the northern suburbs of Forsyth County, while watching our local news, reading our papers, and contributing to our economy. This has happened for years, but not as synonymous as we’d all hope. Atlanta’s terrible traffic was the result of the expansion of our highways, which led to the suburban expansion that we’ve seen today. Race and class also plays a part in traffic, as we live by the “Drive til’ you Qualify” motto of moving farther from the city to areas that are affordable. Once African-Americans were liberated to this same ideal in the late 60’s, they followed suit. We could be like Midwestern cities and build more interstates that connect the already-existing freeways, but the east side resistance to the Stone Mountain Freeway proved that they shall not be moved. It needs to stay that way. Then, there’s the alternatives. We know MARTA is less than stellar, but they jumped off around the time the metro experienced its most explosive growth. The road infrastructure couldn’t keep up then, and now the transit can’t provide adequate service to suburbanites now, leading to the gridlock of even our local and arterial roads. (Ever wonder why Ponce or Howell Mill is ALWAYS clogged?)
So why so many cars???
I believe that people don’t see any other way. People here are quick to bash MARTA when they have never ridden it, but won’t look at what they are doing to improve it. Some people just do more in their cars than at home or work. Food delivery services has increased by the boatload here showing that businesses can cut costs if they send others to deliver their product. Also, our spheres of influence lies in the suburbs, not the city. If you walk through Atlantic Station, Lenox, or even in Midtown, 8 out of 10 people you see are OTPers, meaning they DROVE down. Realtors can see this, which is why strip malls and McMansions are the norm here. Others just like to be by themselves when they drive for peace and quiet. You’re in the wrong place for that.
Our only solution to change this behavior is to offer clean alternatives to driving. Carpooling is the first step. If you know someone you can ride with, especially to work, leave the car at home. Join a vanpool is you know commuting will be the norm all week. MARTA won’t change unless you ASK for it. Attend public hearings and voice your opinion on what should be built. If you have the power to telework, DO IT!!! It is verrrrry rewarding. Biking is becoming the fastest-growing commute alternative in Atlanta, and if you’re balsy, ride on in with the gas-guzzlers to make ’em jealous. And, of course, if you have the pleasure of living within walking distance of anywhere, give those two feet the workout.
Moral of this story, Los Angeles isn’t as glamorous in the morning and evening just like some of us with no makeup. Sometimes you can’t even see the city because it has a smogging problem, which we all know can be very deadly Let’s not let Atlanta get that way and help control the car population. Have your vehicle spayed and neutered. Next week is a perfect start on how to do so. (See link below!!!)