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. 

 

 

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. 

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/

 

A Piece of Utopia

ImageWhile out one night, a group of friends and I went to Atlanta’s only Wet Willie’s which was awkwardly located streetside on Piedmont Road in Lindbergh City Center.  That got me thinking…Why isn’t Lindbergh living up to its full potential?

   As Atlanta’s only Transit-oriented Development site, Lindbergh Center can “get by” with its livability index with having residential apartments, a couple of restaurants, nightspots, a bank, and big-box stores to shop at nearby.  (and of course the coup de grace, the huge MARTA Station that makes all of this special, right).  For some reason, I don’t feel that Lindbergh City Center really qualifies as a true blue TOD site.  First off, there are thousands of parking space around it, which would really juxtapose the idea of a TOD site.  Second, the retail paradise is across the street from it all.  It would be lovely for a smaller Marshall’s store to relocate to City Center if that was possible.  I know they could definitely afford the rents here. But, in order to get to it, you have to walk 5 minutes from the train station, cross the traffic-choked Piedmont (and God forbid Sidney Marcus as well), and cross thousands of ample parking lots.  Very disgusting. 

What could be done better?  For one, Lindbergh City Center should try to look for some more suitable tenants.  MARTA is in the process of looking at some possible development sites around its train stations, and surprisingly enough, Lindbergh Center wasn’t one of them.  They must think its perfect or something. Second, make the area more inviting (to transit riders, that is.) Replace some of the parking decks with multi-level mixed-use development.  That would be a BIG move for the area. Also, if the retail on the other side of the tracks is looking to connect with the rest of the area, a pedestrian bridge wouldn’t hurt. Morsogo and Piedmont looks like a total crime scene.

Funkytown USA

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I’m feeling a little nostalgic today as I listen to Daft Punk’s latest album, Random Access Memories.  Being a huge history buff, I randomly scrounge through pics of Atlanta pre-Olympics.  Wow, what a time.  Most notably, I can’t help but wonder how the city got away with permitting all of the discotheques, music halls, and gentlemen’s clubs that dotted much of the city.  Also, what made Atlanta such an attractive place then prior to what it is now?

We can all argue that 1970’s Atlanta is WAAAAAY different than what it is now. I may not have lived it, but from what I researched, 70′ Atlanta would get so many cool points than what today has coughed up. The Omni was not a convention space but a party zone with a short-lived amusement park, and a restaurant/disco lounge based on fellow Georgian actor, Burt Reynolds.  MARTA wasn’t much but bus service until the introduction of heavy rail in the summer of ’79, and EVERYONE rode the bus.  Sitting at the bus stop was apparently cool.  Midtown was the counterculture capital of the South (and kinda remains in a way), and Limelight was the Studio 54 of the South as well.  Maynard Jackson must have been a real cool cat to preside over a hip city then.  I wish Kasim could relax a little and let our city go!

What are some of your nostalgic Atlanta stories?  Leave a comment below and let me know what you remember back in the day.

Carlanta

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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!!!)

http://www.gacommuteoptions.com/Commuter-Services/Dump-the-Pump