NPU-B Denies Rezoning for Sembler Co. Project

From Buckhead Patch

NPU-B Tuesday night turned down for the second time the Sembler Co.’s rezoning request for a retail project at Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive.
Sembler sought to rezone land in the corridor along Morosgo and Adina drives from high density residential to high density commercial for what has previously been described as a grocery store. But NPU Chairperson Sally Silver and other NPU members have expressed concern that the project would turn out to be of much larger scale than a typical supermarket.
The NPU previously rejected the rezoning for the SPI-15 area near the Lindbergh MARTA Station because Sembler didn’t have a site plan to show the board. Silver on Tuesday said the company had indicated its willingness to offer a “conceptual” site plan, but the board again unanimously rejected the rezoning request.
Silver had called the NPU into executive session to take the vote, although three reporters remained in the Hyland Center at Christ the King Cathedral during the discussion and vote.
NPU members expressed concern that Sembler is seeking to build a “big box” store, possibly a Lowe’s, at the site. Silver said that such a store would bring in traffic from outside the area, countering SPI-15 aims to make the site a vibrant urban area of high-rise apartments and condos with small, local shops and restaurants. The area, near Sembler’s Home Depot-anchored Lindbergh Plaza, consists of apartments and shops around the Lindbergh MARTA station.

Report: Atlanta region ranked as the worst metro area for seniors’ access to transit

By Maria Saporta for www.saportareport.com

The Transportation for America, a coalition that promotes smarter transportation investment, has ranked Atlanta as the worst metro area in providing seniors access to mass transit.
Such a ranking is especially devastating for metro Atlanta — a region that is projecting a dramatic increase in senior citizens.
The report — “Aging in Place, Stuck without Options” — determined that the majority of the nation’s metro areas with a population of more than 1 million people provided seniors with poor access to transit.
The number of senior citizens with poor access to transit will continue to grow as the baby boom generation continues to get older.
“While some aging baby boomers and empty nesters have been moving from suburbs to downtowns, the vast majority of older Americans continue to reside in car-dependent suburban and rural communities,” the report stated.
“Inevitably, their ability to navigate these communities by vehicle will diminish or disappear over time, and millions of older adults will need transportation alternatives in order to maintain their independence,” the report continued.
The Urban Land Institute, in its Urban Land publication, reported on the Transportation for America’s ranking and determined that was a wide variation of metro areas providing seniors with access to transit.
The study defined seniors as people aged 65 to 79. And poor access was defined people having fewer than two bus, rail or ferry routes within walking distance of their home.
“Not surprisingly, the metros offering the best transit access for seniors are typically larger, coastal metropolises with larger transit systems, such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.,” the report stated.
“The worst metropolitan areas for seniors’ transit mobility tend to be more inland, with stagnant or shrinking bus systems,” the report continued. “Interestingly, the 11 worst metros include several places with rail systems, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville, suggesting their systems may be too small.”
The finding of this report comes at a particularly significant time for metro Atlanta. Currently, the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable is considering a draft list of transportation projects that would be implemented if voters approve a one-cent regional sales tax next year.
The draft project list would invest 55 percent of the revenue in transit projects and 45 percent in road projects.
The Urban Land Institute said that the metro areas that rank the worst for seniors’ access to transit offers an opportunity for its members and real estate professionals. It stated that those metro areas could be “ripe” for senior housing projects that are part of a transit-oriented development with bus or rail stops.
The 11 worst metro areas for seniors’ having access to transit are:
1.     Atlanta. In 2015, it is projected that the region will have 503,543 people between the ages of 65 to 79. Ninety percent of that population would have “poor transit access” in 2015.
2.     Kansas City. Senior population in 2015: 230,023 with 88 percent with poor transit access.
3.     Oklahoma City. senior population: 136,571; poor transit access: 86 percent.
4.     Nashville. senior population: 151,995; poor transit access: 85 percent.
5.     Raleigh-Durham. senior population: 127,931; poor transit access: 80 percent.
6.     Indianapolis. 181,073; 79 percent.
7.     Charlotte. 170,815; 79 percent  (a tie).
8.     Jacksonville. 127,958; 77 percent.
9.     Virginia Beach-Norfolk. 147,285; 69 percent.
10. Rochester.  116,565; 69  percent (a tie).
11.  Riverside-San Bernardino.  278,305; 69 percent (a tie)

Toddlers Are North Druid Hills’ Fastest-Growing Age Group

By Timothy Darnell for the North Druid Hills / Briarcliff Patch


The number of pre-school-aged children in the  North Druid Hills community grew faster than any other age group, according to a  Patch analysis of 2010 U.S. Census Bureau figures.
The number of children 4 and under in the community jumped 68 percent from 2000 to 2010.
That’s in sharp contrast to overall population numbers in the area that were stagnant over the same time period.
The number of school-age kids in the North Druid Hills area was the fourth-fastest growing age group.
North Druid Hills is a Census Designated Place (CDP), which means the  bureau considers it a distinct area and gathers data for the community  even though it is not an incorporated town.
The North Druid Hills CDP is bordered by I-85 and Clairmont Road in  the northwest and Emory University in the south. The western edge ends at the DeKalb/Fulton  county line.
Population growth in the area is a study in  contradictions. The overall population remains virtually unchanged  over the last decade, growing from 18,852 to 18,947. That’s an  increase of 95 people.
Here are some other findings for the North Druid Hills community:

  • The number of pre-school age children grew from 640 to 1,078.
  • The next-fastest growing age groups were 60-69 (a 39 percent increase) and  50-59 (a 25 percent increase).
  • The number of school-aged children, age 5-18, group grew from 1,301 to 1,628. That’s an increase of 25 percent.
  • The number of people age 19-29 fell 14 percent over the last decade. Their numbers dropped from 6,096 to 5,331.
  • The slowest-growing age groups were 30-39 (with 3.6 percent growth) and 40-49 (3.8 percent growth).

Atlanta Forward / Another View: A smart regional plan must prioritize transit

By  Burrell Ellis

At 5.5 million people, the Atlanta region makes up the 10th-largest  metropolitan area in the United States. Over the last 20 years, our region  has been one of the fastest-growing urban centers in the country. This is  largely the result of investments in infrastructure that have not only  created new jobs, but which have afforded us access to the global  marketplace. Our transportation investments, in particular, have kept us  economically competitive and enhanced our quality of life.

Traditionally, cities and counties have individually invested local tax  revenues in infrastructure and then leveraged those investments with  matching contributions from the state and federal governments.
As the federal government grapples with the deficit and the state government  deals with its own revenue reduction, the competition for matching funds has  become fierce. It is no longer Atlanta versus Cobb County, or DeKalb versus  Gwinnett.
With fewer federal funds available to disburse, our key competitors are other  metropolitan communities such as Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix and  Seattle. It is those regions that address their needs collaboratively and  smartly that are the most competitive, both in securing federal funds as  well as new industry.
That’s why a smart regional transportation plan … one that addresses the  transportation patterns of the people within the region irrespective of  which city or county they may reside in … is a necessity. A smart regional  plan is vital to our growth, economic prosperity and quality of life.
The most vibrant and sustainable metropolitan areas throughout the world have  regional transit systems. While a 1-cent sales tax cannot fund all of our  region’s transportation needs, a smart plan should prioritize a transit  system that is regionally funded … if that plan is expected to reasonably  reduce traffic congestion and gain the trust of the people it is designed to  serve.
Over the past several months, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable has put together  the framework for such a plan.
Over the next two months, there will be more opportunities for public input  before a final plan is put before the roundtable members for a vote.  Ultimately, the voters within the 10-county region will decide whether they  like the plan and are willing to fund it.
We have a tremendous opportunity to show that Atlanta has grown, not only in  size but also in progress. That will require shared sacrifice and regional  thinking.
 
Burrell Ellis is DeKalb County CEO.

Perkins+Will Hired to Provide Technical & Strategic Expertise

By Jane P. Rawlings, LLCC Transportation Coordinator

 

Heather Alhadeff, Senior Transportation Planner

The Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition is pleased to once again engage the services of Perkins+Will’s Urban Design practice and their Senior Transportation Planner, Heather Alhadeff. Ms. Alhadeff is uniquely positioned to offer expert, independent analysis on the current Clifton Corridor proposals. This consulting work will begin immediately, and continue on a contractual basis.
Our Board of Directors has committed the necessary initial funding, while also reaching out to other impacted parties in order to help offset the costs involved. We’re seeking assistance, and would be pleased for you to consider making your own special contribution at this time of $10, $50, or $100.
Donations are 100% tax deductible, and can be made online through our PayPal secure website by clicking here.
Donate Now
Don’t have a PayPal account? Look for this wording on the left side of the donation page, “Use your credit card or bank account,” and click Continue.

When it comes to transit funding, the State of Georgia is missing in action

Posted in Maria’s Metro for the SaportaReport

Through all the chatter over what should be included on the Atlanta region’s transportation projects list, a loud vacuum can’t be ignored.
The vacuum? The State of Georgia.
Just what role, if any, will the State of Georgia play in contributing to metro Atlanta’s transit systems? And what role will the State of Georgia play in controlling the future of our region’s transit governance?
Consider this. The one-penny regional transportation sales that will go before voters next year will be raised (and invested) in the 10-county Atlanta region. If passed, this is money that metro Atlantans will contribute and invest in their own region’s future.
But exactly how much will the State of Georgia contribute to building and maintaining the Atlanta region’s transit systems — from MARTA, the Xpress buses, Cobb County Transit, Gwinnett transit, Clayton County’s buses to commuter rail between Atlanta and Griffin?
Unfortunately, the answer so far appears to be more of the status quo — virtually nothing.
The State of Georgia does not appear willing to step up to the plate to sustain and expand metro Atlanta’s transit infrastructure — despite the fact that the Atlanta region is the engine that drives the state’s economy.
For those who ask why should the state contribute to metro Atlanta transit systems, the answer is simple. Metro Atlanta contributes billions of dollars to the state’s coffers through the 4-cent sales tax and the 7.5-cent motor fuel tax.
The state has a vested interest in helping metro Atlanta thrive,  and that means having a healthy regional transit system.
Unfortunately, the agonizing process of developing a $6.1 billion list of transit and road projects has made it painfully obvious that there’s just not enough money to pay for metro Atlanta’s near-term transportation needs.
One key way to bridge the gap between metro Atlanta’s needs and ability to pay for them is for the State of Georgia to become a full partner in supporting the region’s transit systems.
But at the meeting of the executive committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable on Aug. 4 when it was prioritizing the possible transit projects, financial participation on the part of the state seemed doubtful at best.
Todd Long, director of planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation (who has been orchestrating much of the formulation of the project lists across the state), told Roundtable members not to expect any support from the state.
Here was the context. Members of the Roundtable had not included $180 million to provide funding to maintain the Xpress buses over the next 10 years as part of its top priorities.
Now remember, the Xpress buses are under the control of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority — a state entity that is completely governed by members appointed by the governor.
“As state planning director, you need to include the Xpress buses,” Long told the Roundtable members. “The state is not going to pick up the cost of Xpress. They will shut down Xpress. They don’t have the money in their budget to keep going.”
An interesting aside, Long — a DOT guy — was standing up for a GRTA expense, but was totally silent on whether money should be included to finance a commuter train between Atlanta and Griffin, as well as its sister project — a Multimodal Passenger Terminal in downtown Atlanta — a DOT project.
In fact, the overwhelming number of public comments at the end of the meeting was in support of the commuter rail project. And the Roundtable already had decided to include the commuter rail line as part of its second tier of transit projects.
Now consider a well-known fact. The largest transit agency in the state — MARTA — receives no regular operating support from the State of Georgia. In fact, MARTA is the largest transit agency in the country (the ninth largest) to receive no operating support from its state government.
As a result, MARTA (the backbone for all the region’s transit systems) has been operating on a starvation budget. It has had to cut back its rail and bus services, and it has had to approve a fare increase that will go into effect later this year.
To add insult to injury, the any money raised with regional transportation sales tax can not go towards supporting existing MARTA operations. Without a doubt, the most cost-effective use of transit dollars would go towards MARTA operations — to increase the frequency of its trains as well as its buses.
Now how egregious is this situation?
According to the most recent statistics (see Table 1-9) on the American Public Transportation Association website, the State of New York invests more than $3 billion a year in its transit systems — an average of $155 per person annually.
Massachusetts invests $1.2 billion in transit, or $181 per capita. California: $2.3 billion or $63 per person.  Pennsylvania: $1.1 billion or $91 per capita. New Jersey: $1 billion or $120 per capita. Maryland: $844 million or $149 per capita.
By comparison, Georgia invests $6 million a year in transit — 63 cents per person. Only three other states invest less per capita than Georgia — Idaho (20 cents); Montana (43 cents); and Wyoming (54 cents). Not one of those three states could be considered urban, transit-oriented places.
And then we hear from Long that the state will not even contribute to the state-run Xpress bus system. With that kind of stance, what are the chances that the state will support commuter rail or MARTA or any other transit agency in the state?
As an aside to our dear state leaders, let this serve as a warning. Regional transit governance is the next big issue on the horizon. If the state wants to take control of our regional transit systems (be it through GRTA or another state authority), it must be prepared to pay a proportional amount of funding to whatever power it will have.
Meanwhile, the vacuum must be filled.
The State of Georgia needs to become a full partner in metro Atlanta’s plans to develop and maintain a first-class regional transit system.

Cousins, Gables Start Construction on $250 Million Emory Point

ATLANTA
(July 19, 2011) – Cousins Properties and Gables Residential have started construction on the $250 million Emory Point mixed-used development on Clifton Road. The development will be the first new retail project built in the trade area in 20 years; the largest private development start inside the Perimeter in more than three years; and the first partnership between Cousins and Gables – two Atlanta-based development companies.
“We’re very excited about Emory Point and are glad to see a development of this magnitude move forward,” said Larry Gellerstedt, Cousins President and CEO.  “This project represents an incredible infill opportunity in a supply constrained
submarket with high demand.  We’re fortunate to have an exceptional partner in Gables and are grateful for our strong relationship with Emory University, which trusted us with leading this opportunity.”
Located in the Clifton Corridor, adjacent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in close proximity to Emory University and Emory Healthcare, Emory Point is a vertically integrated mixed-use development; Phase I will include more than 80,000 square feet of retail space and 443 luxury apartments.
Under the DeKalb County zoning plan for Emory Point, 25 acres of densely wooded land behind the development, approximately half of the site, will be protected as undevelopable under Emory’s land classification plan.  Prior to the rezoning, those woodlands were not protected. The development site is also registered for EarthCraft Communities certification, while the apartment component is registered for EarthCraft Multifamily certification. In addition, retail portions of the development have been designed to meet EarthCraft standards.
“Emory Point sets the new standard for the Emory community because it blends pedestrian-friendly retail with luxury apartment living, all while being an environmentally conscious development,” said David Fitch, Gables Residential President and CEO. “There is tremendous pent-up housing demand in this neighborhood, making Emory Point a bright spot in an otherwise challenging market.”
The $100+ million Phase I of the project began construction early this month and is expected to be complete by fall 2012. The second and third phases of the project will be developed according to market demand in an area. Emory University, which includes Emory Healthcare, is the largest employer in DeKalb County and the third largest employer in metro Atlanta.
“The proximity of Emory Point to our campus will enhance the social and intellectual vibrancy at Emory by providing housing, dining and retail venues for faculty, staff and students,” said Mike Mandl, Executive Vice President for Finance and
Administration, Emory University. “This type of mixed-use development was envisioned during the creation of the Clifton Community Partnership five years ago, and it is gratifying to see it coming to fruition.”
http://www.emory-point.com/

Livable Cities Don’t Have Freeways

from www.sustainablecitiescollective.com

//

England’s A3 tunnel will cost $402 million per mile, making it the most expensive project of its kind in the United Kingdom. Photo by Tom O’Donoghue

We recently wrote about Glasgow’s controversial and expensive road expansion—an elevated six-lane highway to complete Glasgow’s ring of motorways that will cost more than $200 million per mile. But despite the hefty price tag, the road is only the second most expensive project in the United Kingdom. This month the U.K. will witness a 1.2-mile tunnel project, the A3, in Surrey, a county in southeast England. The estimated cost of the project: $402 million per mile.
Once completed, the expensive yet short tunnel road will become the longest of its kind in the U.K. Although most people reading the prices of these projects may still be in sticker shock, Geoff French, the vice president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, does not find it surprising at all. “There’s a huge cost penalty when you put a road up in the sky or down in the ground,” he says.
According to Transport Scotland, the cost for a new three-lane highway on average is $47 million per mile. Based on these calculations, the 1.2-mile tunnel in Surrey will be 10 times the average cost of a new highway. Part of the reason for the high cost, at least in the case of Glasgow’s M74 extension, is that the construction project requires the compulsory purchasing of property. With the addition of the cost of planning consultation and public inquiries, the cost goes up—and that’s for an elevated road. “An underground road costs even more—roughly twice that of an elevated one,” BBC reports.
Going Underground
The higher cost makes sense. In addition to difficulties of actual construction, underground projects must deal with geology. The presence of rock, for example, is recorded as an ideal opportunity for underground space development, according to Australasian Tunnelling Society. Digging through soil is even better. However, running into granite during the construction process can become time-consuming and more expensive because it’s more difficult to blast and dig through.
Besides geological obstructions, a tunnel construction project must consider the excavated soil and rock: what to do with it, where to get rid of it and how to take it there. Another factor to consider is support for the dug up tunnel. The machine responsible for digging the tunnel is considerably smaller than the tunnel itself. Once the machine goes deeper in the path, the dug up tunnel must be supported with precast circular segments, to avoid the collapse of the earth. All of these details considerably add to the price of a tunnel project.
“But sometimes there is no alternative to going underground,” reports the BBC. “[The A3 tunnel] allows the road to expand to four lanes by digging up to 195ft (60m) under Hindhead Commons.” And according to Rob Fairbanks, director of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, “Building a dual carriageway on the surface would have caused great damage,” perhaps because the surface has significant landscape value.
Sir Peter Hall, a Barlett professor of planning at the University College London, explains that spending on such projects will be a rare occurrence in the future. “Indeed, road projects like the M74 extension and A3 tunnel may never be repeated,”  the BBC reports. “Nowadays, most city councils subscribe to the view that urban motorways fracture communities rather than aid economic development.”

Demolition work on Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct started in February 2011, relieving the city from maintenance costs. Photo by Cliff.

Knocking Down Freeways
In the U.S., cities are tearing down freeways to avoid maintenance and replacement. Just this past March, NPR ran a story on freeway removal that highlights a contradictory trend to Europe’s expensive new roads. The freeways built in the ’50s and ’60s are deteriorating to a condition where they are no longer safe to use, so cities are choosing to dismantle them instead of repair them. “Milwaukee removed a freeway spur for $30 million,” according to NPR. “Officials estimated it would have cost between $50 million and $80 million to fix that roadway.”
Money is a big motivator for such a decision and it is by no means a localized issue. Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, with the wear-and-tear of the years and the damage of a 2001 earthquake, was demolished in February 2011, making way for an underground tunnel in the region. But money is not the only motivator. Portland’s four-lane freeway, Harbor Drive, was shut down in the ’70s in a beautification effort of the west bank of the Wilamette River. The space is now occupied by a greenway and the current success of Portland’s downtown is credited mostly to the demolition of Harbor Drive.
San Francisco went through a similar transformation with its Embarcadero Freeway. Although the freeway’s actual demolition didn’t come to fruition until damage from a 1989 earthquake, the road was believed to be “the city’s worst planning mistake” and “denounced as an eyesore” that blocked the waterfront early in its lifetime, according to a New York Times article from 1990.
Today, a handful of U.S. cities are joining the movement. New Haven, for example, has been debating whether to convert a one-mile expressway corridor into a network of city streets. The Board of Alderman decided in December 2010 that it would accept a federal grant and pursue the demolition.
But perhaps the trend hasn’t gone national quite yet. Similar to Glasgow’s M74 or Surrey A3, Boston completed a $20-billion, 3.35-mile tunnel project that re-routes the city’s main highway. In early June, we reported on a new study by Smart Growth America that said, between 2004 and 2008, states spent $37.9 billion annually on repair and expansion projects for their roads and highways.
By the same token, “Anyone who follows infrastructure maintenance can tell you that this country has not been doing it’s job when it comes to maintaining roads,” as blogger James Sinclair wrote for Stop and Move, saying we face a potential future of “crumbling” highways and “structurally unsound” overpasses. It looks like we have a long way to go.
Outside of the U.S., cities have gained international recognition for tearing down unnecessary concrete. One recent high-profile example is Seoul, where city planners helped to restore the Cheonggyecheon river by removing three miles of elevated highway, which help cut air pollution and reduce air temperatures.

According to Patrick Condon, Vancouver owes its livability to its lack of freeways. Photo by Evan Leeson.

Livable Cities Don’t Have Freeways
Early this year, Vancouver was named the world’s most liveable city for the fifth consecutive time. Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Vancouver received high scores in terms of stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure—or the lack thereof. According to Patrick Condon, a visiting professor of livable environments at the University of British Columbia, the main reason behind Vancouver’s prestigious title is the city’s “determination in the 1970s and ‘80s to resist the lure of freeways as an easy answer to traffic problems.”
Instead of building freeways, Vancouver’s local councils gathered to draft a long-term plan for the city’s growth. “Central to the plan was investment in public transport, cycling and pedestrian measures—not freeways,” explains the Age. “The theory was that congestion, and the desire to avoid it, would drive commuters to alternatives: moving closer to their work and using the trains and bus system.” No freeways, no way to run off to the suburbs.
Interestingly enough, a study by Brown University found that a city’s population can decrease 18 percent because of the building of a major highway. In an interview with Planetizen, Nathaniel Baum-Snow, the economist behind the study, explains the reasoning:

“If suburb A builds a highway to connect to suburb B, that’s going to affect the distribution of commutes not only between those suburbs but also the commutes in the region as a whole. So there are going to be these externalities where someone in suburb C has a faster way to get to work, so they’re going to start using it and filling up this new highway. And a business downtown might say, hey, there’s this new infrastructure, let’s go locate out there and I can have a lot more space to work with. So anytime one part of a region changes something, it’s going to affect population and employment throughout the metropolitan area. So I think it’s important to engage at the regional level.”

Residents Spar With MARTA Over Clifton Corridor Improvements

MARTA officials said they’re working to decide whether they should build new railway or tunnel underground.

By Ben Shnider
Area residents packed a community meeting hosted by the Lindbergh Lavista Corridor Coalition and state Rep. Pat Gardner regarding MARTA’s Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative Tuesday night.
The gathering was part of MARTA’s effort to solicit input surrounding the community’s preferred method of transit for the proposed corridor, which would connect the Centers for Disease Control, Emory University and DeKalb Medical to Atlanta’s regional mass transit system.
At the meeting, tensions arose between MARTA representatives and community members concerning whether the proposed transit-way should be built underground or aboveground.
MARTA Project Manager Jason Morgan said that the project’s transportation options have been narrowed to bus rapid transit, light rail or heavy rail, any of which would travel through the existing CSX right of way.
MARTA is unable to use CSX’s actual railways, Morgan said. If light rail is selected, MARTA could either expand the right of way by 70 feet to lay down additional tracks or elevate the light rail tracks above the right of way, he said. If heavy rail is selected, MARTA would chose between expanding the right of way and tunneling the new transit-way under Lenox Road.
Grady Smith, the consultant project manager for the initiative, said the tunnel alternative would least impact surrounding communities.
“The alternative to minimize impacts is the tunnel option,” he said. “The impact at the street level would be fairly minimal.”
Smith said that the tunneling would be accomplished through the process of boring, which he said is less disruptive than blasting. Blasting requires the use of explosives, while boring does not.
But not all community members in attendance bought Smith’s analysis.
“Tunneling would eliminate access to… businesses,” said Louis Myer, a Woodland Hills Neighborhood Association board member. “I want you to understand that we don’t necessarily want to follow the path that you want to take us down.”
Morgan insisted that MARTA had not settled on a course of action but reiterated that tunneling would have a minimal impact on surrounding communities.
“We haven’t chosen an option,” he said. “We’re trying to make it clear that there are trade-offs. Anything that operates at grade is going to have impacts.”
Jean Jordan, a Morningside resident, expressed concerns about these impacts following the meeting. Jordan’s property borders the CSX right of way, and she said she was wary of efforts to widen it.
“Our backyard is on this railroad,” she said. “Therefore it’s going to ruin our property if they build the light rail or heavy rail at grade.”
MARTA plans to hold another informational meeting later in the summer regarding Clifton Corridor station area planning. A subsequent meeting will be organized in mid- to late-August to announce the final proposed route and method of transportation for the transit-way.
The project will then be subject to approval by local elected officials before it can be submitted to a public referendum on levying a regional sales tax to fund select public transportation projects.
And even if all of these steps go as planned, it could be more than ten years before any sort of construction takes place.
For more information, click here to visit the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative’s website.
 

Car Clash: Europe vs. the U.S.

Europeans are working hard to discourage drivers, cars and parking in their cities.  Why is American city planning different?
Ellen Dunham-Jones is a professor in the School of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  She is a co-author, with June Williamson, of “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.”

Which automobile-dependent landscapes in the U.S. are the most forsaken? Where would the pedestrian-oriented European strategies seem most out of place and yet potentially have the greatest impact on increasing affordability, health and livability while reducing greenhouse gases and re-using existing infrastructure? Commercial strip corridors.

Top of the list of unloved, underperforming and ubiquitous places, they were engineered for the single purpose of swiftly moving cars. But overzoned for commercial uses, they are now clogged with cars on both local and through trips. They provide access to cheaper land and “drive till you qualify” affordable housing – but then eat up the savings as transportation costs have risen to 20 to 40 percent of household budgets. They are aging with little prospect of funding for maintenance. And their high vacancy rates just add to the dispiritedness of a failed public realm.

Can they be retrofitted into attractive, transit boulevards lined with trees, sidewalks and affordable housing and anchored by mixed-use centers with a public life to be proud of? June Williamson and I are tracking over 35 North American corridors that are being redesigned not to make driving miserable, but to recognize the multiple social, environmental, economic and transportation purposes that great streets serve. Their integration was highlighted in the grassroots-led temporary re-striping of Ross Avenue as “Ross Ramblas” in Dallas this week at Build a Better Boulevard. Participants employed several techniques of Tactical Urbanism, including pop-up shops, chairbombing and dumpster pools.

Every U.S. city once had street cars. Will Americans ever again support public investment in mass transit?

More typical is the ongoing 10-year revitalization of a five-mile stretch of Columbia Pike in Arlington County, Va. It exemplifies the intelligent use of tight form-based codes to grow from one-story strip buildings in parking lots to mid-rise mixed-use buildings fronting tree-lined sidewalks at nodes on major intersections. The site-specific code quickly tapers heights where the new development faces the existing neighborhoods and new bike lanes on the less busy streets. This strategy retains the existing affordable housing in between the nodes while the tax revenue from the new density goes toward supporting a streetcar.
Cambie Corridor in Vancouver is employing similar techniques but has upped the ante with some stunning modern mixed-use buildings and a highly efficient district energy system that balances out daytime commercial energy demands with the residential night-time peak loads.
Aiding these efforts is the new street design manual for walkable urban thoroughfares. It is the first officially recommended practice that does not refer to sidewalks as “vehicle recovery zones”! El Paso recently adopted the manual to connect its implementation of Bus Rapid Transit with redevelopment of outdated properties along five major corridors. Imagine if all 50 DOTs followed suit and revised their Level of Service Standards accordingly! We might see more transformations of urban highways to boulevards and Complete Streets.
Funding remains an obstacle and demand for Sustainable Communities Partnership federal planning grants far outstrips supply. Can private real estate developers fund streetcars as they did early in the 20th century? Can the public again support public sector investments in infrastructure, as it did mid-century? How else can we provide an alternative to our broken system of “drive till you qualify” affordable housing, accommodate changing demographics and markets and make our least sustainable landscapes into places worth caring more about?