Today’s Headlines

  • Feds Maneuver to End Lawsuit, Move Forward With Brightline (Palm Beach Post)
  • DC Pressures Virginia to Increase Funding for the Metro (Washington Post)
  • Orange County, University of Central Florida Agree to Street Safety Plan (Orlando Sentinel)
  • A New Atlanta Resident Notices the City Isn’t Very Walkable (Paste)
  • Neighbors Think Atlanta BeltLine Development Is Both Too Tall and Too Suburban (Curbed)
  • The AJC Explains Why One North Fulton Intersection Is Such a Mess
  • Meet the Two Candidates to Head Chatham Transit (Savannah Morning News)
  • Corvallis, NC Residents Want to Improve Bike and Pedestrian Safety (Gazette-Times)
  • Hickory, NC, Police Seek Driver Who Critically Injured Pedestrian and Left Scene (Observer)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA


via ATL Urbanist

When Smart Growth Gets Dumbed Down by Parking

A few years ago, a prominent urban writer called Atlanta’s Glenwood Park “one of the most environmentally sustainable” smart-growth projects in the US. He pointed out specifically that “residents’ rates of driving and carbon emissions from transportation will be much lower than metro Atlanta’s regional average.” Read the full article, from 2009, here. How odd it is that this showcase for smart growth in Atlanta will  get a massive parking lot for a neighbor along with all the car traffic that will bring. Curbed Atlanta has the report on a new mixed-use development next to Glenwood Park that will feature an enormous Kroger grocery store (2.5 times the size of the average Atlanta store) fronted by a surface parking lot. To make matters worse, alongside the new development is the route for a planned segment of the Atlanta BeltLine – a project that is also a local smart-growth success story, one that connects city neighborhoods together with pedestrian and cycling paths and green spaces instead of just car routes. The cars that enter and exit this new parking lot will create traffic that hinders the growth of pedestrian and cycling activity on surrounding streets, something that could disrupt the ‘get people out of their cars and into active transportation’ goal of the BeltLine. Also, the surface lot (along with the other smooth surfaces of the rooftops of these massive structures) will contribute to the urban heat island – already a serious problem for Atlanta –  while also dispensing polluted rainwater runoff to the ground. What a strange neighbor this will be for two of Atlanta’s finest examples of urban sustainability. I hope this project ends up being an anomaly and that other new retail developments around the BeltLine and smart-growth nodes end up encouraging bike/ped traffic and safety much more so than car traffic.

Traffic Engineers Still Rely on a Flawed 1970s Study to Reject Crosswalks

When St. Louis decided not to maintain colorful new crosswalks that residents had painted, the city’s pedestrian coordinator cited federal guidance. A 2011 FHWA memo warns that colorful designs could “create a false sense of security” for pedestrians and motorists. Shoddy, 50-year-old research is an obstacle to grassroots street safety efforts like this fleur-de-lis crosswalk in St. Louis. [...]
via ATL Urbanist

Sacrificing Walkability for Traffic Flow on Atlanta’s Courtland Street

There’s a great post this week on the Atlanta Studies website from Joseph Hurley who works as a Data Services and GIS Librarian at Georgia State University Library. Read it here: Atlanta’s Parking Problem Revisited.Here’s a quote from it:…most of downtown has become dominated by substantial parking desk structures and surface level parking lots, which are placed immediately alongside one-way streets that are often four to five lanes wide. Cars regularly treat these exceedingly wide streets as urban highways, traveling at speeds that are unsafe for an area that should cater to pedestrians. Courtland Street is a prime example of how providing “convenient parking” and the removal of on-street parking to allow for “greater street traffic flows,” exactly what both reports recommended, has created undesirable urban environments.As Hurley points out, is Courtland Street in Downtown Atlanta (in the middle of the GSU campus) is truly an undesirable place for anyone outside of a car:In these two images he’s contrasting Courtland’s state in 1954, when it had two traffic lanes and street-side parking, with its current state of four traffic lanes. Also notice the narrow sidewalks. This is a supremely unpleasant place to walk, in my experience (and I’m a fairly hardy urban traveler). The wide lanes promote high car speeds, and having those fast cars fly by while you balance on a skinny sidewalk is sometimes terrifying, particularly if you have a child in tow. The street-side parking provided an important buffer for pedestrians in 1954 – one that disappeared when ‘maximum car flow at all costs’ became the priority.I’ve taken a photo of Courtland before myself, when I was walking alongside it and noticed how scary it was to watch pedestrians cross – even with the right-of-way – in front of a line of stopped cars that were all ready to storm through a light as if they were on an interstate entrance ramp.By coincidence, Tim Keane, the new Commissioner of Planning and Community Development for the City of Atlanta, tweeted a photo of Courtland recently. He seems appalled to find a street this dead and uninviting. Just look at how the buildings don’t ‘address’ the street even through they are next to it:Courtland is one of many one-way, multi-lane streets in the city center that should undergo a two-way conversion and streetcaping – maybe with bike lanes as well. If we can’t manage to put anything inviting for pedestrians and cyclists along the street in the form of ground-level retail, at least we could make their experience of maneuvering it outside a car safer and less frightening.A 2008 Atlanta Business Chronicle piece reported that city planners were keen to convert Courtland (and some other one-way, large streets nearby) to two-way traffic as a way of encouraging more pedestrian and cycling traffic, but some owners of large downtown facilities and hotels fear that doing so would prevent the flow of customers in cars that they’ve gotten used to.But if Atlanta is serious about becoming a city that is friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians, and thus to transit riders who are all pedestrians at some point in their trip, these one way monstrosities have to go – if for the sake of safety alone. According to a piece in Planetizen, the stats are clear: two-way streets are safer for everyone:The risk of collision or injury doubles when driving through a neighborhood of one-way streets. In total, the 22 Census tracts with a high concentration of one-ways had 2,992 additional collisions and 792 more injuries requiring medical treatment—some causing loss of life. Moreover, if you are riding a bike or walking, you are also more likely to be injured on a one-way street.Also, a fascinating article on the origins of Build a Better Block programs. Includes this great passage: ““When the streetcar went away in 1956 two of the major streets became one-way, so you lost 50 percent of the [retail] visibility and made it an unsafe, high-speed corridor. These blocks were built for people, but the environment around them became inhospitable.”It’s time for these blocks to be for people again, and not so dominated by concerns about car flow.