Behold.. The Crooked Creek Superblock

This is a little outside the normal NUR area of interest but I thought it was an incredible case study into the lack of foresight that many of our cities and subdivisions have around connectivity and the importance of the effective network. The case relates to the Crooked Creek subdivision in Milton that is located along highway 9 between Bethany Bend and Francis Rd on the west side of the highway.  

The golf subdivision is looking to install gates to curb 'cut-through' traffic.  (Full disclosure, I live in a gated subdivision and would prefer that the gates be removed lest ye think me a hypocrite)  There are a couple hurdles Crooked Creek must clear before it can be done and I'm completely uninformed as to the prospects but I'd wager that it passes both.  The first is the 67% HOA vote.  The second is approval from the city.  The criteria for city approval is basically whether it is in the best keepoing of the community and the city and that it does not impact the surrounding community.

The city will no longer have to maintain ~7 miles of road which is a huge plus.  But, at the same time, its grid is being clipped and there will be one fewer connection in an area that is already, and will be moreso in the future, starved for connectivity.  I'm not sure what is worth more and Milton will ultimately need to decide on that but I generally side on more connectivity and you could definitley argue that gating this subdivision will negatively impact the surrounding community.

There are ways to make roads safe, even for children, without gating them.  The main road, Creek Club Dr, is WIDE and thus encourages and accommodates higher speeds.  The lanes are 12 feet in each direction.  That's as wide as an interstate lane.  No wonder Crooked Creek has a speeding problem on their 'cut-through' road.  

Pinching in the road and adding traffic calming would significantly reduce speeds while still enabling connectivity.  I use Vickery Village frequently to illustrate a place that has high connectivity with safe driving speeds.  Anyone can drive in Vickery and kids are ALL OVER the place.  The car just isn't given free reign to drive at unsafe speeds.  Ultimately, if you narrow the roads and you increase safety.  

Gating this subdivision will hinder connectivty and will significantly reduce pedestrian and bike options for those living around Crooked Creek.  They are already almost non-existant but that doesn't mean no effort should be made to keep what little connectivity exists.

My point on this is illustrated below.  Clipping the grid, so to speak, takes what were two superblocks of 670+ acres each and creates a single superblock of 1347 acres.  The perimeter of the new 'block' is 6.3 miles.  That's 10% of the ENTIRE I-285 PERIMETER which is just a little over 63 miles.  So, you're effectively creating a mini-perimeter in Milton and those living ITP will be the only ones benefitting.  (well they will have to pay for their roads with no subsidy from the rest of the city's tax rolls)

Superblock 1


Superblock 2

Superblock 3



For additional insight, check out the NorthFulton.com article on the subject here

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CNU Atlanta Monthly Meet-Up

For anyone interested in the true root cause of SnowJam 2014 and potential solutions, this month's CNU Atlanta monthly meet-up will be quite informarive.  The theme is "The Day We Lost Atlanta and Answers for Tomorrow."  Rebecca Burns will be discussing her widely circulated Politico article, The Day We Lost Atlanta, How 2 lousy inches of snow paralyzed a metro area of 6 million.  We will also have Charlie Harper, exectuive director of PolicyBEST and editor of Peach Pundit to talk about advancing the transportation discussion in a post-TSPLOST world.  

Event Details

 

  • What: CNU Atlanta T3 - Urban Talk Featuring Rebecca Burns & Charlie Harper
  • When: Thursday February 20th, 2014; 530pm - 730pm
  • Where: Steel Restaurant, 950 West Peachtree Street, NW, Atlanta

 

 

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image: CNU Atlanta

I'm Not Feeling "Bicycle Friendly"

Up front, I want to say that I’m an avid supporter of all things cycling.  That said, I’m not sure we are a “Bicycle Friendly” city.  We have the signs, we have the designations, the complete streets policy as well as tons of road bikers.  What we don’t have are safe streets and comfortable rides that allow kids, novices and the elderly to easily ride around our city.  If you don’t own spandex, you probably don’t bike much in Roswell and if you don’t live on a cul-de-sac or in a gated subdivision, your kids probably aren’t riding their bikes unsupervised much unless you are driving them to one of our destination parks.

Around the holidays the city even has Safe Play areas for children who received outdoor toys for presents.  The city blocks off a few parking lots at three of the city parks for children to safely play with their new toys.  This isn’t inherently a bad thing but just the fact that it is even necessary raises the question of whether we are truly a bicycle friendly community.  There will always be children who live near busy roads or in areas that are just plain inhospitable to safe cycling but there should be plenty of places to go in our city aside from a park parking lot.  If we had properly designed our city with connected streets and separated bicycle and walking paths, we would be much better off.  

The Bicycle Friendly community designation is administered by the League of American Bicyclists as part of its Bicycle Friendly America campaign and Roswell was the first city in Georgia to achieve the designation way back in 2006.  The campaign is laudable and well intentioned.  It has done and will do many great things to advance cycling.  There are five areas of measurement, known as the 5 E’s; Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation (& Planning).  The 2014 application has 90 questions across these five categories and I’m sure Roswell meets the criteria for the Bronze level certification that we have.

We have a fantastic advocacy group in Bike Roswell and there are many great events like the Criterium & Cycling Festival and the Mayor’s Ride.  The Roswell Loop is a long-term project that, when finished, will significantly upgrade pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in the city.  We will likely host a Gran Fondo road race in October which will bring between one and two thousand riders.  We have weekly rides during the warmer months and all classes of riders are welcome.  We have excellent parks such as the network of parks along the river that provide a great casual riding environment and Big Creek Park has mountain biking trails and the greenway.  Future plans call for a pedestrian and bike bridge that will span the Chattahoochee and a mixed-use trail that will make its way from the river to the square.  These are all great but don’t do much to get the general public out on their bike for everyday activities.

If you take issue with what I’m saying, ask yourself: 

  • How many plain clothed women have you seen cycling in Roswell?
  • How many people do you personally know that commute by bike?
  • How many of your regular destinations in Roswell have bicycle parking?
  • Would you feel comfortable if you children rode their bike anywhere within a half mile radius of your home without your supervision?

Likely answers: None, One, No Idea, Heck NO!

What does that say about our bicycle friendliness?  It may be semantics but I believe we are a (mostly) Pro Bike community and have miles to go before we are truly Bicycle Friendly. We need more and better bike friendly infrastructure.  Sharrows and signs are for show.  Bike lanes are good when done right but we truly need bike and ped paths.  We need to connect this city through our subdivisions, gated communities, retail centers and office parks by building mixed-use paths that will form a web of connectivity safe for all types of riders.  The city can create simple incentives to accomplish this in both new and existing developments.

Building a more interconnected city through an extensive multi-use trail network will fuel the local economy.  Bicyclists tend to shop locally.  They also tend to spend more when they shop, potentially due to gas savings.  Property along trails often sells at a premium.  For an example of how an area can be transformed by a simple path, look no further than the Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta.  The Beltline Eastside trail has been an amazing catalyst for change.  Businesses located along the trail are quickly opening up entrances that front the trail to capitalize on the foot and bike traffic and new residents are flocking to an area that even five years ago was a very rough part of town.

Bicycling is good for health, wealth, community and business.  The next time you hear about a development, ask yourself how that will impact the ability to bike in Roswell and keep pushing our leaders to become truly Bicycle Friendly.  Checklists and designations aren’t enough.  When women and children on bikes are as common as men in spandex, we will truly be Bicycle Friendly.  Until then, let’s continue to be Pro Bike.

 

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The Top 10 Developments to Watch in 2014

I’m a sucker for lists but I don’t normally make them myself.  However, there is so much going on around here that it’s hard to keep track.  So, I’m putting together a list of the top 10 projects to watch in 2014.  In the past year, the stage has been set to make this year one of most transformative years ever in North Fulton.  These projects will increase walkability and overall livability in North Fulton.

10. Gwinnett Tech Expansion - Construction of the new Alpharetta Gwinnett Tech campus will be in full swing in 2014, keeping them on track for a Jan 2016 opening.  The depressing thing about the campus is that it appears to be a very 90’s and early 00’s suburban office park site design which shows 3 story’ish buildings surrounded by a sea of parking.  

image: Gwinnett Business Journal

9. North Fulton CID Blueprint 2.0 - The North Fulton CID released its vision for the next 7-10 years in Dec. and there are some projects that may gather momentum in 2013.  They focus on reducing traffic congestion, adapting to changing marketplace trends, and eliminating bureaucratic hurdles.

image: North Fulton CID

8. Roswell Downtown Development Authority - The DDA was relatively quiet in 2013 but expect Roswell to make some waves in the next year with plans for large scale projects in the heart of Roswell.  They launched their website (www.roswelldda.com) in 2013 and have posted several theoretical master plan images.  Their plans for a park or green at City Hall would be a big win if executed properly.

image: Roswell DDA

7. MARTA Rail - In late 2013, MARTA officially announced that it is looking to extend from North Springs station further north to Windward Parkway.  This was received with mixed emotions but many people recognize that more lanes on 400 is going to be costly if not impossible.  The current preferred alternative is to extend heavy rail and add five stations (Northridge, Holcomb Bridge, North Point, Haynes Bridge and Windward). Expect more news on potential funding sources and routes in 2014.

image: MARTA

6. More Roundabouts - In the past two years at least four roundabouts have been opened in North Fulton.  Readers are familiar with my thoughs on roundabouts and there is empirical evidence that they improve traffic flow, reduce crashes and increase safety.  More of them are coming to intersections near you.

5. Roswell Unified Development Code - Roswell has been opening its doors to business over the past 18 months.  There have been several high priority corporate announcements in that timeframe.  That said, the zoning codes are confusing web of red tape and must be changed.  In 2014, expect passage of the new UDC and the accompanying Design Guidelines.  This will send a message to developers that Roswell is serious about redevelopment.  It will also enable a number of projects to finally take a step toward reality.  There are several notable projects that are simply waiting for UDC adoption before going to the city to begin the process.  


4. Canton Street & Downtown Alpharetta Infill - No fewer than five projects around Historic Roswell have been brought before the city in the last several months to add townhomes and residences around the Historic Roswell area.  There are 80+ total units proposed and a number of them are likely to be finished this year.  Add this to the 320 new apartments and the Historic Roswell area could be netting 500+ new residents in the next 12-18 months.  Alpharetta’s downtown is experiencing a similar trend albeit with more multi-acre lots available for development due to large site foreclosures following the real estate crash.  These developments will help drive local businesses in the downtown areas that thrive on pedestrian traffic.

3. Roswell City Walk Apartments - Or should I say, Down Goes Frazier!  The horribly designed 1960’s era Frazier Street Apartments were demolished in December making way for Lennar Miltifamily’s 320 unit luxury apartment complex in the heart of Roswell.  The construction will take much of the year but the first tenants are expect in late 2014.  When complete, this development will be a game changer and will serve as a catalyst for future projects. Grocery store anyone??

image: Lennar Multifamily

2. Alpharetta City Center - It would be hard to top this project given its hefty price tag ($31 million), laudable site plan and ambitious construction schedule.  In the next 12 mos, you will see the heart of the new Alpharetta change dramatically.  Already, there are some new streets in place, with a roundabout, and the new City Hall building is beginning to take shape.  The parking deck and library will follow not too far behind and the addition of park space and a pedestrian orientation will be impressive.  This, as previously mentioned, is helping spur adjacent development.

image: Urban Collage

1. Avalon - This project dwarfs all the others on this list.  It’s hard to downplay the significance of this behemoth.  Total economic impact could be over $1 billion when all is said and done.  The construction at the site over the past 2 months has been frenetic and leaves little doubt that North American Properties will hit their Q4’14 target for opening phase I.  This project is regionally significant and is being watched by the commercial real estate industry nationally.  The combination of live, work and play gives Avalon major mixed-use cred and makes it unlike almost any other development in the region.  The tenant list is impressive with top-notch national and local restaurants and retailers.  When Avalon opens its streets in late 2014, it will serve as a showcase for walkability and urbanism in a suburban environment.  It will be interesting to see how it impacts other popular destinations such as North Point Mall and Canton St.

image: North American Properties

That’s a lot to chew on and undoubtedly, something else will creep up in 2014.  There are even some regionally significant projects that you will want to keep an eye on; the Stadiums (Braves & Falcons), Atlanta Street Car, College Football Hall of Fame, National Center for Human Rights, and Buckhead Atlanta just to name a few.

Happy New Year and have a great 2014!

 

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Roswell & North Fulton CID - Let's Get It On...

First up, a little history.  The North Fulton Community Improvement District has been around since 2003.  According to information from the NFCID, those 10 years have raised more than $15 million from commercial property owners which has helped bring $80 million in infrastructure projects to life.  Many of these have been beautification efforts and traffic congestion mitigation projects.  Think of the Windward/400 interchange and the triple left turn lanes from Mansell Road to North Point Parkway.

Although I appreciate their efforts, I haven't been too vocal about them on this blog for two reasons.  First, the projects that have been implemented have been almost exclusively focused on solutions for the car which I feel is a transportation solution that is (un)fairly represented in our area.  Second, and more important, almost all of the tangible initiatives to date have been in Alpharetta.  Here's a full list of completed projects.  Now, to be fair, the CID has contributed to the Sun Valley Connector Feasibility Study as well as to a North Fulton Commuter Shuttle Study, both of which I think are interesting concepts.  However, there isn't much evidence of NFCID involvement in Roswell to day.

Now, it's starting to look like the NFCID's involvement in Roswell is getting a little more serious.  They held an open house earlier this month to unveil their Blueprint 2.0 which will serve as the organization's guiding document through 2021.  I was pleasantly surprised to see several major Roswell projects on the list.  

The blueprint is divided up into a Work Plan which involves projects that the CID will likely tackle and Advocacy Projects which the CID will advocate for.  Here's a full list with items directly impacting Roswell in bold.

Work Plan

  • GA 400 Northbound Off-Ramp/Windward Parkway Phase 2
  • GA 400 Westside Greenway-Kimball Bridge-Webb Bridge
  • Warsaw & Mansell Intersection
  • Encore Parkway Future Transit Site
  • Old Milton Multi-Modal Improvements
  • Old Ellis Connector
  • McGinnis Ferry Access & Operational Improvements
  • Lakeside Parkway/Haynes Bridge Road Accel/Decal Lane
  • Windward Future Transit Site
  • Kimball Bridge Multi-Modal Improvements
  • GA 400 Westside Greenway - Big Creek Parkway to Kimball Bridge
  • Encore Parkway/North Point Parkway Internal Street Grid

Advocacy Projects

  • GA 400 Operational/Capacity Improvements
  • North Fulton Transit Extension
  • Holcomb Bridge Interchanges
  • Big Creek Bridge
  • Alpharetta Hwy/SR9 Operational & Aesthetic Improvements

There are definitely a lot of projets that will benefit mobility and connectivity in Roswell.  Here's the full Blueprint 2.0 document.

They also mapped out another group of projects that are classified as "Out of the District" but listed as Potential Future Projects or projects that are On the Radar.  This is where it gets really interesting for Roswell. Below, I've listed the projects on those lists that would impact Roswell.

Potential Future Projects

  • Big Creek Phase 3 (East of GA 400)
  • Big Creek Phase 4 (West of GA 400)
  • Old Alabama and Holcomb Woods Parkway Intersection
  • Old Alabama Operational Improvements & Holcomb Bridge

On the Radar

  • Hembree Road Operational Improvements
  • Old Roswell Road Operational Improvements
  • Old Roswell and Warsaw Intersection

Here's a pic from the NFCID's presentation that zooms in on the Roswell related "Out of District" projects.

Now, that's a lot of stuff.  There are projects and ideas on this list that I like and some that I don't like.  I can categorize them fairly easily.   

  • Like: Connecting Roads, More Greenways, Rail Transit, Bikepaths, Roundabouts  
  • Don't Like: Lane Additions, More Turn Lanes, Unnecessary Road Signs

That said, I think this is a solid plan for our area.  I support the North Fulton CID's efforts and I think Roswell should get more involved with them.

 

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Drive Me Out to the Ballgame

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you are aware that the Atlanta Braves have reached an agreement with Cobb County to move the team to a site just outside the perimeter at the 75/285 junction.  This was quite a shock to the region and it has huge implications.  

There are a number of reasons behind the move that have been analyzed ad nauseum in the local and national media.  The details are too meaty to dive into however there are some promising aspects and some very depressing aspects of this deal.  Ultimately, the Braves wanted either a new stadium or a renovated Turner Field and required a lot in return.  The City of Atlanta couldn’t (or wouldn’t depending on whom you ask) compete with Cobb at the moment. The Braves want to get closer to their fan base which is understandable and Cobb is attractive.

Renderings of the proposed stadium show a conceptual mixed use development to the west of the stadium that could work to engage the area and bring a walkable urban environment into the Cumberland area.

The biggest and most laudable piece of this entire deal is the Braves’ commitment to creating a mixed-use destination that can function 365 days a year rather than a single use stadium that operates 81 to 90 days a year.  They envision this being the anchor development for a ‘walkable’ destination.  I’m not sure they will ever achieve true walkability in that area as there are just far too many wide roads and long distances between destinations.  That said, I truly wish them success.  The more walkability in the burbs, the better our region will be.  Unfortunately, my prediction is that it ends up being an over-priced, half-baked “mixed-use” destination full of national brand retailers and chain restaurants.  

The real concern, however, are the traffic implications of this move.  Roswell & East Cobb, in just three short years, Santa Claus, in the form of Cobb County Commissioner Tim Lee (the man behind the curtains on this deal), will be dropping a HUGE lump of coal in your stocking.  You can look forward to 81 traffic inducing home games, 50+ of which are on weekdays, most of which are at 7pm, putting more cars on your already clogged highways and arterials.  Will it be traffic Armageddon?  No, because we already have that at the 75/285 and 400/285 interchanges.  Traffic on Braves game nights will be straight from the bowels of hell.

The map of 2013 Braves ticket sales provides clarity into why the move north makes sense. This will notably change traffic patterns.

Say you’re heading from North Fulton, South Forsyth or even parts of Gwinnett and you want to take in a night game at the new Cobb stadium.  How are you going to get there?  Today, the current debacle that is 400 south to 285 east will take you at least 45 minutes.  That’s before adding a few thousand more vehicles trying to make that trip.  You can probably bank on 75 minutes plus from Alpharetta to the new stadium.  As an alternative, you might try your luck heading through Roswell and East Cobb by taking surface streets over to Marietta.  Adding another 1,000 or so trips through some of the North Fulton and East Cobb intersections will do wonders for the collective psyche of drivers who live around those areas (that’s us). 

To their credit, the Braves and Cobb County (and I’m sure GDOT now that they’ve been informed of the move) will get to work on solutions to get Braves fans to the new stadium.  They’ve talked about a tram or streetcar from the Cumberland area to the game as well as new ramps from the interstates into the parking area for the stadium.  That will be accommodative and will mitigate some of the problems but it’s a drop in the bucket.  The one thing that is missing is real transit access.  Your only option will be to drive and that’s something that Cobb GOB chariman Joe Dendy is determined to maintain.  After the announcement he was quoted as saying; “It’s absolutely necessary the solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding areas from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

There you have it.  The solutions proposed will look at adding more capacity to already choking highways.  If we haven’t learned by now that more lanes induce more driving and solutions solely focused on cars have yet to rid us of congestion, then I’m not sure we will.  But, I never expected Cobb to understand this.  Maybe once the nightmare begins, we will finally wake up to our 1 mode solutions and start making better transportation decisions.  But for now, the baseball mantra in Atlanta is.. 

“Build it and they will (only) come (by car).”

 

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West Roswell Elementary - Multi-Use Path?

It looks like the City of Roswell is doing the right thing and going to the Fulton County School Board to request an easement for a multi-use path along Hog Waller Creek.  The request went before the school board tonight and I'm not sure of the outcome yet (will update).  The path would be 10 feet wide. Here's an image of where the path would run.  

If this is approved, the next step would be to connect it down to Norcross St.  That would be a great step toward connectivity and toward making some safe routes to school for kids to walk and bike.

Pedicabs Are Finally Here..

We first mentioned the possibility of pedicabs (aka Rickshaws) coming to Historic Roswell here on NUR way back in February of 2012.  That was when the city adopted an ordinance that allowed businesses to operate pedicabs in and around the Canton St area.  This is a fantastic addition to transportation options around our historic district.  It effectively increases the radius where someone living in the area would choose not to take their car to get to another destination.  I'm a supporter of anything we can do to get people out of their cars in the heart of our city.  I live here and walk as much as possible but this additional option will definitely make me reconsider taking the car for a few of the trips where we choose not to walk.

The pedicabs will begin operation this weekend starting on Nov 8th.  They will operate from noon until midnight Friday through Sunday.  The original map of approved operations shows that they will be allowed to go from Prospect Street on the north to King Street on the south and from roughly Liberty Lofts on the east to the end of Goulding on the west.  That is better illustrated by the map below.

I can't wait to try one out!

 

MARTA is trying to be "SMARTA"

You may have heard lately that MARTA has gotten serious about persuing a "Northern Expansion"... The plan is being called Connect400 (learn more). Other than a very small minority that seems to have forgotten that they live near a City and not in the middle of Montana, the support is overwhelmingly positive for SOMETHING to be done.

There are a few options on the table: (this list is not all encompassing, but does cover the most popular)

1. Run a "Bus Rapid Transit" (or BRT) Line north from the North Springs Station up to Alpharetta and potentially further north to Cumming. This is an interesting proposal because it does help with having the buses avoid 400 traffic when making their way South to North Springs. However, that is ALL that this plan really does. It still forces those of us that live North of the River to change modes of transportation. We still would take a "bus-to-a-train". This would, at best, reduce our travel time by 5-10 minutes. Not exactly a great use of capital.

2. Extend "Light Rail" in a very similar fashion to the BRT plan (see above). Unfortunately, this idea is even worse as it is more expensive than Option 1 and would provide the exact same result.

3. Extend "Heavy Rail" North from North Springs up to Windward Parkway (and potentially further in the future). This is a plan to extend the current "Red" line that stops at North Springs further North to Windward Parkway with stops being added at Northridge, Holcomb Bridge, Mansell, North Point Mall, and Windward Parkway. This is a plan that has some real excitement and purpose. For those currently commuting from "North Fulton" (And I include anyone north of the River for this discussion), this would mean no longer having to cram onto 400 (or Roswell Road) with everyone else, in order to get over one of the two existing river crossings. (See previous post about that trainwreck...) You could drive (on surface streets) to the nearest MARTA station. Park your car and take ONE mode of transportation into Atlanta.

As an example, for those currently living in North Roswell/South Alpharetta and commuting to Buckhead: today's commute (if you try to take as much mass transit as possible) takes you 15 minutes (via car) to get to Mansell Park-And-Ride, 5 minutes to wait for the bus (if you're lucky), 20 minutes (via bus) to get to North Springs, 10 minutes to wait for the next train since you missed your regular one (usually), 15 minute train ride to Buckhead. Even if your office is only 5 minutes from the Buckhead Station that is 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to work, door-to-door. (Lots of empirical data here...)

If Option 3 was implemented, you'd drive 15 minutes to Old Milton Station (near 400), potentially wait 5 minutes for the next train, and then 20 minutes later you're in Buckhead, and 5 minutes after that, you're at work. That is a total of 45 minutes to work: Saving you 25 minutes EACH WAY. Plus, the fact that this commute is a single-mode-of-travel takes out all the stress involved in running from the bus to the train and hoping you make your connection... which you rarely make.

Extending Heavy Rail northward would lower commute times, take more cars off the road, and make commuting (heaven forbid) less stressful. Sounds like a good investment to me! ..But I ride MARTA from Holcomb Bridge on a regular basis.  What say you?

Here's a map of the proposed allignments.