Are You Red? - Are you Sure?

The opposition to development in Roswell is getting pretty heated right now.  There are actually (I know some of you can't believe it) several projects active or planned that I find appalling.  However, I had to take some time to call a recent article (if you can call it that) concerning opposition to a project in Roswell out as pure tabloid garbage.

Let's not pretend that this Red Shirts on the Move rant in the Alpharetta - Roswell Review & News is remotely close to journalism.  This post is hysterical (in more ways than one), factually inaccurate, aside from it's portrayal of the opposition to this project, and logically inconsistent.  I just couldn't resist digging into some of the meaty morsels of journalistic integrity..

"..more than 225 residents who gathered to express concern, frustration and anger over a rezoning proposal for a 113-unit subdivision to go up in the middle one of Roswell's most attractive and livable neighborhoods. If approved by the city, the new development will replace nine single-family homes on 21 acres at Hembree and Chaffin Roads, with mainly townhouses and small cottage homes."

Seems straightforward at first glance but it implies that the new "subdivision" is replacing a "neighborhood" and that the new "subdivision" wouldn't be "attractive and livable." For those who aren't familiar, the developers are proposing a project inspired by Vickery Village in Cumming which is one of the most attractive neighborhoods in the Metro Area and HIGHLY Livable.  Additionally, the developers live in two of the nine existing homes and plan to live in the new development.  

 Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

This development is trying to create a natural neighborhood feel that has different types of homes next to each other.  This is a novel idea for the suburbs but it's actually the way human civilizations were built for centuries before we went off the deep end with cars and zoning.  I think the statement "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes" omits some key details of the plan.  There are actually four 'main' types of homes in this development that deserve mention.  

There are 15 lots facing Hembree and Chaffin which will be single family and will have architecture that tries to achieve a transition from the neighboring properties as you work your way into the development.

 Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

There are 23 internal lots that will be single family homes.  These will be inspired by architecture in Vickery Village and what you would see in Serenbe, Historic Norcross or Glenwood Park.  

 A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

The cottage courts or court yard homes would total 55 and would be similarly inspired as the 23 internal lots.

 A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

Finally, there would be 20 townhouse units.  I guess 66% could qualify as "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes," but leaving out the other 34% is a bit one sided.  

 Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Moving on...

"The proposal was made possible by changes in Roswell's zoning code with the adoption of the UDC (Unified Development Code) that was voted in by the City Council in 2014."

This is downright false.  UDC or no UDC, the developers could have proposed this project.  What the developers are requesting is outside of what the UDC zoning allows.  HENCE the rezoning request.  This statement makes it sound like developers are emboldened by the UDC to request higher density and then implies that the City Council is to blame for making this possible.  REALLY?  The City Council votes a UDC in that keeps the zoning largely the same on these properties and is now being blamed when a developer asks for a zoning variance.  That's shameful and eliminates any journalistic integrity that existed.

Still in the third paragraph..

It has ignited a strong firestorm among residents who believe that high-density housing in established neighborhoods with no capacity to expand infrastructure to support that level of runaway growth threatens to alter the character, quality, and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods.

This statement starts off fair enough but ends taking the reader on a trip to fantasy land.  First, let's look at the "high-density" statement.  Current zoning allows about 1.5 homes per acre.  This request would yield a little over 5.  That is 'higher-density' but it's a far cry from any rational definition of "high-density."  Higher-density does not equal "High-Density."  

Second, let's look at the "no capacity" claim.  Is there anything to support this type of hysterical opinion?  Traffic studies on this project showed an increase in trips (that's obvious) but no significant increase in congestion.  The road network can easily handle this level of development. EASILY. The city looks at impacts to infrastructure and schools and will make informed recommendations to the developers and to the council on what needs to be done to address any real concerns.  Reds need to stop deluding themselves that our city is doing nothing and sitting back getting railroaded by developers who then get a pass from our 'density-thirsty' city council.  I am constantly amazed by how much pushback developers get from the city staff on the details of projects before there is ever even a public hearing.  These details are vetted and they are vetted in EXCRUCIATING detail.  It would be enlightening to see just how many projects don't even make it to the public meeting portion of the process exactly because our staff IS paying attention to these details.

Third, there is a "level of runaway growth" threatening to "alter the character, quality and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods."  Well, we are in the middle of a development cycle and fortunately we live in an area where businesses, investors and developers want to put capital to work.  Would it be better to live in a place where people didn't want to put money to work?  A lack of quality redevelopment is what the author and Reds should be concerned with when they say this might threaten the character, quality and value of ALL of Roswell's Neighborhoods.  Seriously, how could you print a statement like that?  The only thing that could be classified as "runaway" here is the author's imagination.  JUST WOW!

Some residents were quick to point out that three City Council seats will be decided in local elections November 3, that the two incumbents running voted yes for UDC, and it was this vote that makes projects like this rezoning possible.

This resident is quick to point out that pigs don't fly, leprechauns aren't real and that dragons don't exist.  The logical implication of this statement is that the UDC is allowing this request and that if we oppose this project as well as 'run-away high-density' development then we should punish the council for voting for the UDC by electing Horton and Palermo.  

The funny thing is...

THE UDC IS ACTUALLY DOING EXACTLY WHAT THE REDS WANT.   

It is preventing developers from building density in areas that aren't zoned for it.  They have to ask permission.  This is no different than previous zoning codes.  Rezoning requests weren't invented by the UDC and they aren't prohibited by the UDC.  That type of zoning would not hold up in court and quite frankly it would be un-American to prohibit a property owner from asking for a variance, rezoning, etc.  

What I find so interesting about the fierce opposition to this project is the fact that the reds are cutting off their noses..  The current homes on the property in question are largely unmarketable and are currently investment properties or stand to be in the next 3-5 years given their demographics while these homes would be new, high-quality and unique to the area.  

If this rezoning doesn't get approved, there is a distinct possibility that no development will happen which essentially means this section of Chaffin and Hembree could soon be lined by investor owned properties that will not be redeveloped for years.  The properties aren't attractive for redevelopment under the current zoning and investors don't quickly kill their cash cows.  So, you might not have any additional traffic but you might get some stubborn investment properties that don't juxtapose so nicely with neighboring subdivisions. Be careful what you wear red for.

If there is this much opposition to a quality development of this nature, then I've lost hope that any development of quality can be achieved outside the historic district in this city.  I guess it would be preferable to get a tract home developer to come in and scrape the land, build homogenous product at a lower density and leave us with another unconnected subdivision that makes zero effort to blend in with its neighbors.  But, that is the conventional way that we've come to know and love.  I'm doubtful we'd see any red at that neighborhood meeting.

10 Reasons to Love Vickers Village

We all know the arguments against Vickers Village.  We’ve heard them before.  You could pick the arguments off the shelf of any opposition to development that has occurred in the United States in the past 50 years.  The density is too high, the traffic will be unbearable, my kids won’t be safe, the schools will be ruined, my property values will plummet, the building is too big, it doesn’t fit with the neighborhood, it's not historic, I want redevelopment just not this….  The list goes on but in reality, opposition to projects is generally grounded in fear of the unknown and opinion while arguments are often supported by conjecture and hyperbole that isn’t grounded by fact.  

Now, I happen to think the density is just right, the traffic is coming regardless (are the 100% car dependent subdivisions being built off Woodstock Rd getting this same objection?), kids will be just fine, the schools will still thrive, property values will do just fine, the building is big but appropriate, it will fit into the neighborhood just fine… and I want redevelopment and I welcome this project.

So, I’d like to offer up some thoughts on why I really love this project.

10. It’s MUCH better than what it’s replacing – The modern historic preservation movement really gained traction when Penn Station was torn down to build Madison Square Garden.  The fight was fierce but the preservation minded architects lost and a beautiful building was lost to an eyesore.  This was a microcosm of a national problem.  Beautiful buildings were being destroyed and replaced with meaningless garbage for the sake of profit and modernity.

Penn Station image source: Library of Congress

To combat this trend, historic preservation organizations began to pop up all over the nation.   Unfortunately, Roswell did not officially have a commission until 1992, which may partially be why we have so much garbage, sprawl-style development throughout the 640 acre historic district.  

Now, Vickers Village is no Penn Station.  But it is light years better than the buildings currently on those properties.

9. It Will Increase Surrounding Property Values – During the recession, pretty much the only neighborhoods (anywhere) that held their value or increased were in walkable mixed-use communities.  This type of development gets us closer to true walkability.  The data says any concerns about property values declining are probably not based in reality.  From a recent study on walkable urban places in the Atlanta region (link)...

The price premium is much greater in for-sale housing (in walkable urban places). In the drivable sub-urban areas of the Atlanta region, homes are valued at $60.06 per square foot; in Established WalkUPs, values are 161 percent higher, at $156.46 per square foot.

Vickers Village won't hurt your value and if will probably drive your values higher. I could be completely off base here.  But... I'm not.  

Here's another graphic that drives home the point...  This shows quintiles of walkability based on the State of Place Index.  As you jump a quintile, you see notable increases in a number of areas...

As a homeowner in the historic district, I’m a big fan of a development like Vickers Village in key locations (and this prime intersection is one of them).

Also, taller buildings (I guess 4 stories is really tall in Roswell :) next to single family homes don't necessarily kill property values.  If the placemaking is done well and the area is desirable, which Historic Roswell is, there is no reason to fear juxtapostion of larger and smaller buildings.  

Rosemary Beach homes seem to be doing just fine next to a 4 story building.

8. It Breaks Up the Façade – By breaking up the façade with frequent variations in setback and height, it will create the feel of a building that is a collection of smaller buildings.  In this case, four stories truly is better than three stories because the additional floor gives the developer the flexibility to build these variations.  This project will provide 320 feet of frontage along Woodstock, 143 feet of frontage along Canton and 221 feet along Thompson.  There will be one, two, three and four story sections as you walk by.  This is MUCH more preferable than a solid three stores all around which is the most likely 'plan B' for the development team.

7. It Mixes Uses – The term mixed-use is way overused but it’s very true in the case of Vickers Village.  As proposed, VV would have condominiums, a restaurant, a coffee shop, several offices and a spa.  If you want to use land efficiently, that’s how you do it.  If you want to build a truly walkable neighborhood, that’s how you do it.  If you want to increase your property values, that’s how you do it!

6. It Balances Canton St – On the south end of Canton Street, we currently have what is undoubtedly the best stretch of authentic walkable urbanism in North Fulton.  Now, anyone who has been to shopping malls, knows that they don’t build them with just one anchor.  Mall developers were cued into human behavior much sooner than post WWII city planners were.  That’s why malls always have at least two anchors.  People want to walk from one destination to another and the retail in between thrives as a result.  Canton Street currently lacks a second anchor area to balance it.  Vickers Village will be that second anchor.

Vickers Village’s prime building frontage is amazingly close to that on south Canton Street.  Pastis to Salt measures roughly 360 feet.  Go With the Flow to Tutto measures 160 feet.  Provisions to the flower shop measures 210 feet.  Now, the retail frontage at Vickers Village will be significantly less than what we have at the south end of Canton street but the total linear feet is almost exactly the same (727 South Canton vs 684 Vickers).  So, in my mind, this truly is comparable in size and scale to the south end of Canton Street when you look at linear building frontage.  (I obvioulsy understand that VV is taller)  This is the anchor development that Canton Street has been looking for.

5. There’s a Plaza! – How many developments in Roswell in recent years have actually reserved space for a plaza or park that the general public will actually be able to use?  The only one I can think of is Sloan Street Park which was built when the Bricks were renovated.   This will be an incredible amenity and I really don’t think it happens without the fourth story.

Aerial view of the proposed plaza at the corner of Woodstock and Canton

4. It Has Underground Parking! – At between $10,000 and $20,000 a spot, underground parking is expensive.  It is generally twice as expensive as above ground structured parking which is five to ten times as expensive as surface parking.  The developer is doing the right thing here.  It’s the right thing to do for the project and it’s the right thing to do for the future of our historic district.  Nothing kills walkability like a surface parking lot.  Vickers Village really gets it right on this front with the residential parking buried underground and the retail parking covered by the residential and retail.

3. It Increases Road Connectivity – Although this is controversial because the drive would be within the buffer of the neighboring property, it is absolutely the right thing to do for the city.  

Cities and places with a finer grained road network are more walkable.  The more blocks per square mile that a city has, the more choices pedestrians, cyclists and drivers have to get to a destination.  More importantly, bigger blocks mean bigger streets and fewer streets.  This is critical for safety.  The bigger your block size is, the more likely you will see injuries and fatalities on your streets.  A study that looked at more that 130,000 car crashes over a 9 year period concluded that a doubling of block size corresponded with a tripling of fatalities in the 24 cities studied.  Now, this doesn’t’ mean that smaller block places can’t be dangerous but it does mean they are less dangerous.  What it tells me that the best thing we can do to increase the safety on our streets is to reduce our block sizes and create exactly those ‘cut-through’ streets that people seem to despise so much.

2. It Focuses on the Pedestrian – With the mix of uses, broken up façade, street trees, plaza, street connectivity, underground parking and wide sidewalks, this could be the most pedestrian friendly project ever proposed in Historic Roswell.  It has certainly made it farther along in the process than any other.  The only two that rival it are the Duany Plan and the Boutique Hotel on the Square.  Seriously, this four story plan is Better choice for the pedestrian experience as it embracing the public realm and caters to the human scale from the sidewalk.

View of Vickers Village looking north on Canton Street

1. It’s Freaking Bold – I personally think the design as is puts that land to its highest ;) and best use.  I think teh current proposal is award winning while the alternative will be 'just okay.'  We should get out of our comfort zones, embrace change and continue to build on the history of our historic district.  Be BOLD!

Vickers Village looking south toward the Canton Street and Woodstock Road intersection

Alas, it probably won’t make it with a fourth story due to a massive amount of community objection.  My prediction, city council approves the multi-family conditional use and the buffer variance but does not approve the height variance.  With that, I’m sure we will get a project that is good but not bold.  One that is much less interesting than the current proposal.

I think denying the fourth story is the difference between an award winning project that communities outside of Roswell will look to emulate and a development that’s nice but not special.

Ultimately, not everyone is going to be happy.  The immediate neighbors are probably going to be upset regardless.  As the saying goes, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  I say we should give this building the 10 extra feet of height that it needs so we can have a bold, interesting building that will build on our history, create conversation and enhance our historic district.

 

If you would like to see this project built, let the mayor and council know by emailing them at roswellmayorandcouncil@roswellgov.com and try to make it to the city council meeting on 6/22. (I will unfortunately be out of the country but will be there in spirit)

Shared Space = Mind Blown

I've been exploring the concept of Shared Space in transportation lately and am obsessed with the intersection implemented in Poynton, UK.  Shared Space is a traffic concept that gives equal rights to all modes of transportation within the right of way.  I can't explain it any better than the clip below.  

If you like what you see, I was recently able to spend some time with the designer of that intersection, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, at CNU22.  His presentation was excellent and in some cases mind blowing.  Here it is in its entirety if you are interested.

And finally, here's a presentation that I was able to find that does an excellent job explaining Shared Space and providing some additional examples of real world implementations.

So, this concept is becoming increasingly popular as it creates place, reduces traffic congestion and increases safety..  When can we do this here in Roswell?

 

Red Light Cameras - A Love Hate Relationship

The Roswell Neighbor had an article today that caught my attention.  If you are familiar with NUR, you know that I firmly believe that roads should be designed for more safety.  That usually means narrower lanes, fewer straightaways and more intersections.  That doesn't make for what most consider a driver's paradise but it does make for a safer environment with fewer severe injury and fatality crashes.  I actually think the latter is a driver's paradise.  An environment that gets Americans home to their families a higher percentage of the time is what we should all want.

The article in The Roswell Neigbor by Joan Durbin, City May Ditch All Red Light Cameras, is bound to get people excited.  It certainly got a couple of commenters excited.  But, after I read the article, it left me disappointed in our city council, mayor and DOT for (in my opinion) not lookng at the big picture. 

The article leads one to believe that the city is strongly considering removing the cameras based on data from the two intersections over the 25 months preceeding camera installation and the 22 months following their installation.  In a nutshel, there have been three crashes related directly to red light runners pre-installation and three crashes post-installation.  In addition to this, the revenue generated from citations issued has declined significantly.

At first glance, you simply say, there has been no improvement in safety.  Then you may say, revenues have declined significantly and are just barely turining a profit.  You may then reach the conclusion as our mayor and council did, that givien that there is no improvement in safety and revenue isn't paying for the cameras, you should just remove the cameras.

NOT SO FAST!

We should expect more from our mayor, council and DOT.  How quickly do we forget...  This is from a 2010 article from NorthFulton.com titled Red Light Cameras Doing Job in Alpharetta, Roswell:
Roswell reported head-on collisions at Holcomb Bridge dropping drastically between last year and this year (even though at Mansell Road, such collisions went from none to one over the same period)
My take..  The city Making conclusions from data collected from two cameras within a mile of eachother to determine that they have no impact on safety is like looking at an overweight person eating a salad and determining that salads make you fat.  You have to look at a broader populstion.  The statistics are out there and they aren't debatable.  Traffic Cameras SAVE LIVES.  
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released their findings from a study on the subject last year (link).  They looked at 14 cities that installed cameras in the mid-00's. 
Researchers concluded that the rate of fatal red-light running crashes in cities with the cameras was 24 percent lower than it would have been without them. The study compared crash data collected in 2004 to 2008 with the period between 1992 and 1996 — before the 14 cities had any cameras.
Based on their calculations:
"if red light cameras had been in place for all 5 years in all 99 US cities with populations over 200,000, a total of 815 deaths could have been avoided."  

I'm not a fan of having cameras everywhere and those flashes are freaking annoying (there have to be better systems) but I am a fan of people not dying and getting maimed in car crashes.

Red light cameras are a tool in the city's arsenal that should be used at high velocity intersections (40 mph+) where right angle crashes due to red light runners have a high probability of killing or seriously injuring drivers.  Cameras coupled with smart road design (narrower lanes, fewer straight aways) can seriously reduce serious injury crashes.  Why? Because they force drivers to PAY ATTENTION.

As far as revenue is concerned, it makes total sense that revenue would be decreasing.  The article states that revenue dropped from $835k in 2008 to just over $100k in 2010.  That's not a sign that the cameras aren't worth the investment.  It's a sign that they are doing their job. Drivers are PAYING MORE ATTENTION at the intersections.  They are running the light fewer times.  

A small sample of intersections may not have shown a reduction in accidents but it has most definitely shown a reduction in people running red lights which is the actual key driver behind accidents at intersections.  Don't look at the accidents, look at what causes the accidents.  Then make your decision on whether they are helping make our city safer.

Bicycling - Safety vs Preference

I came across a great article today on what types of bicycling infrastructure is the most preferred and compares it to what type of infrastructure is the safest.  The studies cited go a little against conventional wisdom.  I really thought the scatter plot chart below was telling and city transportation engineers and DOT's should take note.  

The real surprise to me was that paved multi-use paths were the second most preferred type of infrastructure but they were also the second most dangerous.  

Check out the article for an interesting read.

Dedicated Bike Lanes Can Cut Cycling Injuries in Half - The Atlantic Cities

It Takes Time to Turn the Titanic...

I saw an interesting tweet a few days ago from Alpharetta city councilman Jimmy Gilvin that referenced some 2010 US census stats. He was basically pointing out that during that timeframe people flocked to suburban environments while urban places didn't fare as well. Here’s his tweet:

"From 2000 to 2010 the City of Atlanta added 3500 residents. Suburban Alpharetta added 22,600. Please spare me the urbanism talk."

First off, if you would like to follow Jimmy on Twitter his handle is @jimgilvin. He is often entertaining and I appreciate an elected official being active in social media. It is definitely a risk.

That being said, I had to take a look at his stats (which are correct) out of curiosity since my blog is primarily about New Urbanism.  The data from 2000 to 2010 pretty much shows that it was business as usual for the suburban experiment. This isn’t really much of a surprise. I wondered if anything had changed since those nubmers came out last year because everything that I’ve read recently points to a renewed interest in walkable urban environments as a preference over the drivable suburban environments that have dominated population growth over the last 40-50 years. 

Interest in walkable urban environments started to pick up around 2004-2005 and a lot of condos started to go up in the denser areas of the region, most notably in Midtown and Buckhead. But, there was also a lot of development that broke ground around our traditionally suburban city centers that could also be deemed walkable even if it wasn't as intense as what was going on in the urban cores. A lot of this development was crushed by the economic downturn and still hasn’t fully recovered.  All types of development suffered this fate whether it was walkable urban, drivable suburban, single-family, multi-family, single-use or mixed-use.  There was no single boggieman here.

We are starting to see some signs of recovery in all of the aforementioned areas.  My expectation is that over the next two to three years, we will start to see more walkable development pick up steam again as you see condos, townhomes and apartments start to go up around the region.  Most of this will occur in the centers of our suburban towns. I think this is ringing true in the more current stats. The latest population estimates as of July 2011 show a much different story.

In the period from April 2010 through July 2011, the City of Atlanta's population growth, 3%, exceeded much of the region as new buyers and renters started filling in much of the empty development that was left unoccupied after the real estate crash.  The Atlanta condo market is healthier than it has been in years. Many of the high profile condo buildings that were noticeably empty for years have hit the tipping point where 70% of their units have been sold.  This threshold makes financing much easier and will accellerate the sale of the remaining units.  Additionally, a significant amount of apartment capacity is going up intown.  What I'm saying here is that the trend is looking favorable for walkable urbanism.  Most drivable suburban areas are growing but at a slower clip.

In fact, the ONLY suburban market that exceeded the city of Atlanta's growth on a percentage basis between April 2010 and July 2011 was North Fulton.  The US Census estimates show that the city of Atlanta added 12,424 residents during that 15 month period.  This was the most of any city in the metro area.  There were only 7 cities with over 20k residents that exceeded that growth.  Five of them were in North Fulton (Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell, Sandy Springs).  The other two were East Point and Union City.

If these trends continue, traditional suburbia may be in for a tough road ahead.  Here are some key points:

  1. North Fulton, specifically Alpharetta, is not your typical suburban environment. It is a Technology hub that functions as a job center. It has much more wealth than most of the other suburban areas on the region. Most suburbs do not have the same inherent benefits that North Fulton does.
  2. All of the cities in North Fulton have either approved, planned or built walkable urban environments
    1. Alpharetta – City Center, Avalon
    2. Roswell – Groveway, Historic Roswell Master Plan, Centennial Walk
    3. Johns Creek – Johns Creek Walk
    4. Milton – Crabapple Area
    5. Sandy Springs – New Town Center
  3. Boomer and Millennial demographics are pointing toward a very large demand for walkable urbanism over the next 10 to 15 years as boomers downsize and millennials buy homes.
  4. Much of this growth in walkable urbanism will be in areas that have been traditionally labled the suburbs.  Just look at where the most talked about areas are in your suburban city.  They aren't the newest golf, tennis or gated subdivision.  They are the city centers with lively environments of shops and restaurants.

The suburban experiment is almost over and it is even coming to an end here in North Fulton.  People want places where they don't have to rely 100% on their cars to live their lives.

 

 

CNU Self Critique from CNU20

One of the reasons I love the Congress for the New Urbanism as an organization is its willingness to self-critique and learn from past mistakes. This video highlights thoughts on those mistakes. The last line in the video is from Andres Duany and pretty much calls out the political discourse in our society. It's worth a watch.


Over half the total funding, $3.2 billion, is going to a mode of transportation that less than 5 percent of commuters choose to use — mass transit.

I'm having fun reading through all of the misguided anti-transit editorials being slung around these days.  This thought of the week is from Steve Brown a Fayette County Commissioner.  He's trying to make the case that spending money on transit is a waste because only 5% of the metro area uses transit and that it is subsidized.  However, what he doesn't address is that virtually everyone in the metro area benefits from the transit system.  It takes over 400,000 trips off the roads each day.  That's 146,000,000 trips a year that would most likely be made by car on our roads.  So, the next time you hear someone say MARTA or transit is worthless, think about adding all of those cars to the roads... where does that get us?  STUCK IN TRAFFIC.  

I'd also like to point out that MARTA ridership would be much, much higher if for commuters could "choose" to ride.  That's the objective with the TIA2012.  Give Atlanta more choices.  

Quote of the Week: Grids vs Arterials

Overall, a gridded street network of two-lane roadways can accommodate both pedestrians in addition to much higher volumes of vehicles as compared to the large arterial/collector single intersection.  The superiority in capacity even holds when the grid system is compared against the arterial/collector without any pedestrian  accommodations whatsoever.  This research presented results in terms of vehicle delay and vehicle level of service; while not ideal in terms of truly understanding the impact of these large intersections in a complete urban environment, these results should instead be used to clarify many of the misconceptions that conventional traffic engineers have with regard to such large arterials/collectors intersections.   
Additional benefits of the grid system include real-time route decisions, increased levels of walking and biking, reduced vehicle speeds, and  as some recent research is showing, safer roadways for all users.  Critics may point out that the grid system increases overall vehicle delays for through traffic.  The analysis done as part of this study agrees with this assertion; however, the analysis is limited in that it assumes all trips begin outside the grid, travel through the grid, and then exit the grid.

From Supersized Intersections vs Gridded Street Networks: Comparing Capacities & Pedestrian Accommodation

Each week we feature a quote or an excerpt that clearly illustrates the benefits of new urbanist thought.