The image above compares Florence Italy with Metro Atlanta’s Interstate I-75/I-285 interchange. It’s a few years old, but it’s making the rounds on the web again thanks to some recent exposure. The line usually accompanying it claims that “entire city of Florence could fit inside Atlanta interchange” or similar.
It’s instructive in that it shows how much land space we waste on car infrastructure and how it could be better used (don’t get fooled by the lush green spot on the west corner of the interchange image — that’s about to become the new Cobb County Braves stadium). But it’s also a bit of a lie. It’s even in scale, but the Florence image shows only a portion of the historic center of that city.
Contrasting these two places has merit as a kind of fun exercise in land use. But when it comes to Atlanta’s land and the amount we devote to cars, I’m more interested in two specific, very real things.
1.) The land within our neighborhoods wasted on car infrastructure
There are many Atlanta neighborhoods I could use for this comparison of properties developed for humans versus those for cars, but to be gallant I’ll allow my own home — the Fairlie-Poplar district — to take the heat.
Below is an image I’ve made that shows, in blue, the amount of land in Fairlie-Poplar that’s devoted entirely to car storage in the form of either surface lots or parking decks (in fairness, I just realized I missed one, so it’s even worse than it looks here). The headline I’d give this is “entire human-inhabited portion of FP could fit inside the land devoted to parking.” Basically, if you developed all the parking structures, you could build a second neighborhood inside itself.
Because of the parking built for people visiting the large event facilities in Downtown, this is a more dramatic example than you’ll find elsewhere, but most every neighborhood has its unfair share of car-centric land use — space that is sitting empty much of the time and not offering the value it should to a potentially more livable neighborhoods.
2.) We’re still building these interchanges in Metro Atlanta and elsewhere
The State of Georgia is planning to add miles of lanes to those highways in an attempt to relieve congestion for car commuters. This, despite the overwhelming evidence that adding lanes on a congested highway can create more traffic via induced demand.
According to the news piece:
At an estimated cost of $950 million, it would be the most expensive road project in state history, paid for by going at least $130 million into debt, not counting interest costs. It would take three years of heavy construction to build.
This is exactly the kind of project that a growing metro, already struggling with sprawl damage, needs to avoid. Instead of affordable infill housing in a format that encourages alternative transportation options, this highway-building project is the sort of thing that enables further sprawl and car dependency.
Now is the time to learn from our mistakes in road building, not repeat them. We should build better neighborhoods, not bigger highways.
Goldman Sachs in February published a research memo advising investors to seek out “oligopolistic market structure[s]” in which “a smaller set of relevant peers faces lower competitive intensity, greater stickiness and pricing power with customers due to reduced choice, scale cost benefits including stronger leverage over suppliers, and higher barriers to new entrants all at once.” Goldman went on to highlight a few markets, including beer, where dramatic consolidation over the past decade has enabled dominant companies to use their market power to extract more from suppliers and consumers — and thereby enrich investors.
“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”—Is Democracy dead in the USA? Martin Gilens and Benjamin J. Page think so. (via thisbigcity)
another article summarizing transportation x urbanization x climate change x advocacy x urban planning.
“Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, fine particulate matter alone, much of which comes from transportation related emissions, is responsible for up to 30,000 premature deaths each year. Yet transportation is one of the areas that we, as individuals, have the most ability to control. A whopping 60% of carbon emissions generated by transportation in this country originates from cars and light trucks (the remainder mainly from heavy-duty vehicles & airplanes). The average person who bikes five miles to work, five days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving a year – the equivalent of 100 gallons of gasoline saved and 2,000 pound of CO2 emissions avoided. This equates to saving 5% of the average American’s carbon footprint. This means that regular people like you and me have the greatest potential to turn this problem around.
Simply put, too many people are burning too much fuel in single-occupancy vehicles. Fortunately, a surprisingly straightforward, inexpensive, and low-tech solution to this problem is right under our noses or, more likely, stored in our garages..
Americans are no different than our friends in northern Europe when it comes to making basic lifestyle choices. How we decide to get to work, bring our kids to school, or move around for errands or recreation is largely based on what’s most convenient and expedient for us personally, not some grand environmental motivation. If it’s easier and faster to drive, we usually do. If transit is most convenient, we take the bus. If biking proves speediest and most enjoyable, then we’ll pedal.
Unfortunately for our environment (as well as our pocketbooks and general health), American communities have largely been built to prioritize automobiles, making it a challenge to see bicycling, transit, or walking trips as the most attractive options in many places.
This is where the work of bicycle advocates can be most effective. Our focus is on improving the policies, plans, and investments needed to make communities bicycle-friendly so that more people have the option of biking for more of their trips.”
"Unlike their parents, who calculated their worth in terms of square feet, ultimately inventing the McMansion…this generation is more interested in the amenities of the city itself" — Ellen Dunham-Jones, Georgia Tech professor
A New York City MTA Bus almost ran me over this morning as I WALKED my bike in a crosswalk with a green light. Before he almost ran me over the driver honked at me, loudly, to tell me to get out of his way. And I repeat, I was walking in a crosswalk, with the walk light.
That’s what turn lanes and turn lights do. They give drivers the idea that they have a right to turn, without people getting in their way. And green turn lights and boldly marked turn lanes encourage drivers to go quickly and “take the lane,” because they are clearly in an environment set up for cars—just like in the suburbs. The bus was going at least 35 miles per hour, and so was a long stream of traffic behind him. If the bus had hit me while going 35 miles per hour, I would have almost certainly been dead. While walking with the light in a crosswalk, on an island where 80% of the people don’t own cars.
FACT: There is an inverse relationship between a traffic engineer’s or DOT’s Level of Service (LOS) and the degree of walkability. That’s why in our petition to the US DOT we proposed a Walkable Index Number (WIN) for towns and cities instead of an auto-based Level of Service. WIN versus LOS equals walkability versus drivability.
read more: streetsbook, 20.05.14. sign the petition here! (nationwide, not only nyc)
what i really like about the dearborn separated bike lanes in Chicago (except for the narrow lane widths) is that they put in bike signals. drivers going straight have the same green time as the bike signals, but drivers who want to turn get a red turning light. so no drivers can turn and hit cyclists or people in the crosswalks. much safer walking across streets and biking across intersections.
so I don’t think turn lanes by themselves are anti-pedestrian. If there are regulations to stop turning vehicles from turning where there are people crossing, then no conflict.
As the editor and author of the imagine series we are proud to find concepts becoming reality. This time Archdaily reports that Arup just developed a knod that is following the path of the forces within the unit to make a lighter and more optimized load bearing elemement using additive manufactoring processes or as most of you are calling it: 3D printing.
Actually we thought it a bit further and bigger, but with the rapid development of the industry all around additive manufacoring we are blessed with bigger, faster “printers” that are able to build with nearly every material to imagine.
Have a look on our pages from 2007 and imagine what would be possible if the machines become big as houses. Check also the phd from Holger Strauss, who developed a facade corner cleat and a post and beam facade knod out of aluminium.
We are proud and happy that our sometimes crazy ideas of the imagine book series become true, proofing also that there is a lot of potential in the concepts we have collected. Dont miss the no. 4 of our series Rapids thats the one about rapid prototyping.
“When we abandon our exurbs and distant suburbs – something I see as inevitable — if we leave behind the poorest and most disadvantaged, we won’t be leaving them in functioning neighborhoods. We’ll be leaving them in total isolation. Places without grocery stores that can be walked to. Places without transportation. If the 1960’s inner city was inhumane, this will be far, far worse.”—Strong Towns Blog | April 28, 2014, Charles Marohn (via atlurbanist)