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  • Rounding Up TSPLOST

    I guess this is what rush hour will look like if we pass TSPLOST . . .

    As part of our ongoing discussion on the Transportation Special Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax, or TSPLOST, referendum up for vote on July 31, let’s take a minuet to dig a little deeper into these projects on the proposed list.

    We previously looked at a list of the projects proposed based on a map found at UntieAtlanta.com. Using that map, I counted 147 projects (some of the literature claims 157, but we are cloe enough to make some generalizations) spread across 10 metro counties. I am fully admitting that I may not have ALL of the information on this referendum, but I think I have MOST of it and that should be good enough to get a general sense of what is being proposed. If anyone knows of a more comprehensive or accurate resource than the ones I have used for my data-gathering, please let me know in the comments and I can update!

    So, as we are trying to figure out whether this initiative will actually alleviate some of the traffic burdens of the metro area, let’s take a deeper look at the projects, their budgets, and noticeable trends.

     

    The firs thing I notice is how spread out these projects are. I was under the impression that this was an Atlanta initiative. This looks more to me like an Atlanta MSA initiative with projects in every major suburban area (except the Panthersville/SE Atlanta corridor, interestingly).

    This handy pdf from Georgia Trend shows a quick breakout of the projects by region as follows:

    North Fulton – $384,900,000

    Northeast – $898,950,000

    East – $67,300,000

    Henry County & Southeast – $213,000,000

    Clayton County & South – $313,170,000

    Southwest – $196,860,000

    Douglas & Westside – $332,860,000

    Downtown & Midtown – $601,892,477

    City of Atlanta – $134,332,592

    Dekalb Projects – $185,250,000

    Total – $3,328,515,069

     

    A few things that stand out when looking at these numbers.

    The City of Atlanta is getting about $740 Million. That’s about $140 Million less than Gwinnett County.

    Is anyone else surprised that the largest number is going to Gwinnett? What does that say about our transportation priorities?

    Having said that, our last post had $112 Million going toward improving MARTA, so I suppose that could be counted toward in-town funds. But that is STILL less than is being spent in Gwinnett.

    Gimme more stop lights!

    While we are on the topic, why am I paying for upgrades to MARTA? I don’t see any new branches being developed or neighborhoods being reached by our rapid transit. So why am I sending money to MARTA to update their elevators, ventilation , passenger notifications, etc? Doesn’t MARTA have it’s own budget?

    Am I paying to bail out MARTA?

    As far as the in-town stuff goes, you know I love the Beltline and think it’s a great draw for bringing people to the city.

    I notice we are fixing some bridges downtown. Hmmmm. I also notice that our road projects in town seem to be cheaper than the suburban surface road improvements. Maybe that’s because some of those suburban improvements are widenings, but it seems odd that most of our road improvements are a couple hundred thousand dollars and most of the suburban deals are a couple million.

    From my list, I counted a total of 82 projects that I opposed and 65 projects that I supported. That’s closer than I expected, but I still oppose more than I support.

    All told, we are proposing to spend approximately $2,407,040,000 in the suburbs and $1,033,475,069 in town (I am including the Dekalb and MARTA stuff as in town).

    So, in a city whose culture has been decimated by sprawl, we are proposing to fix our transportation issues by spending more than twice as much money on suburban projects as in town projects?

    Hmmmmm . . . . maybe I am missing something.

     

    What else did you readers notice? Any trends or special projects of interest that stood out as you were trying to wrap your head around this massive proposition?

    Now that we have gone through what is in this deal, check back this week for an analysis of whether the DOT can pull this off.

    – Duke

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  • Questions on TSPLOST

    Underground transit will cure what ails you!

    Now that we have a quick guide to the projects proposed on TSPLOST, let’s take a couple posts to answer the basic questions on TSPLOST that will help us figure out exactly what we are voting for on July 31st.

    Specifically, let’s try to answer these:

    What is it? – What projects are involved and what money is being allocated where? (This will be a follow up to our Quick Guide)

    How Realistic Is it? – Can the DOT pull this huge project off in the timeline? It doesn’t matter how cool it sounds if the DOT can’t pull it off . . .

    What specific problems will be solved? – I know we all want to Untie Atlanta. How will these projects do that?

    What happens if it doesn’t pass? – Do we sink into a traffic-choked oblivion? Can we try again next year?

    Given our future hope and dreams for the city, is this the best course of action?

     

    Alright. That seems like a decent road map (pun!) that should get us to a “yes” or “no.” Check back over the next week or two as we will try to answer these questions as thoroughly as possible and get some debate moving on whether TSPLOST will truly untie Atlanta traffic.

    – Duke

  • APJ Quick Guide to TSPLOST Projects

     

    Not sure if I want to vote “yes”

    Today I ran across the UntieAtlanta.com site (link is here) and I think it’s a great resource to educate yourself about the TSPLOST vote coming up on July 31st.

    It’s nice to have a quick and easy resource to show all of the projects and timing associated with this huge bill as I suspect most people are confused as to what exactly they will be voting for. My favorite part (and most educational) is the interactive map that places markers on all the projects and has brief descriptions of their timing and price.

    As I mentioned before, there is no such thing as a perfect bill. There are parts that I agree with and parts that I disagree with. And I think it is important to point out the difference between doing “something” and doing the “right thing”. I know that action makes us all feel better, but action for action’s sake is a great way to go far in the wrong direction.

    So my basic two questions for this bill are: 1) Is there more to like than dislike in this bill? and 2) Is this the right thing to do or just something to do to address our transportation issues?

    I think the answer to #1 will tell me the answer to #2. And my answer to number one is actually very easy to figure out: Would I vote to send 1 cent out of every dollar I spend to go to fixing _______________? By breaking down TSPLOST piece-by-piece I can quantify how many of the projects I support and how many I oppose. If there are more that I support than I oppose, then I’m a “yes” on TSPLOST. If not, I basically have to figure out if the Beltline and other projects I view as crucial are worth all that money I don’t want to spend on the other projects.

    And let me reiterate something I said last time.

    WE NEED TO UPGRADE, IMPROVE, AND FIX ALL OF OUR TRANSPORTATION IF WE WANT TO CONTINUE TO GROW AS AN INTERNATIONAL CITY.

    I don’t think that is open to debate. Atlanta will grow when people want to be here. People want to be here when they enjoy our quality of life. Our quality of life is highly tied to our ability to move in and around the city. Therefore transportation (along with water and eduction) is one of the crucial issues facing Atlanta in my lifetime. So, don’t think I underestimate the value of upgrading our transportation. And don’t think that I wish the suburban roads and transportation systems to fall into disrepair. I just want to make sure that this is the best long-term decision for our city before I throw my “yes” around.

    So, enough explaining. Here are the projects and my vote on them:

     

    Atlanta to Griffin Commuter Rail ($20,000,000) – No

    SR 85 Improvements in Fayetteville ($5,900,000) – No

    South Industrial Path in Fayette County ($1,210,000) – No

    South Industrial Path in Fayette County ($1,150,000) – No

    SR 85 Expansion in Fayetteville ($24,000,000) – No

    MacDuff Pkwy expansion near Peachtree City ($6,400,000) – No

    Bill Gardner Expansion in Henry Co ($27,000,000) – No

    Widening SR 92 in Fayetteville ($15,900,000) – No

    Improving SR 92 in Fayetteville ($20,000,000) – No

    Widening 23/42 in McDonough ($44,000,000) – No

    Widening SR 155 in McDonough ($48,000,000) – No

    Upgrade SR 20/81 in McDonough ($11,000,000) – No

    Widen SR 81 in McDonough ($27,000,000) – No

    Widen East Fayetteville Bypass ($14,000,000) – No

    Parallel Connector off Jonesboro Rd ($17,000,000) – No

    Widen Fayetteville Rd in Jonesboro ($40,180,000) – No

    SR 92 Connector in Fayette Co ($18,300,000) – No

    Improve interchange at SR 74 and I85 ($22,500,000) – No

    Roundabout at Hutcheson Ferry ($1,750,000) – No

    Widen SR 78 in Riverdale ($22,200,000) – No

    Redesign Tara Blvd ($102,170,000) – No

    Improve Old Milton and 400 Interchange ($1,900,000) – No

    Improve SR 92 at South Fulton Pkwy ($16,000,000) – No

    Widening SR 85 in Forest Park ($34,150,000) – Yes

    Widen Conley Rd at I285 ($28,500,000) – Yes

    MARTA at the Airport ($7,160,000) – Yes

    Widen Camp Creek Pkwy at 285 ($60,250,000) – Yes

    Replace bridge over Camp Creek Pkwy ($3,500,000) – No

    New Interchange at 285 and Greenbriar Pkwy ($36,400,000) – Yes

    Improve Campbellton Rd ($1,259,900) – No

    Improve I285 at Cascade Rd ($23,600,000) – Yes

    Regional Traffic control on I20 in Douglasville ($19,000,000) – No

    Multiuse Path in Douglasville ($2,210,000) – No

    Realign SR 92 on west side ($49,000,000) – No

    Widen Lee rd in Lithia springs ($18,900,000) – No

    Widen US 78 in Lithia Springs ($20,000,000) – No

    Improve intersections on Fulton Industrial ($7,500,000) – Yes

    Improve MLK Dr near 285 ($3,000,000) – Yes

    Improve west side 20/285 interchange ($149,000,000) – Yes

    Improve Jonesboro Rd ITP ($7,395,000) – Yes

    Improve I20 at Panola ($21,200,000) – No

    Widen Panola Rd ($30,300,000) – No

    Extend Hayden Quarry Rd in Rockdale ($27,000,000) – No

    Widen Sigman Rd in Rockdale ($30,000,000) – No

    Improve Commerce Crossing in Rockdale ($25,900,000) – No

    Widen Flat shoals Rd in Rockdale ($11,400,000) – No

    Improve Rockbridge Rd in Dekalb ($7,500,000) – No

    Improve Glenwood Rd ITP ($5,000,000) – Yes

    Improve Memorial Dr ITP ($738,750) – Yes

    Peachtree near Spring ($434,875) – Yes

    Improving Piedmont Ave ($3,604,908) – Yes

    Bridge at Courtland St ($22,000,000) – Yes

    Central Ave Bridge ($27,000,000) – Yes

    Pryor St Bridge ($32,100,000) – Yes

    MARTA Tunnel Rehab ($700,000) – Yes

    Improve Edgewood Ave ($527,667) – Yes

    Improve Auburn Ave ($643,750) – Yes

    Improve Courtland St ($750,000) – Yes

    Beltline ($165,952,132) – Yes

    Beltline Midtown to Downtown ($435,940,345) – Yes

    Donald lee Hollowell near 285 ($1,025,000) – Yes

    Improve Joseph E Lowery ITP ($1,188,750) – Yes

    Improve 14th at Howell Mill ($575,000) – Yes

    Improve Boulevard near Ponce ($1,150,000) – Yes

    Improve 10th to Monroe ($462,000) – Yes

    Improve North Ave ($457,500) – Yes

    Improve Ponce near Spring ($618,125) – Yes

    Decatur to Clifton Corridor ($5,000,000) – Yes

    Improve College Ave near Avondale Estates ($5,000,000) – Yes

    Memorial Drive near 285 ($5,000,000) – Yes

    Premium Transit form the NW to Arts Center ($695,000,000) – Yes*

    Improve Spring St near Peachtree ($1,292,125) – Yes

    River View Rd near South Cobb ($16,500,000) – Yes

    Improve Howell Mill near I-75 ($512,500) – Yes

    Improve Monroe Dr ($706,250) – Yes

    Improve N Druid Hills Corridor ($25,000,000) – Yes

    Clifton Corridor Rail Transit ($700,000,000) – Yes

    Improve Northside Dr near W paces ($525,325) – Yes

    Improve Piedmont Rd corridor ($612,000) – Yes

    Improve Peachtree from Peachtree Dunwoody to Collier ($1,713,450) – Yes

    Widen 360 in Paulding County ($30,000,000) – No

    Improve Thornton Rd in Paulding ($43,000,000) – No

    Improve S Cobb near 285 ($9,000,000) – Yes

    Widening Windy Hill ($22,999,900) – Yes

    I75 at Windy Hill ($77,000,000) – Yes

    Cobb Parkway at Windy Hill ($93,000,000) – Yes

    Windy Hill and Terrell Mill Connection ($14,000,000) – No

    Hammond Dr at 400 ($33,500,000) – Yes

    MARTA extension Sandy Springs ($37,000,000) – Yes

    285 and 400 Interchange ($450,000,000) – Yes

    Ashford Dunwoody Corridor Improvements ($5,000,000) – Yes

    Improve Mt Vernon Corridor ($12,000,000) – Yes

    400 from 285 to Spalding ($190,000,000) – Yes

    Buford Hwy & PIB alignment ($25,000,000) – Yes

    Spaghetti Junction Improvements ($53,000,000) – Yes

    Trails on Hwy 29 in Lilburn ($1,850,000) – No

    Widen Five Forks Trickum Rd in Lilburn ($10,400,000) – No

    Intersection of US 78 and Hwy 124 in Snellville ($19,100,000) – No

    Hillcrest Satellite Connector in Norcross ($19,900,000) – No

    West Liddell Connector in Norcross ($39,300,000) – No

    Cobb Pkwy and Barrett Pkwy in Kennesaw ($9,800,000) – No

    McCollum Airport ($690,000) – No

    McCollum Airport ($2,500,000) – No

    Moon Station Rd in Kennesaw ($4,500,000) – No

    Busbee Frey Connector in Kennesaw ($21,500,000) – No

    Roswell Rd Improvements in Roswell ($20,000,000) – No

    Atlanta St in Roswell ($20,400,000) – No

    Holcomb Br interchange at 400 ($48,000,000) – No

    Peachtree Pkwy and PIB in John’s Creek ($46,000,000) – No

    Pleasant Hill Widening in John’s Creek ($11,600,000) – No

    Abbotts Br widening in John’s Creek ($28,000,000) – No

    Buford Hwy Widening in Duluth ($14,000,000) – No

    Duluth Hwy widening in Lawrenceville ($38,400,000) – No

    Walther Blvd and 316 in Lawrenceville ($10,600,000) – No

    316 at Hi Hope Rd in Lawrenceville ($61,900,000) – No

    316 at US 29 in Lawrenceville ($51,000,000) – No

    Sugarloaf Pkwy Alignment in Lawrenceville ($296,000,000) – No

    316 at Harbins Rd in Lawrenceville ($23,000,000) – No

    Dacula Rd in Dacula ($10,000,000) – No

    Widening lake Acworth Dr in Acworth ($29,100,000) – No

    Rucker Rd in Alpharetta ($19,000,000) – No

    Houze Rd in Alpharetta ($18,600,000) – No

    Widening Old Milton Pkwy in Alpharetta ($37,000,000) – No

    Widening Kimball Br in Alpharetta ($21,000,000) – No

    Improve Buford hwy Corridor in Suwanee ($5,500,000) – No

    Gravel Springs and I85 Interchange ($33,300,000) – No

    Bells Ferry and Little River Br in Canton ($7,000,000) – No

    Widening Hickory Flat in Canton ($70,000,000) – No

    Widening another part of Hickory Flat in Canton ($70,000,000) – No

    Widening a third part of Hickory Flat ($50,000,000) – No

    Widening Cumming Hwy in Cumming ($40,000,000) – No

    Widening Buford Dr in Buford ($4,100,000) – No

    Widening another part of Buford Hwy ($28,000,000) – No

    Clayton County Local Bus ($100,000,000) – No

    GRTA Express ($128,000,000) – No

    Gwinnett County Bus Service ($40,000,000) – No

    I-20 East Corridor ($225,000,000) – No

    I-85 North Corridor ($95,000,000) – No

    MARTA Electric Power Rehab ($354,400,000) – Yes

    MARTA Elevators and Escalators ($118,700,000) – Yes

    MARTA Passenger Info System ($30,500,000) – Yes

    MARTA Track Rehab ($5,600,000) – Yes

    MARTA Systems Upgrade ($4,440,000) – Yes

    MARTA UTC Infrastructure ($27,200,000) – Yes

    Perimeter ITS ($1,000,000) – Yes

    Regional Mobility Project for elderly and Disabled ($17,000,000) – Yes

     

     

    Dang. 147 projects. We can get into how I voted and why a little later. For now, digest these projects a little. Go to the site and see which projects you like and don’t like.
    Educate yourself and little and then let’s chat about this.

    As a reminder, the way I determined my vote was by asking: Would I want to spend one cent of every dollar I spend on (insert project)?

    So my answers are totally subjective and some are self-serving, but I will explain all of that later. For now, just look it over and tell me your initial thoughts below.

    – Duke

    p.s. If you want to follow my list on the map, I went from South to North starting in Griffin and Left (West) to Right (East).

    p.p.s. Big thanks to the hard-working team at Untie Atlanta! This is a very cool and interesting map that should help us all make a more-informed decision.

     

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  • Quick Thoughts on TSPLOST

    Is TSPLOST the best solution for our traffic issues?

    Everyone seems to have an opinion, so I might as well throw my hat in the ring.

    I think I like T-SPLOST overall, but I think it may be short-sighted. I think it’s apparent that we as a city have some transportation and traffic issues. What I question is whether or not this bill is the BET solution to some of those problems.

    I was reviewing the major projects in TSPLOST in the business chronicle and I was struck by how many of them focused on suburban projects. I have no problem with the suburbs and I grew up there myself, but the opportunity cost of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the suburbs seems enormous.

    95 out of 100 Gen Y workers (straw poll) are moving into the city limits (ITP). That’s millions of young people moving in-town as the future leaders and innovators in our city. That influx of people who live, drive, and work in-town is putting a huge strain on our aging transport and infrastructure.

    Since Atlanta is a city built around the car, it’s imperative that we pay attention and create solid programs to address people moving into the city. If millions of people move into Rome or London or Paris, no big deal. The sidewalks are a little more crowded and RE prices rise to meet demand. But those cities were built around pedestrian traffic and you won’t see the same kind of gridlock that we deal with daily. In Atlanta, just about every person moving into the city is doing so with a car. So WE HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO COMMUTES.

    For decades, Atlanta has been the poster child for urban sprawl and white-flight into the suburbs. Now that this trend is finally reversing and our best and brightest are moving back in town, why are we spending hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars on improving suburban transportation? Or, more to the point, why are we using money that we could use in-town on projects that make suburban living easier?

    Can a fella get some light-rail?

    Again, I have no problem with the suburbs and I’m from Gwinnett County. I understand that we need to maintain our transportation system. If it’s about to collapse, let’s fix it. But I would certainly rather spend $100 Million on improving our pathetic MARTA system (paint job, anyone?) than broadening some suburban freeway to six lanes. Those suburban projects are not bad projects or bad ideas, but there is only so much money to go around and every dime you spend in the suburbs is a dime you could be spending in town.

    Maybe the simplest way I could put it is:
    Why are we spending so much money on our past (sprawl) at the expense of our future (in-town transit)?

    And let me be clear on something. I am certainly not advocating that we abandon all transportation and infrastructure projects in the suburbs. The reason cities and counties have large budgets in maintenance is to keep the roadways safe and infrastructure current. If they can’t, then they need to find a way to reallocate the funds or people just need to move somewhere else. I just get bothered by the idea of Atlanta tax payers paying for Alpharetta roads. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think Alpharetta residents should pay for Alpharetta roads.

    Much like people, bills are neither completely good or completely evil. There are good parts and bad parts. I LOVE the Beltline project and think it’s a great long-term investment for our city, but there are at least a half-dozen projects on this bill that I see as superfluous and costly to in-town residents.

    So, the crux of the matter is that you have to convince me that the benefit of projects like the Beltline outweigh the superfluous spending on suburban projects. Show me why the good outweighs the bad in this particular version of the TSPLOST bill.

    I am open to being convinced . . .

    Try it.

    – Duke

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  • APJ Housekeeping

     

    We need to tidy up a bit

    Alright, so we are creeping up on 150 posts for the site, we have multiple authors, and have integrated social media. Time for some housekeeping.

     

     

    Item 1 – New “Sustainability” Page

    Where is all the grass (tear, sniff)?

    The APJ has found a rising star in the sustainability arena here in Atlanta and we are pleased to announce the creation of a partnership on the APJ Sustainability Page. It will replace the “Listings” page (that is taking longer than expected to program but may return in the future). We will discuss everything from solar power to smart grid technology to waste management to new urbanism and beyond. If you have any suggested topics or areas of interest, mention them in the comments below and we will get on it.

     

     

    Item 2 – Series

    We’ll get organized a keep you out of our archives.

    As we accumulate articles and posts on multiple topics, it makes sense to organize a few series that may interest the new reader. So, we will be creating a “Series” page that will be a constantly-updated page to display the latest posts on Careers in CRE, the Millenial Manifesto, CRE Websites, The Clean Slate project, and all of our other topics. If we miss one that interests you, let us know. Or if you have any suggestions for article topics, don’t be shy!

     

     

    Item 3 – Don’t Know Much About History

    It’s history. Don’t hate our freedoms!

    It’s tough to know where Atlanta is going without knowing where Atlanta has been. We are about to start working on a recurring series on the history of Atlanta. We want to include everything from the Native Americans living around Peachtree Creek to Governor Lumpkin and Marthasville to the Terminus of the Western & Atlantic RR to integration to MLK to the Olympics to today. This town has some cool stories to tell and I think they are meaningful to all of its residents, particularly those who plan to shape its future. The structure and frequency of these articles are still up for debate, but I’m very excited about this and I think it should be fun.

     

     

    Item 4 – Programmer Help

    There is a nerd-sized hole in our family.

    We have been looking for programmers or coders for the last few months to help us develop our Photo Gallery and Lunch Generator applications on the site. While we have found several qualified young men and women, we have yet to find a long-term partner to do either. We are going to keep scouring the interwebs and awkwardly approaching people at WordPress Meetups, but if any of the readers of this post have suggestions we would LOVE to know about it. A qualified lead is worth $50 to Buckhead Life for the first comer that gets us in front of a winner. Think about it . . .

     

     

    Item 5 – Authors

    The book of things I know about hotels.

    We are looking for a rising star n the hotel industry and, really, anyone who enjoys writing about CRE in Atlanta. We pay for our posts and, while you’ll never get rich, you will have a lot of fun and will probably enjoy the bright young men and women who are already contributing to this site. If you are interested, email me at Duke@AtlantaPropertyJournal.com and we can chat about it.

     

     

    Well that’s enough housekeeping for now. Going forward, feel free to reach out to me or anyone at the site and give us feedback on what you like, dislike, and just plain hate. We are here to provide interesting content for free to all the professionals in the commercial property industry in Atlanta. Anything we can do to make your life a little easier or more interesting, drop us a line and we will try to figure it out.

    Stay fly,

    – Duke

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  • The Transportation Referendum from a Capitalist Planner’s Perspective

    The Transportation Referendum from a Capitalist Planner’s Perspective

     

    Can a 1 penny tax fix congestion in Atlanta?

     Georgia voters are apparently being asked this question for the upcoming transportation referendum vote on July 31st.  Asking voters that question infuriates me for two reasons.  One, congestion isn’t a problem that can be fixed.  And two, the perceived problem of congestion is shrouding the real issue, which is a question about the long term economic viability of Atlanta’s development patterns, i.e. how we build stuff.

     

    Congestion is not a problem that can be fixed.

     …At least not in the traditional sense.  Congestion is unavoidable with dense urban development.  Ask drivers in London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo.  All of these cities have world renowned public transportation systems, yet they all suffer from horrendous traffic.  Recently London introduced congestion pricing in an attempt to price drivers off the road during peak hours.  It’s not a solution, but it’s a way to make it better.  I repeat that you cannot ‘fix’ congestion.

    If you’re looking for a problem to fix, consider mobility.  Mobility is what a transportation planner is really concerned with, even though they can’t always say that correctly.  What I described above, the London congestion pricing model, addresses mobility directly.  Officials in London were concerned that mobility through the city was stifled during rush hour and they identified a solution.  Price motorists off the road and onto alternate modes of transportation (rail, bus, bike, etc.) to improve everyone’s ability to get around.  Not everyone is 100% happy, but, like solving congestion, that’s impossible.

    I ask you not to vote for or against the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) based on whether or not you think it will fix congestion.  It won’t.  Atlanta will always be congested unless its overall economy collapses making it a city more like Detroit.  What you should consider is whether or not you think it will improve mobility for residents and visitors of Atlanta.  Easier mobility means everyone can get around cheaper and faster than before.  Cheaper and faster transportation means more consumers.  I’ll let you proceed to your nearest economics book to learn about demand side versus supply side economics to decide if you think more consumers is a good thing.

     

    If the problem is mobility, how do we fix that?

     …very simply.  A long term shift, say 30 to 50 years, toward transit oriented development should do the trick.

    Atlanta’s lack of mobility is derived from is history of leap frog development, which led to a massive amount of poorly connected suburban neighborhoods.  If you’re curious about what leap frog development looks like you can drive North on SR 400 starting at Lenox road all the way up to Cumming.  This style of development has happened in nearly every direction out of Atlanta, but North 400 is a prime specimen of the leapfrog effect.

    Easily accessible land and low transportation costs made it easy to move suburban development farther away from the city center.  It made for short term, easy profits so long as people kept moving outward.  This type of development started post World War II and has been the American standard for how cities grow.  Demand for transit oriented development has waxed and waned over the last half century.  Over the last 2 decades, both baby boomers and younger professionals have started demanding well connected walkable developments.  City governments are responding to the demands from developers to make it easier to create such places.  Cities like Portland have introduced growth limits and Nashville has enacted a form based zoning code to guide density and require less zoning approval.

    Let me take you back to a simpler time.

    A transportation package isn’t the solution for the problems created by leap frog development.  Any public transportation will be vastly underused and underfunded.  As is the case with MARTA, low funding and wavering demand make for a very, very underutilized system that is a perpetual downward spiral.  Public transportation doesn’t work with the low density.  Low density suburban neighborhoods can’t create the ridership volume or the necessary tax dollars to support it.  That is, unless special taxes are enacted to specifically address transportation needs.  Using taxes to front the origination cost of the transportation projects will help guide development and create a better connected city.  It’s what Washington D.C. did.  While it’s not the perfect city, the downtown is revived from ghost town status and it’s drawing in talented professionals like moths to a porch light.

    A combination of transportation funding and relaxed zoning codes regarding density and mixed uses can spur such a turn around.  One alone won’t be successful.

    I won’t delve into each project and how they could affect long term mobility and development opportunities. But, I’d suggest you do so.  If you’d like to please visit The Atlanta Regional Roundtable to get a great look at what’s actually on the list.

     

    After reviewing the projects on the list, sit down and consider whether or not they will improve safe, cheap, and easily accessible mobility around the Atlanta region.  If you think it will help, vote yes, if not, vote no.  Just try to avoid using congestion as your measuring stick because no one can answer that impossible question.

    – Hunter

  • Clean Slate Project – Tools

    flickr-user-derrick

    Image Courtesy Flickr user Derrick

    I have been brainstorming on the whole “Clean Slate” business and I have found that one of the major stumbling blocks is presenting our findings/analysis/voodoo. If I can’t find an interesting and aesthetic way of presenting it, then there isn’t much point in traveling down this long path.

    So, the question becomes: How can I build a cool 3D model of Atlanta Prime that will show Atlanta’s current topography and can host the new (and existing) structures we have to build this city?

    Auto-CAD may be an option, but it is expensive, and frankly I don’t have the time to learn it.

    Enter Google.

    The King of Interwebs, has a free tool called Google SketchUp. It’s just a basic 3D modeling tool for anything from a toaster to a skyscraper. The basic version is free and will allow you to create moderately detailed images or models of buildings and landscapes.

    Seems like a logical place to start when building a virtual city.

    Anywho, I downloaded it to my desktop and will be tinkering with it over the next few weeks so I can get accustomed to the interface. I will try to learn a few tricks and basic functionality before it’s time to start modeling.

    In the mean time, check out the gallery at Google and be sure to check out the Skyscraper Page. Both sites have some cool examples of what building models can look like.

    Hasta,

    – Duke

  • Random Thoughts

    andrew-c

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    I hope you enjoy ONE romantic day out of 365! (What an odd holiday . . .)

    Anyway, no time for a full article, so I am going to empty my head of this randomness and share these morsels with you:

    1. I think I may need to bring tie clips back into fashion. This half-windsor just ain’t getting it done and that little tail that hangs down behind the front of my tie just refuses to cooperate. I don’t care if they have been reserved for 80-year-olds in the past. I’m bringing back the tie clip!

    2. Along those same lines, can we bring back the word Coltish? It means playful, unruly, wild, frolicsome. What a cool word. Let’s call unpredictable people “coltish” from now on. Ready . . . go . . .

    3. Is the Real Housewives of Atlanta still on air? If so, can we cancel it? I would be willing to raise some funds to pay off the network and the “wives” so that people stop associating them with my city. The Walking Dead is a much better representation of our city.

    4. What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least TRY to do something remarkable? -John Green

    5. I don’t understand the concept of traffic. If everyone who drives simply goes 5 miles per hour over the speed limit at all times that they are moving, why does traffic even exist? Who are these brake-happy people that insist on ruining everyone else’s day?

    6. I have heard it said that you have to specialize to succeed in CRE. Can I make a career of being a generalist who simply hires the best specialists in the market? I don’t need to know everything about shadow-anchored retail in Omaha. I just need to know who does and then pay him/her for his/her expertise. Maybe my specialty can be finding specialists!

    7. I need to figure out a way to map topography in 3D. Does anyone know how to do that? Can AutoCAD handle that?

    8. Would it be possible to have a day-care and dog day-care in a non-single-tenant office building in Atlanta? I know you can do it at a corporate headquarters where the needs of the employees are met on the campus, but could you tap into a large enough market of parents and pet-owners to justify the rent you would have to pay?

    9. I have been listening to Atlas Shrugged on CD since October. Most audio books take me 2 or 3 weeks. This beast is a marathon and I am only on disk 41 of 50.

    10. I have found that I would always rather barter for something than pay for something. Maybe that is obvious to everyone else, but I like knowing that I have something of value to offer other vendors besides my (extremely limited) cash. Even if money were no object, I think I would still prefer bartering to paying cash.

    That’s my random fix for the week. Feel free to get random on your own in the comments.

    – Duke

  • Clean Slate Project: Brainstorming

    mcmillend2

    If you are going to build a world-class city from raw land, where do you start?

    Tough question.

    I think you start with problems. I would ask “What are the problems facing this hypothetical city and how can we use design and smart construction to solve them?”

    And if you are going to truly create an exceptional city that is the model of new urban design, you cannot limit yourselves to the current problems facing the city. Let’s break it down this way:

    What problems has this city/region/area faced in the past that have been overcome and how did they overcome them?

    What problems are currently plaguing the city and how would a better-designed city solve those problems?

    What potential problems will this city (and all cities) face in the future that can be avoided or minimized through intelligent planning?

     

    To paraphrase Andy Stanley: “Given its past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what is the ideal layout and design of this city?”

    Hmmmmm

    Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit and work from there. What are our current problems and how can design solve them?

    As I see it, Atlanta’s three major issues are: transportation, water, and education. At least two of those are addressable by smart urban planning and the eduction will follow since smart people will want to live where there is great transportation and clean water.

    I’m not going to get into transportation and water solutions just yet, but I think the important message to take away from this part of the thought experiment is that we need the help and expertise of water management and rapid transit professionals. Fresh water sources and the intricacies of rapid transit are not my area of expertise. We need outside counsel.

    So, jumping back to 30,000 feet and just as a heads up for future editions of this series, I plan on tackling this project as follows:

    1. Figure out Atlanta’s problems or shortcomings and devise a plan to fix or preempt them.

    2. Figure out what experts and industry leaders would be best qualified to answer those questions.

    3. Interview them.

    4. Extensively.

    5. Design the new urban frontier based on their suggestions and recommendations.

    6. Find a way to sketch or model the new city layout and design.

    7. Share it with whoever is interested.

     

    Maybe nobody will be interested. But I am interested and this seems like a fun way to get to talk to some very intelligent people about our fair city. I plan on having fun with this.

    I am certainly open to any suggestions about how to tackle this project, ideas to consider, experts to consult, ways to make it readable, or whatever. Feel free to leave comments or feedback below.

    – Duke

     

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