It seems I struck a chord with the suggestion that we stop all new road construction – including widening, ‘fixing’, and anything else that adds more and more miles of concrete and asphalt to Atlanta – in order to put the solution to Atlanta traffic woes in the hands of those who can actually fix it. Thank you for chiming in. If you haven’t read it, it’s still right here on the blog.
Here are some of the comments and questions to the post from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and my specific responses to those comments and questions.
“Atlanta Traffic sucked when we lived there 22 years ago. I can’t imagine it now, but love your idea to stop building roads!! Especially when gov’t typically builds roads that dump more cars onto existing roads that are already clogged.” – My point exactly. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity. We’ve been building and building and expanding and widening for 50 years. It. Has. Not. Worked.
“probably couldn’t even find our apartment building off peachtree ind in Alpharetta. At that time we were “out in the country”” – Right. Atlanta is the king of sprawl because we have but one natural boundary – the Chattahoochee River – and we’ve nearly destroyed that so everyone’s commute – the longest in the US as of 2015 – could be better.
“We are in a unique position because of how our infrastructure grew.” – Yeah, unplanned and uncontrolled sprawl. “Build more roads to hold all the Atlanta traffic!” has been our motto since the 70s. Hasn’t worked. Doesn’t work. Won’t work. Let’s stop trying to make it work.
“I used to take MARTA when I can but it has gotten awful and I cannot depend on it to get to the airport on Sundays.” – I disagree with the dependability part, but I agree that MARTA is just plain dirty. Yes, it’s a subway and maybe it’s cleaner than NY, but that’s a really low bar to set. We can, and should, do better.
“I am not sure it is practical to say do not add any roads because we actually do not have ANY east-west connectivity in the city. If we could provide for this solution, it would help significantly with congestion in the city.” – By building more roads? That’s the problem. East-West connectivity is plentiful. I-20 goes from the east to the west. I-285 goes all the way around the city. On the north, there’s 120 or 140. On the south there’s 138. I’m not saying these roads are a Hyperloop, but the roads exist. They are crowded because people are commuting across the city.
And that’s a HUGE part of my point. Atlanta has expanded under the pretense that it’s ok to live in Conyers and commute to Acworth or live on Lake Lanier and commute downtown. Maybe you could 30 years ago (when no one did), but today, that’s nuts. This commuter-city pretense is a big part of what has to change. Atlanta has tons of great, small communities. Let’s build on that.
“More roads just encourages more development=people=cars=repeat” – Correct. What I am suggesting will take a long time to work, but eventually, people will work close(r) to their home, businesses will embrace co-working spaces as satellite offices, telecommuting will continue to grow, flexible hours will continue to gain popularity, and new developments will be multi-use so people can live, work, and play in the same geographic area.
“One reason I moved out!” – And others will, too. Others will reconsider moving to Atlanta at all because of the traffic, and still others will consider the Atlanta traffic when they move to Atlanta or within Atlanta to choose a place closer to work, or work closer to home. Eventually, many more people will live and work in or near their home community. That’s how communities are built to last.
“Let’s invest in making Marta impeccable.” – Agree. Right now, it gets you from some points to some other points, though its reach is very limited. MARTA is not an option unless you live very close to a MARTA station. Of the 6+ million Atlantans, only a tiny percentage live near a MARTA station. As I mentioned in my original post, I live 9.2 miles from the North Springs MARTA station, and that portion of my commute to Buckhead or Midtown is usually 60-70% of the ride. So, it doesn’t make sense for me to drive 65% of the way to my destination, then get on a train for the remainder. And it’s dirty and hot, especially in July and August.
“Building roads, w/ self driving cars around the corner too, is idiotic.” – Totally agree here! Now, “around the corner” is debatable, but headless cars are coming, like it or not. If you’re not up to speed here, Elon Musk lays it out in his “Master Plan, Part Deux” business plan for Tesla and Solar City. Imagine this: your self driving Tesla drives you to work, then you ‘set it free’ to be a self driving taxi, making you money and letting others not own a car. Genius.
“Traffic expands to fill the roads available for travel.” – Yep. Imagine if Atlanta had taken this approach 20 or 30 years ago. We’d be a much different city. This argument is closely followed with many regrets about not building more MARTA 30 years ago. I agree. Atlanta should have built MARTA in the median of every major highway – 85, 75, 20, 285, 400 – as we built those highways. It would have been expensive then, but today, we’d be looking back thanking whoever led that charge for being such a visionary. But we didn’t. And now we can’t, not economically anyway.
But it’s real economical to stop building. Doesn’t cost a thing. And maybe all those potholes would get fixed.
“So where are these new roads you claim are being built?” – OK, let’s clarify this one. Not many brand new roads are being built where there were no roads before, though it is still happening. What I meant was “solutions” like widening bridges and main arteries to 6, 7, 8, 9 lanes, “fixing” the intersection of GA400 and I-285. Yes, it’s broken, but doing a total overhaul is not going to fix it. I guarantee you that when that project is done (HA!! It’ll never be “done”), traffic there will not be better than it is today. I live in Roswell. I remember when Holcombe Bridge Road was a total of 4 lanes wide. Now it’s 7. Traffic is worse. This situation has happened all over our city.
“Atlanta overbuilt and the influx of new people inside the beltway is staggering. And now the small roads can’t accommodate the rush hour traffic. I seriously doubt roads like Piedmont or LaVista are going to magically expand.” – We expanded these roads 30, 20, 10 years ago, and now Atlanta traffic is worse than ever. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Expecting “better traffic” from this insanity is just plain stupid.
I refer again to the I-85 midtown bridge outage earlier in 2017. A lot of people made a lot of changes in their daily routine – myself included – because they had no other choice. When Atlantans realize that Atlanta traffic is never going to get better and that we’re not going to expand anymore bridges or intersections or thoroughfares, over time, people will choose to commute less.
Instead of building more bigger roads, costing taxpayers billions, let’s fix and maintain what we have, and allow the people to move to suit themselves. Let’s let developers realize people are no longer going to commute from Forsyth County to downtown Atlanta, and start building mixed-use communities where people can walk to work. It’ll take a long time, but in 30 years, we’ll look back and thank ourselves for not building more bigger roads to try to “solve” the Atlanta traffic problem.