World Town Planning Day 2010: A New Future for Atlanta's Transit

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Atlanta planners and College of Architecture students explored the future of Atlanta transit on the Georgia Tech campus last week. The first session had five focus groups covering Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) rail, MARTA bus, pedestrians & bicyclists, policy, and the recently awarded, federally funded streetcar. Focus group leaders provided attendees with maps and information surrounding the issues and led discussion on how those issues could be improved in the future.

The second session was a discussion between attendees and a panel of three local planning professionals. The panel’s moderator was Jamie Cochran, an adjunct faculty member for City & Regional Planning and Vice President and Planning Service Group Leader with RS&H. The panelists were:

1.    Heather Alhadeff (MCP ’00), Senior Transportation Planner with Perkins + Will: her focus is transportation and land use planning and urban design
2.    Deanna Murphy (MCRP/MS-Arch class of ’11), Urban Designer for the Georgia Conservancy's Growth Management Program: her focus is community based planning and design
3.    Adelee Le Grand, Southeast Transportation Planning Manager for AECOM: her experience is in transit-oriented development and the relationships between transit and land use

The most important take away was the need for citizens to take a more active role in voicing opinions and desires so that changes are materialized.

The discussion covered the topics discussed in the previous workshop and laid the framework for positive improvements for Atlanta's transit future. Each of the panelists gave specific examples of transportation innovations and developments in Atlanta and generally felt that steps are being taken to move Atlanta transit in the right direction. The increased awareness of pedestrians and cyclists in the city has garnered pressure for new policies to increase safety and mobility, particularly for those commuting to and from work. Additionally, MARTA is working on developing better transit-oriented development (TOD) guidelines to make development around MARTA rail stations more common and uniform. For example, one concern was over the increasing cost of public transit in Atlanta and the need for small business owners to lobby for lower rates and encourage officials to consider the relationship between wages and transportation costs.

A positive change for MARTA is the potential for retail within MARTA stations; as vending machines are added, MARTA officials will take the opportunity to analyze the positive and negative effects of allowing retail in the stations which will hopefully lay the framework for more retail options in the stations. The MARTA bus system inspired much discussion and the panelists affirmed that there are many areas for improvement.

The potential surrounding the Atlanta streetcar project in light of the federal funds was another exciting topic. The panelists believed that addition of the streetcar should stimulate economic development along the proposed corridor and will also promote the future development and use of light rail in Atlanta. Additional discussion on funding and infrastructure policy suggested improvements in developing innovative and progressive transportation policy.

World Town Planning Day began in 1949 through an organization in Buenos Aires and has since expanded to 30 countries, promoting the consideration of planning issues and solutions by bringing together professionals of all backgrounds. The event is celebrated globally and officially endorsed by the American Institute of Certified Planners. This was Georgia Tech’s fourth celebration of World Town Planning Day.

World Town Planning Day was organized by the Vice President of the Student Planning Association, Colleen Allen (MCRP class of ’11). Those that led the focus groups include Leslie Caceda (MCRP class of ’11), Phil Shaeffing (MCRP class of ’12), Andy McBurney (MCRP class of ’11), Johann Weber (MCRP/MSPub class of  ’11), Victoria Lee (MCRP class of ’12), Tom Caiafa (MCRP class of ’12), Hans Williams (MCRP class of ’12), and James Bikoff (MCRP class of ’12).


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