If You Build It, Will They Come?
Shown above is a picture of two things Atlanta will soon have and not have. I will leave it to you to guess the obvious.
Before I go into this opinion peace, I want to post a disclaimer: I believe in all kinds of transit, no matter where it goes. If it serves a purpose, turns a profit, and brings peace to whomever passes through or whomever arrives, I stand firm to welcome it.
When Atlanta was nicknamed “The City Too Busy To Hate”, I don’t think anyone counted ‘argumentative’ as a offspring of hate. That seems to be the case ever since the Atlanta BeltLine released its comprehensive Streetcar expansion plan to the streetcars that they don’t yet seem to uh…have. I say that not to be negative, but to really get everyone to look at this with a bigger picture of this burgeoning “Streetcar” Network in Atlanta. Where did it come from? Where is it going, and why can we not agree on where to put it?
A big complaint from streetcar opponents (some of which don’t hold a City of Atlanta address) is that they still won’t go anywhere, even after east-west connector routes were put in for the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Phases of the plan. Peachtree Street, they say; put it where it belongs on the main thoroughfare! Okay…let’s look at that. I tout the Peachtree plan as the one the Feds didn’t think was worthy enough to debut in Atlanta or the one that doesn’t seem practical enough because A) There’s a huge heavy rail running right under most of it, B) The Peachtree Street corridor runs through 2 of Atlanta’s most walkable neighborhoods. C) The 110 Bus Route runs down the whole corridor, and D) In what way are we really ready to tear up Atlanta’s most famous street?
Another point against the Peachtree Streetcar is of whom will patronize it. Who do you think uses the one in the picture above? Definitely not the guys or gals in suits but the ones in Bermuda shorts and fanny packs admiring how long the skyline goes on and on and on…It’s mainly a big reason everyone is counting against the current streetcar because it will just be an extension of the tourist bubble that covers pretty much the western half of ‘Downton Abblanta’. It’s going to bring other forms of change. Believe me. Sadly, those people who make the Peachtree argument didn’t like the Auburn/Edgewood Streetcar. Although they forget there’s a huge university, trauma center, and about 20,000 of my closest friends here. (not to mention an even growing neighborhood in the shadows who will soon receive the first phase of the next expansion). Who do they expect? Most tourists are even scared to take actual MARTA, even though the residents probably share the same sentiment. So are you really going to step foot on that vehicle if it does go down Peachtree, or will you hear it from your distant cousin who visited that one time who swears by the streetcar?
I also look at much fault at putting a streetcar down Peachtree because it still does not create a vehicle for MOVEMENT. The BeltLine is supposed to be about MOVING. That less than three mile trek won’t really put you anywhere else that you couldn’t get by any other MARTA vehicle, or better yet, by your own two feet! (I’ve done the walk. It’s not that bad.) But it does not do what the North Avenue/Hollowell Parkway line would do, what the 10th Street Line would do, and that is send you through different neighborhoods with a notion that you will end up in a place totally different then where you got on without having to switch vehicles. Point blank and simple. Just as an aside, because Andres Duany recommends something, it doesn’t always mean we should do it.
I want everyone to stop the arguing about the streetcar because the reality of it is that it won’t even be up until the late summer. So we really don’t even know how this one will perform, or if it will. Again, not being pessimistic, but realistic. I will be excited for yet another mode of transport, but I have had it to here with the back and forth about something that isn’t even a reality yet. You don’t know how excited I was to see the poles and lines being put up from my return from New Orleans. Atlanta has to work on this idea of comprehensive planning again. We still cannot grasp that concept. Just like our addiction to tearing down fairly-new stadiums or erecting parking decks that look like actual buildings. Until we can evaluate this one, let’s calmly plan for the future, but in a practical sense.