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Atlanta’s Signal Timing Improvements

Faye D

 

This is a guest post from Faye DiMassimo, General Manager – Renew Atlanta

Have you ever sat in traffic wondering if the traffic lights were on a timer of some sort?  Well you might not know that The City of Atlanta has more than 900 traffic signals, but not all of them have been coordinated.  However, through collaboration and partnership with Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), by late summer 2017, all of these traffic signals will be coordinated at the system level.

Once complete, Atlanta drivers will notice a reduction in their travel times. In fact, they will spend less time stopped and queued in traffic at signalized locations because once they get a green light indication, they will progress through multiple intersections throughout a coordinated corridor. Remember those rare days when you felt like you had light karma? Now everyone will feel that way on a regular basis.

In addition to the coordinated light signals, there are many other traffic signal upgrade projects still planned and underway through collaboration with GDOT, the Renew Atlanta Bond and TSPLOST programs, which will provide advanced pedestrian, bicyclist and vehicle detection throughout the City. These projects will further enhance the capabilities of the traffic signal systems and provide optimal coordination for Atlanta drivers.

Want to really nerd out on traffic signals?  You might be interested to learn that advanced traffic signal firmware and central system software were installed spring 2017 through GDOT’s statewide license to provide improved traffic management to all City signals.  In fact, Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measures (ATSPM) will be used to continuously check the performance of signals and coordinated systems on an ongoing basis, and ATSPM will provide level of service checks on how well the systems are doing. Over time, historical data will be used to better plan for special events throughout the City and provide the most optimal driving experience for Atlanta drivers.

As part of the City’s Smart City efforts, September 14th marks the ribbon cutting of the City’s first Smart Corridor located on North Avenue from Georgia Tech to the Ponce City Market.  This will include the modern adaptive signals with artificial intelligence, called Surtrac that is uniquely designed for complex traffic situations, traffic and bike-ped detection, transit signal prioritization, sensors and cameras, resurfacing and restriping. The City will continue to expand these Smart Corridor efforts with the next areas including Campbellton Road, the Buckhead Loop and downtown, which will be a tremendous benefit for large scale events.

Click to learn more about Renew Atlanta or the Smart Corridor along North Avenue.

Redefining and Refining Buckhead

Eric_Bosman_2

This is a guest post from Eric Bosman, AICP Associate and Buckhead REdeFINED Project Manager – Kimley-Horn

 

Cities are like living organisms–constantly changing, simultaneously growing and decaying and ever-evolving. Buckhead’s evolution experienced a significant shift in 2001 with the creation of The Buckhead Action Plan. Sponsored by the Buckhead CID and the Atlanta Regional Commission, the community planning effort called upon commercial and residential stakeholders to identify common goals and prepare a collective plan for the district.

The action plan helped lay the groundwork for the reshaping of the Peachtree Road corridor, establishment of the BUC circulator shuttle, two new regulatory zoning codes (Buckhead Village and Buckhead Core), redevelopment of the Buckhead Village and investments in parks, sidewalks, roadways and trails.

This year, Buckhead’s next generation of leaders assembled to build on 15 years of success and create a new plan to further enhance Buckhead’s vitality, mobility and livability. Titled Buckhead REdeFINED, the updated plan is shaped by a sharpened understanding of who lives and works in the District. Since 2001, more than 8,300 multifamily residences were added within the Buckhead CID and job growth experienced an even more robust surge with more than 10,000 jobs added since 2012. In addition to employment growth outpacing housing, 98 percent of Buckhead-area workers live outside the district and commute into Buckhead daily.

With the district’s limited road network and single point of access to GA 400 and Atlanta’s highway system, there is little wonder why traffic at peak hours is insufferable. And while area organizations and city and regional leaders can continue to adjust and modify existing roads and intersections, there is little likelihood of new roadways due to the potential impact to single-family neighborhoods.

Buckhead REdeFINED outlines a strategic and comprehensive approach to manage and support the district’s continued growth and evolution into a dynamic, accessible and livable urban environment. The plan’s recommendations are rooted in three guiding strategies:

  • VITALITY strategies focus on increasing green space and public space, activating Buckhead’s pedestrian corridors to make the district more lively and walkable, and implementing a public art program that builds upon Buckhead’s history and enhances the district’s sense of place.
  • MOBILITY strategies seek to address key roadway corridors and intersections, expand the district’s bicycle-pedestrian network—particularly east-west connections to PATH400, enhance connectivity and access to area transit stations and services, and create a program to match Buckhead employees and Buckhead residences to reduce the percentage of workers commuting into and out of the district by automobile.
  • LIVABILITY strategies address and incorporate practices to improve the district’s affordability, public safety and sustainability.

The potential to refine Buckhead into a more complete, livable urban environment is captured in the plan’s Six Big Ideas:

  • Develop a district-wide multiuse trail to connect and celebrate the area’s history and culture
  • Activate and enliven a continuous network of streets and destinations
  • Enhance mobility to and from GA 400 and beyond
  • Foster a distinctive Buckhead identity along Lenox Road
  • Diversify housing opportunities within the district
  • Define the civic heart of the community through enhanced parks and greenspace

As our city continues to grow and evolve, we have the ability and a responsibility to balance the needs and impacts of our complex transportation, economic, development and community-building systems.  While it has not been easy, area leaders have done just that by redefining the path to a more prosperous, livable Buckhead.

PATH400 Is Taking Shape

Denise-hirezThis is a guest post from Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit organization spearheading PATH400 in partnership with BCID and PATH Foundation.


13,200 feet and counting! Just three years after breaking ground, PATH400 is already halfway complete. It’s no small accomplishment to have finished that much of this ambitious project in such a short time, and it’s the direct result of great partnerships. The collective vision and work of more than 30 organizations, businesses and governmental entities is helping to further enhance Buckhead’s standing as Atlanta’s premier commercial and residential district. People who live and work in Buckhead are enjoying the 2.5 miles of finished trail every day, and if you’ve been on PATH400 you’ve seen them — walking dogs, jogging, pushing strollers, and spending time with friends. (If you haven’t been on PATH400, why not?! Get out there and give it go, it’s a fabulous amenity!) It’s clear that this project is already delivering many of its promised benefits, and we’ll see even more as we move foot-by-foot toward completion of the full 5.2-mile greenway.

Path 400 Blog Post June 2017_3

The northern end of the trail between the Buckhead Loop and Wieuca Road is where we’ve made the most progress. This mile of paved trail weaves in and out of peaceful wooded areas and offers dramatic vistas of the Buckhead skyline. One segment of the trail includes large panels where local artists have created chalk murals, and which will be home to permanent art installations in the future. Ground has been cleared and designs created for a future park where PATH400 crosses Old Ivy Rd., and a small number of on-street parking spaces have already been created under the nearby overpass. And north Buckhead school children now have a safer walking route to Sarah Smith’s intermediate campus now that we have extended PATH400 across the Wieuca Rd. Bridge over GA 400.

Path 400 Blog Post June 2017We’ve made great headway up north, but there’s plenty of progress to see on the southern end of the greenway as well. Just last month a group of volunteers installed raised planter beds for a community garden to be tended by the residents of the Atlanta Housing Authority’s Marian Road high-rise. The residents had been doing some “guerilla gardening” before PATH400 came to the neighborhood, so we decided to put their talents to use and add a unique feature to the trail. You should take a walk on this segment of the trail – it runs between Miami Circle and Sidney Marcus Boulevard – and check out the unique planter boxes, crafted from reclaimed wood, that spell out PATH400.
While we’re proud of our progress, we are focused on maintaining momentum. The goal is to have at least one segment under construction at all times until the entire project is complete. Right now we’re at work on a phase that will offer great pedestrian connectivity when it’s finished – the segment running between Miami Circle and the Gordon Bynum pedestrian bridge that leads to Lenox Square.

Maintaining momentum depends largely on funding. As you probably know, Livable Buckhead is leading the fundraising effort to raise $5.6 million needed to complete the remaining two miles of construction in 2018. Please spread the word – every donation brings us closer and helps show grant makers and corporate partners that the community supports this project! You can find out more about the campaign on our website – livablebuckhead.org/capitalcampaign. And for the latest PATH400 news, be sure to check out the project’s website, path400greenway.org.

Shortage of Affordable Housing Threatens the Region’s Economic Competitiveness

BCID Executive Director, Jim Durrett, guest blogged for the Commercial Real Estate Women on the critical shortage of housing affordable to the workforce and how it could threaten our region’s economic competitiveness.  Read the post here.

Free Jazz Music in Chastain Memorial Park on Earth Day

What goes better together than Earth Day and live outdoor music?

Get ready for Earth Day on April 22 when the BCID and Atlanta City Council member Michael Bond will host jazz performances featuring Julie Dexter and Joe Gransden in Chastain Memorial Park from 2 – 6 p.m., as a part of the 40th annual Atlanta Jazz Festival’s Neighborhood Jazz Series.

The concert, which is also supported by Chat Hills Music, is free and I encourage you to come out, pack a picnic with friends, make a toast to Earth Day and enjoy the smooth sounds of Joe and Julie.

While you’re at the event be sure to tweet at @buckheadcid or share your photos with us on Facebook at @buckheadcid, using the hashtags #jazzmusicinCLP #atljazzfest #AJF40.

If you would like to learn more about the Neighborhood Jazz Series, The International Jazz Day Concert at Chastain Park Amphitheatre and other happenings as part of the Atlanta Jazz Festival’s 40 Days of Jazz, visit atlantafestvials.com.

About the Artists

Joe Gransden

Joe Gransden is the soul of live jazz and Big Band. Clint Eastwood discovered his talent and describes Joe as “a young man with a classic voice and one hell of a trumpet player.” For information on Joe, visit http://www.joegransden.com/ or follow him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Julie Dexter

Julie Dexter is a world renowned, award winning, British singer, songwriter and producer, considered by many to be one of the most influential female vocalists of our generation. Having shared the spotlight with a host of cutting-edge artists, including Mint Condition, Caron Wheeler, Jill Scott, Lalah Hathaway, Omar, Ledisi and more, Julie not only holds up her own with them but has been praised and respected by them too. From jazz to world music, soul and beyond, Julie Dexter is one of an elite few whose talent can transcend genres. She makes it all work on her own terms, as an audaciously independent artist with an undeniable connection to her audience. For information on Julie, visit http://juliedexter.com/ or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Uncle Jim Wants You!

I want you to do your part. Serious as a heart attack, folks. Monday will bring what will likely be the worst traffic ever without a snow or ice event. And if you think that you can count on a few government departments or authorities to do all the work to make things tolerable for you, you’ve got another think coming.

I’m not saying that City and State departments, GRTA, MARTA and other transit agencies won’t be doing everything that they can, but come Monday, I-85 will still be closed near GA 400 and Spring Break will be over, which provided some precious relief this week.  Modification of signal timing, traffic officer deployment and enhanced transit service can only go so far to optimize the supply of transportation options. What is also required is for EACH OF US to commit to doing his or her part to reduce the demand on our transportation system, for the benefit of ALL OF US.

If you are an employer or an employee, learn about commute options from Georgia Commute Options, Livable Buckhead, Midtown Alliance, or Central Atlanta Progress.

Can you come to work early and leave early, or come late and stay late? Can you work from home one or more days out of the week? Can you carpool? Can you ride a bike? Have you considered MARTA? Let me elaborate on what MARTA will be doing to help you, since I have the honor of serving on MARTA’s board of directors and am proud of the service we provide.

MARTA rail service will run on 6-minute intervals (currently 10) during peak commute service hours, and at 12-minute intervals (currently 20) during non-peak hours. That means that if you are on the system where both Red and Gold trains run (Airport to Lindbergh), or Blue and Green trains run (Ashby to Edgewood/Candler Park), there will be a train every 3 minutes during peak times and every 6 minutes non-peak. There will be extra trains and articulated buses placed strategically throughout the system to be plugged into the system if ridership demand overwhelms passenger capacity. Station agents will be deployed to help new passengers purchase Breeze fare cards and navigate the system. MARTA also is exploring ways to expand parking capacity at or near the stations, but we encourage you to consider other ways to get to the train station, such as taking a MARTA bus, using ridesharing services, KissRide or carpooling. Uber has announced a 50% discount for an Uber Pool ride to/from MARTA stations, so you might make use of that until the bridge is repaired.

Folks, if we can encourage more cars to stay off the roads, then MARTA buses will have an easier time delivering passengers on time. And consider using a bus; a train isn’t the only way to get around!

Do you drive your child to school? Talk with your child’s school about helping to organize a serious carpool program so that every car arriving at school is there to deliver or pick up multiple students (or teachers, for that matter.)

A little more than 20 years ago, we hosted the Centennial Summer Olympic Games, and the traffic congestion we had been fearing for four years leading up the event never materialized. Why? We were convinced to change our traveling behavior and MARTA was prepared to be the workhorse it was. The same thing can happen now, but I need to do my part and you need to do yours. Let’s do this together and experience something special that we will look back on and say, “that I-85 collapse in 2017 ended up pulling us together and we figured out how to do things even better than before!”

BUCKHEAD REdeFINED Continues Outreach

I would like to thank the more than 100 Buckhead community members for attending and giving their feedback at the last BUCKHEAD REdeFINED meeting on February 27.

We are close to selecting a final set of BUCKHEAD REdeFINED projects for either further analysis or pursuit, but want more community feedback.

The goal of the February 27 meeting was for the BUCKHEAD REdeFINED team to present the three main areas where the public and stakeholders want to see the community improve, which were identified after the January 19 public workshop. These areas include:

Vitality: Activating public spaces to create a more vibrant and stimulating place

Mobility: Improving multi-modal access in, around and throughout Buckhead

Livability: Providing programmatic and policy changes that create a safer, more comfortable and inclusive district

Proposed Projects to address those areas:  

Presenters included Eric Bosman of Kimley-Horn, Bill Tunnell, founding principal for TSW, Rob Rogers, Rogers Partners architecture and urban design firm, and Woody Giles, community planner with TSW, who all focused on proposed projects, including the following:

Vitality:

The discussion about vitality included the idea of creating greener and more open places including parks, retail spaces and other developments. The presenters also mentioned the installation of permanent, temporary, performance or interactive artwork to enhance and beautify areas. More detailed examples include:

  • Expanding Charlie Loudermilk Park into the nearby Bank of America building area
  • Placing a park and office buildings in front of Lenox Mall’s parking lot that fronts Peachtree Road
  • Pursuing the proposed park on top of GA 400 between Lenox Road and Peachtree Road

Mobility:

Buckhead REdeFINED planners want to create ways to make commutes to and from work, Buckhead shops and restaurants easier by creating the following:

  • Buckhead Loop Trail, a multi-use path that would provide much needed east-west connectivity to PATH400 and throughout the district
  • Piedmont Corridor Improvements to increase walkability, add median turn lanes and beautify the streetscape, making south Piedmont more of an attractive gateway into Buckhead from the south
  • A dedicated bicycle lane from the intersection of PATH400 and Old Ivy Rd. to Lenox Square

Livability:

A combination of mobility and vitality improvements in Buckhead will improve the overall community’s livability and make Buckhead a more accessible and livable urban environment.

Connecting Buckhead:

Another way to improve Buckhead’s vitality, mobility and livability is to create interchanges, roads and sidewalks that connect Buckhead for faster and easier transportation.

Below are some potential projects:

  • An enhanced interchange for all users of the road at Lenox Rd. and GA 400
  • New GA 400 interchange behind Lenox Square at East Paces Ferry Road
  • Improvements to the Phipps/Monarch ramp and Peachtree Road/Lenox Road intersection

In order to make these projects happen, we must keep the conversation going! If you would like to learn more about BUCKHEAD REdeFINED and its projects and plans please visit buckheadredefined.com. You can also see a video recap of the meeting by visiting BCID’S Facebook page.

If you have feedback, contact us by social media and visit our site for information on the next meeting.

Thanks again for attending and we look forward to your continued engagement!

Buckhead CID Adds 50 Ways to See What’s Happening in the District

In January, Buckhead CID’s board of directors unanimously voted to spend $705,000 on the addition of 30 cameras and 20 license plate readers for Operation Shield within the BCID boundaries. What does this mean for residents, workers and visitors to our part of town?  Two words – safety and security.

Since 2011, the BCID has worked in partnership with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) and the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), installing a wireless network-based public safety surveillance system as part of Operation Shield that enables the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Police Video Integration Center to have better eyes and ears on the district.

The camera system, which through 2015 included 19 cameras, provides real-time situational awareness of key areas within the CID and records camera images for post-incident investigation.

I, and the BCID board, want those who live, work, play and shop in Buckhead to feel safe and secure, and I believe these added cameras and license plate readers will strengthen our crime prevention and improve our emergency preparedness.

To learn more about Operation Shield, read our press release. The added cameras and readers are fully supported by the Atlanta Police Foundation, as it helps them to efficiently oversee the community on an ongoing basis.

We anticipate the cameras will be installed throughout the district by this summer, including two additional cameras dedicated to Charlie Loudermilk Park in the heart of Buckhead.

WSB-TV covered the story, and you can see the story here.

The Buckhead Shell Gas Station:From gas station to modern and eco-friendly convenience store

On January 13, the Buckhead Shell gas station, located at the triangular junction of Roswell Road and Powers Ferry Road, shut down to begin remodeling to urbanize this historic and well-known establishment.

The gas station, owned and operated by Smita and Mahesh Patel, will be transformed from a congested building into an eco-friendly and one-of-a-kind convenience store. It will feature an energy efficient “Big Ass” fan, a Beer Cave and full-service carry-out only Dunkin Donuts and Subway.

Buckhead Shell Rennovations

Buckhead Shell Auto-Lift

Since parking is limited, there will be an underground parking garage with four spots and Georgia’s first “Auto-Lift,” an elevator uniquely designed to get cars in and out of the garage without drivers having to use a ramp. This design is unique and is the first to be placed in any building in Georgia.

The station will go green by only using LED lights and 50 plus solar panels on the building and canopy that will be tied into the power grid with an inverter. The building will feature a natural gas powered back-up generator to ensure the lights never go out, no matter what. Rain water will be collected in two underground vaults to be recycled, and there will be a state-of-the-art underground storm water system that will eliminate and/or tremendously reduce the water run-off into the Atlanta storm water system.

For electric car drivers, Georgia Power plans to install an Electric Vehicle DC Fast Charger with two parking spaces the community can use free of charge.

Smita and Mahesh tell me that their focus is to truly serve the community with all forms of alternative energy, while people enjoy a unique shopping experience with great convenience.

Buckhead Shell Rendering - DayUltimately, the station’s redevelopment will transform it into a stunning landmark and business model that will serve as an example to other gas station owners who may otherwise accept the status quo without question.

Buckhead Shell hopes to do business differently and incorporate the best practices that would benefit customers, staff and the community. The station plans to re-open in fall 2017.

The City of Atlanta and its staff have been helpful and supportive, as were the two area Neighborhood Planning Units.

Before Smita and Mahesh could remodel the station, they first had to find an architect that could help them create a design that was modern and worthy of Buckhead.
The challenges in design were numerous, starting with a triangular-shaped 1.5-acre lot, which limits parking and affects the size of the building. They consulted several architects, but international architect, Inato Sema, who designs buildings in tight spaces that are both functional and efficient, produced a unique rendering that won the day. The interior layout was designed by Paragon Solutions from Dallas, Texas. However, the challenge of the final drawings and construction documents fell on the shoulders of architects Randy Pimsler and James Cain from Atlanta who made everything fit and efficient. A lot of “out of the box” thinking created some brilliant ideas, which were truly a local and international effort.  

The Buckhead Shell was first purchased by the Patels in 1998, which was originally known as the old Phillips 66 gas station. A few years later they built out on both sides of the original kiosk to sell grocery products and changed the brand to Shell.

Buckhead Shell Rendering - Night

 

In 2012, they decided to increase the size of the building again. The initial idea was to delete the car wash and enclose that space into a retail area, but that would mean the building would still be an outdated and inefficient building. After years of planning and reviewing designs, the remodeling is finally underway.

The Buckhead Community Improvement District is thrilled about this redevelopment project happening in the community. If you or your company are planning to redevelop a building or piece of land in Buckhead, please let us know so we can share your story on our blog and social media!

Photos Courtesy of Vinny Bose

BUCKHEAD REdeFINED Meeting Recap

By: Jim Durrett

I was energized by the turnout at the BUCKHEAD REdeFINED public workshop on Thursday, Jan. 19 at the Atlanta International School, as well as the potential projects and plans that were presented to a crowd of more than 100 citizens interested in reshaping Buckhead’s future.

The goal was to get feedback on big ideas for multiple prospective projects. Below is a recap of those ideas that were discussed at the meeting:

Lenox Road

According to a BUCKHEAD REdeFINED survey, 34 percent of people said it is unsafe to walk along Lenox Road. The designers behind the Lenox Road scoping study discussed that they want to focus on making it a signature street by increasing safety and making it easily accessible, not only for people in cars, but also for pedestrians and cyclists.

The consultants considered the following character areas on Lenox Road, as well as suggested opportunities for improvements:

  • East Paces Ferry to Peachtree – create a multi-use boardwalk along the western edge of Lenox Road
  • Peachtree to Phipps Boulevard – simplify and clarify the confusing ramps and lanes
  • Phipps Boulevard to Piedmont – consider a Diverging Diamond Interchange at Lenox Road and Ga 400 to better process traffic flow

The overall effect would be to humanize intersections, beautify and activate areas alongside Lenox Road, rationalize traffic and pull people out of their cars in this corridor.

Activating Public Spaces 

This presentation discussed taking semi-public spaces, which are parking lots, green areas around buildings, plazas and more, and redeveloping them into more active and inviting spots. For example adding parks, playgrounds, plazas and squares or placing pop-up retail spaces, vendors, artwork, hosting temporary activities and more.

Park Over Ga 400

The consultants shared that once the concept is fully developed later this year, that should the concept be pursued the design, engineering and other steps for the park will take up to 36 months to complete. In the meantime, the BCID plans to keep conversations with the public going in hopes of gaining more support and creative ideas

Walking Audit Presented by Dan Burden

Dan Burden and Samantha Jones of BlueZones presented findings on their Buckhead walking audit, which took place on January 18. The audit consisted of a 2.5-hour walk along several road corridors.

Burden mentioned that by creating spaces and places – like shops, stores and restaurants in a denser environment within a quarter mile of residences – people would be more likely to skip getting in their cars and walk more often. Of course that translates to fewer cars on the road and less congestion.

What’s Next?

What are the next steps for Buckhead REdeFINED? To make these projects and plans a reality within the next five to seven years with the support and help from the community.

If you want to join in on the conversation and give us your feedback, make sure to attend the next public meeting on February 27 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Atlanta International School’s main auditorium.

Let the BCID know what you think about Buckhead REdeFINED by writing on our Facebook wall or tweeting @buckheadcid and using the hashtag #redefineBuckhead!

Photos by Paul Muldawer