Atlanta is a city of neighborhoods – mature, evolving and emerging – and job and activity centers – walkable, transit-accessible and car-oriented – that are connected to each other by roads and MARTA rail and bus transit. The quality and quantity of connections is one of the most significant factors that will determine the future livability and prosperity of this great city.
I find this issue of connectivity so important that I speak about it any chance I get. In fact, I have spoken to several groups in the first quarter of this year to explain what we are working on in Buckhead and throughout the region and to promote the ideas of proper planning and execution of greenspace, connectivity and economic development. For example, I participated in the Park Pride Economic Development and Parks Roundtable at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, conducted an interview on the Pro Business Channel, Buckhead’s Business Show and spoke to the Atlanta Economics Club, the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable and the Buckhead Forum Luncheon.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that connectivity means more than roads and rail lines. “Green infrastructure” is receiving increasing attention as not just a nice-to-have nature, stormwater and respite amenity, but a gotta-have mobility requirement for a livable and prosperous city.
By green infrastructure I mean connected parks, trails and walkable, tree-lined streets. You know the big ones: the Atlanta BeltLine; the O4W Park; Piedmont Park; the Silver Comet Trail; the Olmsted Linear Park along Ponce de Leon Avenue and others. What we have been working on in Buckhead – the PATH400 Greenway; the transformation of Peachtree; the rebuilding of Charlie Loudermilk Park; the idea of building a park out of thin air over GA 400 – is in response to our needs, not our wants.
Can you imagine the power that a spider web of green infrastructure would have if laid down thoughtfully and integrated carefully into our urban fabric in Atlanta? EVERYONE would benefit! Multiple mobility options become viable, and alternatives that don’t exist today become preferences tomorrow, reducing the demand and stress on our existing road infrastructure.
We are heading in the right direction, and we have an opportunity ahead of us to leap forward quickly. Atlantans will vote this year, perhaps next year, to increase the sales tax to go towards vital mobility needs. The one-percent sales tax for MARTA could be increased to one-and-a-half percent, and MARTA could greatly expand the services provided within Atlanta. Additionally, a half-percent transportation tax that would last for five years could pump around $60 million per year into the city’s mobility portfolio. What if a fraction of the proceeds could be used to build out our plan for greenway trails throughout the city?
Our city and neighborhoods need to be defined by nature as much as infrastructure. Green infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with economic development and companies are looking for competitive packages when selecting cities to grow commerce. The more Atlanta has, the more competitive it can be in terms of job creation, a healthy economy and vibrant connected neighborhoods.