Editor’s Letter: Bike lanes, streetcars and Ponce City Market parking – oh, my!

Ponce City Market exteriorBy Collin Kelley

In October, I sat through a number of meetings where the embrace and distaste for transportation solutions were often at odds with each other depending on what part Atlanta you happen to live in.

There are many residents of Buckhead who are dead-set against bike lanes being installed on Peachtree Road. The most vocal say it will be dangerous, slow down traffic and just be inconvenient in general to everyone driving a car. Having to look in your right side mirror to see if a bike might be approaching before you make a turn is anathema to some drivers. You can read more about the proposed Peachtree bike lanes at this link.

I felt the same way as I watched Ponce de Leon Avenue get a similar “road diet” in 2013. Traffic lanes were removed to make way for center turn lanes and bike lanes on both sides of the street. For the first week or so, it was a bit disorienting and I was hyper-aware that bikes might be coming up alongside me as I made a right turn. Now, it’s second nature to look in both my rearview and side view mirrors to make sure the bike lane is clear. Anyone who travels Ponce knows that traffic can be intense, especially as you approach the Ponce City Market area. You couldn’t pay me to get my fat behind on a bike on either Ponce or Peachtree, but people who have decided to cycle to work, run errands or simply exercise have my respect for their bravery – especially if they also follow the rules of the road.

If running bike lanes up Peachtree would slow traffic down, just imagine being caught behind a streetcar and having a cyclist on your right. The horror, the horror! I think streetcars are a cool idea and could definitely unify the Atlanta BeltLine, but even I have my doubts about a line running from Buckhead to Fort McPherson (read more about a Buckhead resident’s efforts to stop it at this link). We already have MARTA rail on Peachtree, so instead of spending millions on a streetcar, how about opening a few more train stations? How about more people getting out of their cars and getting on public transportation? Perhaps MARTA Army, the grassroots organization promoting riding the city’s bus and rail system, can inspire more people to use what we already have. You can read more about MARTA Army at this link.

As for parking, I have a particular beef with Ponce City Market’s new paid parking lots. I met colleagues there on sunny Saturday afternoon for lunch and the Central Food Hall was buzzing with families waiting in line for chicken and biscuits from Hop’s and double cheeseburgers from H&F Burger. PCM is encouraging visitors to use the BeltLine, bike or walk. The surface parking lots were full and I saw folks gathered around the pay kiosks with looks of frustration on their faces. I finally drove into the underground parking deck and found a space, but was faced with having to guess how long I’d be at PCM and put in a dollar for every 30 minutes. Instead of numbered parking, each car must enter its license plate number. When my ticket printed, I realized I had accidentally transposed a number in my license plate. Great.

Upstairs at guest services, I met some of my colleagues who had been unable to find a working kiosk. Also, there is no validation from any of the stores or restaurants. The staff was very friendly and apologetic about the parking issues, but come on, PCM, you have to find a solution to this disaster of a parking situation. PCM is too cool to have something as trivial as bad parking kill the buzz before you’re even inside the door. My advice: Consider something along the lines of Atlantic Station’s parking deck, where you get a good chunk of free time and can get validated parking from restaurants and shops. Otherwise, it just seems like a money grab.

I hope everyone has a great November. There’s plenty to do and see around Intown as the holidays descend upon us once again.

Gobble, gobble, y’all!

  1. Broken kiosks aside, the progression of this article reeks of irony. The writer goes through a long-winded support for bike lanes and public transportation, but then follows up by complaining about how inconvenient its becoming to drive and park at the city’s trendiest attractions. Those first two things aren’t just there for hipsters, they are options for you too.

    Obviously Jamestown wants customers like you – families who are willing to drop $50 on cheeseburgers. And in Atlanta, families like that often pile into their Yukon XL Denali, hop on 400 to travel to “the city”, and visit the cool new stores and restaurants. But your letter entirely misses the point of the two points you led with: the city’s increasing ease of biking and the public transportation system you support is the solution to your problem, not free parking. Free parking will continue to exacerbate the traffic problems. It SHOULD be expensive to park. It SHOULD be inconvenient to drive. We want people to bike, walk, or take MARTA. I don’t know where you live, but as Editor of Atlanta Intown it can’t be that far. There isn’t a place in the city easier to bike to than PCM, and I’m sure you could do it without touching Peachtree or Ponce. I volunteer (seriously) to show you how easy it is to bike around the city using primarily quiet neighborhood roads and dedicated trails. I’ll even briefly pause my crusade against requiring cyclists to follow car-centric traffic laws. And as an added benefit you’ll burn off that cheeseburger, preventing subsequent articles from self-depreciatingly referring to your oversized posterior.

  2. I would personally, love to Peachtree St. truly become the Main Street for Atlanta as a coherent city of its own rather than as the hub in a suburban metropolis. To do that, we need to follow the lead of other central cities around the world and re-orient ourselves around transit, making it both difficult and expensive for those who choose to come into the city by car on roads that are of little benefit to those of us who actually live here. The proposed network of street cars is a great step in that direction. Having the ability to hop on and hop off every few blocks will make this is a much more walkable city, even in hot weather. Building and opening up new MARTA stations along the existing lines generally doesn’t serve that idea nearly as well. We should be thinking of MARTA as the equivalent of highway travel and the street car as the equivalent of street travel for the post car era. That era is coming if, for no other reason, than the fact that 51% of US workers now make a wage that is considered poverty level for a family of four (according to a recent report from the Social Security Administration). We are leaving the era when every American family could afford to purchase and maintain a car. Perhaps more importantly, for the first time in my 40 odd years, we seem to be entering an era where fewer people even want to own & maintain cars, especially among the millenials.

    Bikes (especially electrically assisted ones), walking, street cars and all those variations we’re seeing on skateboards, foot scooters (especially the self balancing ones) and other small wheeled transportation should be the center of a community that is focused on itself rather than the whims of suburbanites.

  3. Thank you Collin for a wonderful perspective on our transportation challenges! I would also add that I talk to people visiting the O4W who live all over the metro area. Everyone is welcome and we encourage all who would like to visit, but do consider that the streets are only so wide, and more asphalt for parking more cars is not an answer.

    I personally support “forced” alternative transportation through purposeful limitations of cars. The streetcar is one small piece of a much larger puzzle, that has to date, been controversial at best. The streetcar will only realize it’s potential when it is seen as a viable, integrated part of a whole system. Not a sideshow pet project.

    Lastly, PCM spent a few months late in the summer promoting the Park Mobile app. It promises a relatively painless way to pay for parking, http://www.parkmobile.com has all of the info. I’m not affiliated with them and can’t vouch for them, it seems to be pretty straightforward though.

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