Midtown Alliance introduces new traffic plan

Photo by Casey Gomez

Atlanta’s Midtown Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of businesses and community leaders, released a plan on traffic improvements for Midtown on Feb. 9. The plan includes observations on current issues that impact traffic as well as specific recommendations and plans to address those issues, including specific improvements to the number of two-way streets, the addition of several new stoplights and suggestions for improving the rate of MARTA usage in the neighborhood.

The Midtown Alliance created its recommendation through a multi-step planning process detailed in the group’s plan. The process included analysis of existing traffic conditions, such as measurement of influx and outflux due to commuters, the frequency and location of crashes in the Midtown neighborhood, as well as traffic congestion driven by the I-75/I-85 corridor, which runs through the center of Midtown.

The coalition additionally surveyed over 1,000 persons to determine the priorities of Midtown residents and visitors in regards to transportation. According to the published plan, 41 percent of respondent comments focused on pedestrian safety, followed by 20 percent on bike safety, 17 percent on motorist safety and access, 15 percent on congestion and 14 percent on public transit or access through multiple means of

The plan focused on identifying several core areas of improvement and detailing the specific issues associated with the broader categories, then identifying several potential solutions to address those issues. Among the issues the Midtown Alliance highlighted were inconsistencies in the walkability of certain areas or streets in Midtown, gaps in reliable public transportation, especially entering the neighborhood and the tendency of drivers to speed in certain areas of Midtown.

The Alliance presented several options for improving the quality of transit systems for both users of the system and other travellers that are negatively impacted by existing conditions. In particular, the plan puts forward an optimistic redesign and improvement of MARTA stations including the installation of more pedestrian crosswalks, regular cleaning services, improved real-time arrival information for both buses and trains, vending machines and a visual overhaul of the stations themselves.

Included renderings of the proposed changes showed wider sidewalks, improved lighting outside the station and a significant overhaul of the station’s above-ground architecture, with the changes having the stated goal of making transit “more attractive, more convenient, and more enjoyable.”

Additional plans for the improvement of public transport included the addition of a circulation-style transit option on the east-side of the neighborhood, with the goal of matching the service provided by the Tech Trolley and Atlantic Station shuttles.

Proposals to improve the walkability of certain areas in Midtown focused primarily on expanding sidewalks or adding buffers to sidewalks in locations such as the 17th Street Bridge and the 10th Street Bridge.

Renderings showed visual overhauls of both bridges with the addition of significant amounts of greenery and lighting improvements for pedestrian areas.

The Midtown Alliance suggested that a district-wide 25 mile-per-hour speed limit be imposed to improve the safety of the neighborhood for pedestrians as well as allowing more flexibility in road designs. One of the suggested projects would introduce shared streets where pedestrians could more freely walk while still providing access to slow-moving vehicles as part of a mile-long “Art Walk” between the Midtown and Arts Center MARTA stations.

While the Alliance mentioned that individual improvements could effectively address the issues they were targeted towards, their report emphasized that the plan was created as a comprehensive overhaul of the Midtown traffic system where the individual improvements became more effective as additional, complementary projects were completed.

Several members of the plan’s guiding committee, the “Steering Committee,” were members of the Tech community, including Professor Mike Dobbins, Dr. Randy Guensler, Dr. Michael Hunter and Dr. Kari Watkins.

The committee also included Tech’s executive vice president for Administration and Finance, Steve Swant. Swant is also a member of the Midtown Alliance Board of Directors.