What Can Wilmington Learn From Atlanta?
Atlanta is a major city of the south and a trend setter, it provides a glimpse of future
expectations and choices the Wilmington Region will face as we seek to create a Wilmington Region that is a world class place to live, work and play.
A visit this past weekend revealed this city of a half million and metro area of six million in the grips of traffic gridlock. Wilmington’s problems pale by comparison with a Saturday morning there, saturated with traffic entering and exiting the city. Wilmington must anticipate gridlock growing far beyond the problem we already have, and head off the bottlenecks wherever we can.
NO PARKING EQUALS FEWER CARS AND MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING
We heard that Atlanta is allowing new construction without requiring parking. As we know, some young urban dwellers are not committed to auto ownership for lifestyle and economic reasons. From the perspective of Atlanta, no parking and fewer cars is consistent with reducing gridlock. It also helps address the high cost of building and can be passed on to consumers as more affordable housing, a huge problem we need to address.
PLANNING FOR ALL FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION
We need an advanced traffic control planning team that, besides using the best of new technology, addresses road design and lane allocation. In our rapidly changing world of transportation, what are our priorities? Where do sidewalks, streets, and lane use allocation fit as we go forward? If you like walking kids to school, running, biking, scooting, wanting shuttles or buses, stay tuned, and consider volunteering to help define our future. Artificial Intelligence and sensors have been used effectively in a few places, generating as much as 30% better vehicle movement in challenging traffic bottlenecks. A big help for Atlanta and Wilmington when ready for roll out, but premature.
A MODEL FOR DOWNTOWN AND COUNTY SUBURBS?
The Inman Park neighborhood we stayed in already has resources we are just beginning to develop, and need to accelerate. Bikes and scooters were everywhere. A six mile segment of repurposed, abandoned rail trail was right in the neighborhood and there were impressive numbers of runners and bikers. This trail segment will soon be connecting to others, in a much larger network.
REPURPOSED RAIL TRAILS PROVING TO BE ECONOMIC DRIVERS
In Atlanta, development is springing up all along the repurposed rail trails. As enthusiasts know, Wilmington has some great trails, but our abandoned rail trail downtown is not yet linked into the system. This is an urgent fix for safety, access and economic development advantages about which we have previously blogged.
IN ATLANTA, THE SCOOTER IS KING, THE SCOOTER IS EVERYWHERE
If Inman Park is a fair sample of upscale city neighborhoods as it seems to be, the personal transportation wars are playing out in large numbers from many sources. We saw electric bike rentals in controlled environments—racks of orderly bikes in heavily trafficked public spaces. But they were lagging in usage, outnumbered by the ubiquitous presence of electric scooters. It was our impression that as many as six scooter manufacturers “dumped” (i.e. delivered to Atlanta and placed on the streets with no prearrangement) their versions and left it to the public and private sectors to
decide about use, preference and regulation. Unlike the electric bikes (we saw no non-electrics, it appears they had already been rejected), scooters were everywhere.
In my next blog, I will discuss the pros and cons of extensive presence and use of scooters based on observations in Atlanta and research and reading about scooters.