The design of a neighborhood’s street network has a major impact on the ability of pedestrians and cyclists to travel efficiently to nearby destinations, and the ability of transit routes to serve neighborhoods well. Take a look at the two maps below for examples of the extremes of street connectivity in Atlanta.

Unwalkable Buckhead

This is the street pattern in West Buckhead, a district of posh, detached homes in northwest Atlanta. Imagine trying to walk from a place at the top of this map to a place at the bottom. You wouldn’t be able to do it with the street network pictured.


This map shows the commercial properties included within the proposed Special Service District (SSD) Tax around the BeltLine.

Residential apartments are included in the tax, but owned homes are exempt. (See the second photo for a look at how this plays out on Glen Iris Drive).


According to this news article, Atlanta’s mayor recently asked Governor Kemp to allow her the legal right to enforce face masks for any gathering of 10 people or more in the city. He refused. Which puts the city in the difficult position of trying to prevent contagion of coronavirus at a time when stay-at-home orders have been rescinded and people are congregating again.

This is just one example of the many ways that state laws prevent cities from doing good things, sometimes with deadly consequences.

State and federal leaders will often tout the importance of “local control” as an excuse…


The slow COVID-19 response from leadership at the federal and state level seems to have been tailor made to suit people who earn salaries instead of hourly wages. Also, people with the ability to drive cars, who own large houses (along with their room for exercise equipment and grocery hoarding), and who have private yards for their kids to play in.

Wealth and ‘windshield perspective’ have asserted their dominance once again, this time during a pandemic, privileging Americans who are best suited to wait out a long period of social distancing.

If leaders really cared about hourly-wage families who get…


The view from a MARTA bus.

Amid my crushing COVID-19 anxiety, I’d like to distract myself for a few moments with this thought: It has now been 10 years since I first took the handle “ATL Urbanist” and started writing about the urban design of Atlanta with a critical eye. Here’s why I did it.

Not long after our son was born, I was temporarily without a car. During that time I was continually stunned by how awful it was to get to a grocery store while pushing a stroller, even in an ostensibly “walkable” Atlanta neighborhood. …


Downtown Atlanta

It’s a painful truth for urban extroverts like me: during this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, socially isolating yourself for a couple of weeks is the right thing to do.

According to new reports, a significant amount of coronavirus contagion happens *before* symptoms show up. Even if you aren’t coughing, you can have the virus and you can spread it around. Early, large-scale studies in China show significant amounts of virus spread by people who had not yet developed symptoms, per a CNN story this week.

This kind of isolation is really tough on anyone like me who thrives on being in…


The person in the photo below is waiting in the shade for a MARTA bus on Mt. Zion Road in Clayton County, in the suburbs south of Atlanta. The image comes from Google’s street view.

The bus stop itself is not ideal, but it’s fine. There’s a sidewalk with a grass buffer, a crosswalk, ADA ramps. But when we look at the overall urban environment surrounding it, we see a place that’s oppressively car-oriented and unsupportive of transit riders.

I know nothing about the person pictured above, but let’s assume for a minute she’s riding the bus because she has…


Parking deck in Atlanta

Research from the American Institute of Architects shows that parking facilities are more likely to host violent crimes and property crimes than all other types of real estate except residences.

Are we factoring this connection into our goals for urban design? Into our goals for reduction of car trips? For the reduction of crime?

We should be. Any conversation about parking minimums and maximums in the city needs to be partially informed by the known connection between car storage and crime.

My Atlanta news feed seems to have at least one crime report week, often with a shooting, that takes…


1919, Atlanta’s South Downtown; shaded in blue are buildings that are still in use & standing

I found a 1983 photo of Poplar Street at it’s intersection with Fairlie Street that perfectly lines up with one I took in 2015 when my family lived in this part of Downtown. The change in the street might not be clearly visible – basically there are restaurants, apartments, businesses and GSU facilities on this block now whereas the use of the buildings in 1983 was a little more sparse.

This top photo came from the GSU digital archives. It’s part of a series of photos of the Fairlie-Poplar area that was taken for an AJC series in 1983 that…

Darin Givens

ThreadATL co-founder: http://threadatl.org || Advocacy for good urbanism in Atlanta || atlurbanist -at- gmail.com

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