By Sarah Kirsch, Executive Director ULI Atlanta
One of the great privileges of travel is that it allows us to return and look at our homes and communities with a fresh set of eyes. I always come back from more walkable places, particularly those with stronger transit networks, with a renewed commitment to walk my kids to school more, use the basket on my bike more, and use the great resource that is MARTA more. I think, if given the chance to reimagine our land use patterns particularly with ‘vacation eyes’, essentially all 1,200 ULI Atlanta members would imagine an Atlanta region where our kids can bike to school, we could all walk to a neighborhood bakery (or bar), we could hop on the train or streetcar to get to work. Yes, it would be a far more sustainable and economically viable way to live and for Atlanta to grow but equally important to me, it would simply feel better.
One of my favorite places to vacation with my family is Rosemary Beach in the panhandle of Florida. It is a combination of the eclectic West Indies architecture, the energy of the town center, the white sands beaches, and the lovely canopied trails that draws me back each year. But perhaps more than anything, what creates the feeling of ‘vacation’ is that I go to the grocery store on Sunday and never get back in the car until we load back up to return to Atlanta the following weekend.
The Urban Land Institute recently noted, “Active transportation was, until recently, the forgotten mode of travel. However, in recent years, investments in infrastructure that accommodates those who walk and ride bicycles have begun to reshape communities.” We have certainly seen this locally in the form of the Atlanta BeltLine, Path 400, the Silver Comet Trail, and the great streetscapes of our urban cores.
The Active Transportation & Real Estate publication goes on to call attention to how, historically, we have invested very little in this critical slice of infrastructure, “Since its inception, the federal and state governments in the United States have spent approximately $5 trillion to build and maintain the Interstate Highway System. Until recently, federal investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure amounted to less than a tenth of 1 percent of this amount. Now, governments at all levels are rediscovering the value of active transportation, and the creation of bicycle infrastructure is prompting real estate development.” This historic imbalance in how and what we invest in has been true in Atlanta and Georgia but so is the renewed opportunity to diversify our transportation portfolio. In November, Atlantans will have an opportunity to vote to invest in the expansion of MARTA and ‘active transportation’ through various TSPLOST referendums.
If you are like me, you probably have a number of questions about what each referendum will support, how each works, and priorities for the future. Join ULI Atlanta on August 18th for an important conversation on Real Estate & Referendums: The easy ride to knowledge about TSPLOST and MARTA expansion. You will have the opportunity to hear from Chairman John Eaves (Fulton County Board of Commissioners), Commissioner Tim Keane (City of Atlanta Planning & Community Development), Ben Limmer (MARTA Assistant General Manager for Planning), Mayor Rusty Paul (Sandy Springs), and Bob Voyles (CEO, Seven Oaks) to gain insights on each ballot initiative and implications for land use, real estate and regional growth. Members and non-members can register today to get up to speed on these important decisions and opportunities for our city and region.