I. Welcome & Introductions
Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the April meeting were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
Zack Gober of the Ridgewood Heights neighborhood attended and said his neighborhood is interested in joining BCN. Zack is NPU-C chairman-elect. Ridgewood Heights is just outside Buckhead’s border on the south side of Peachtree Creek from the Paces and Margaret Mitchell neighborhoods and is adjacent to the Fernleaf neighborhood, already a BCN member. Ridgewood Heights’ membership in BCN was approved by the BCN board
IV. BCN Standing Committees
Jeff Clark of Garden Hills is the new Director of Communications for BCN. He outlined a BCN web site development project at a cost of $5,500 which would include hosting for two years and the acquisition of needed software licenses. Email communication will transition to a MailChimp service. He plans to have the web site completed by the next (August) BCN meeting. Christine Carolan said her HOA used an HOA-oriented web site hosting package at a cost of $500 per year and she thought it might fit BCN’s needs. She said they didn’t buy anything or develop anything; they just bought a service that worked. Tom Tidwell commented that his neighborhood had just gone through the same discussion: should they spend money, $3500 in their case, to develop the system they thought they needed to brand their neighborhood, or buy a service? Tom said BCN has plenty of money. Jeff said that he wanted to establish a calendar capturing all of the different feeds from all of the different neighborhoods, a capability that might cost $500 to $750. He said each neighborhood would put it on their calendar and the BCN site would automatically grab it and post it on BCN’s site. The BCN calendar would become a repository for all the different neighborhoods. The site would be in WordPress. Parts of the site (minutes, for instance) would be behind a log-in; most parts would be open.Tom asked for a motion for an expenditure of up to $5500, including hosting for two years. The motion was approved with two votes in opposition. The concern expressed was that it might be difficult to continue web site operation in the event of personnel turnover. Jeff responded that the site would be developed in standard hosting software (WordPress) with a standard template.
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Sally Flocks, President and CEO of PEDS
The first speaker was Sally Flocks, President and CEO of PEDS, the long-established local pedestrian rights organization.
Sally said she knows the City of Atlanta from the perspective of a pedestrian. She is unable to drive, having been diagnosed with epilepsy six months after coming here in the ‘70s. She walked to the meeting tonight from the Buckhead MARTA station. She recalled the insults of being a pedestrian: streets with no sidewalks; streets with sidewalks that are abruptly closed, mid-block, by a construction project; gated communities; and the like. She has seen tremendous changes in many parts of the city and she thinks Buckhead is getting to the point of wanting a walkable community.
Engineering changes have brought many changes. One of the most important things that PEDS ever did, she reported, was to convince the city to install in-street crosswalk signs. They did a massive public education program to convince the public that pedestrians do have rights and that drivers are supposed to stop. Their programs are built around three E’s: education, enforcement and engineering. PEDS works through the media to educate. She said in built areas like Roswell Road you’re not going to change driving behavior without engineering changes. PEDS works with the police sometimes getting them out in plain clothes in areas like Georgia State – they look like students and cross the street and, if drivers don’t stop, nearby uniformed officers issue tickets.
PEDS is partnering with Abadaba’s and thousands of PEDS signs are available in their stores. Hundreds of neighborhoods have participated in getting the signs deployed. PEDS has also worked to train the transportation professionals. For years they heard this advice from GDOT (and still get it from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety): cross at crosswalks only. The problem is, a lot of places don’t have crosswalks. She said that back in 2010 they had a half-day transportation conference with thirty transportation professionals at a church on Roswell Road where crosswalks are more than a mile apart. As part of the program she took them on a MARTA bus and dropped them off on one side of Roswell and told them they would be picked up on the other side of Roswell Road. That, she said, led to some very big changes. In the training workshops, PEDS brings in national experts to show what can be done. She said the environment has changed, especially zoning in the Special Public Interest districts.
She said PEDS doesn’t have money to fund any improvements but that GDOT has committed $6 million a year for pedestrian safety. She said pedestrians account for 15% of all traffic fatalities. PEDS has sought to have highway improvement funding expenditures to be based on fatality rates. PEDS prompted the ARC to create a Last Mile Connectivity Program by getting them to correlate pedestrian crashes with bus stop locations. The ARC found that 21% of pedestrian crashes happened within 100 feet of a bus stop and nearly half were within 300 feet.
Sally discussed Hawk signals, now called “pedestrian hybrid beacons”,whichare deployed on Buford Highway, planned for Ponce de Leon, Monroe Drive, etc. She said that studies show that a simple painted crosswalk will not work on a busy four lane road with over 12,000 vehicles a day – to cross a busy road, an overhead red signal, as provided by a HAWK signal, is needed.
An alternative engineering solution is called a “Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon” (RRFB) (such as the crosswalks near the MARTA station at 10th street) is shown in these (static) pictures from the PEDS web site. She said the rapid flash beacons really work when coupled with a median refuge island.
For a video explaining RRFB, see http://www.youtube.com/embed/cQlaFJy-nY0?rel=0
The pedestrian refuge island simplifies the task of crossing a road – a gap in one direction at a time is all that’s needed, not a gap in both directions.
Q&A: What is PEDS’ involvement in the Beltline? PEDS is working with one aspect of the Beltline: How do you get there? Both sidewalk needs and safe crossing needs must be addressed.
As for the Infrastructure Bond, she said the status is confusing. The plan was to fix degraded sidewalks city-wide. But Buckhead didn’t end up with projects because it didn’t (for the most part) have many sidewalks, and thus had few needing repair. Buckhead was unincorporated Fulton County when it was laid out and Fulton didn’t require developers to install sidewalks. So the decision was made to go from a city-wide allocation to an equal allocation of a portion of bond funds to each of the twelve districts. The uses of the local (by district) money is not yet finalized. One interesting thing Sally mentioned: Public Works Commissioner Mendoza has stated that any street that gets repaved will automatically get its sidewalks repaired. She said street repavings were allocated $45 million and it is really important for neighborhoods to ensure that sidewalks and ramps leading to them actually get repaired (and ADA-compliance achieved) when repaving happens.
John Schaffner asked about Peachtree Road, saying he understood that repaving it was GDOT’s responsibility: But what about its sidewalks? What part of Peachtree? From across from the Peach shopping center to Buckhead Atlanta – the sidewalks are terrible, he said. She said when the issue of Peachtree bike lanes is resolved, the sidewalks will be repaired, funded in part by BCID. [She said that the CIDs get a lion’s share of Federal matching money because the City of Atlanta doesn’t have a capital budget, and thus the source of matching funds is the CIDs.] She also commented that there are way too many driveway cuts on Peachtree Road, which makes bicycling on that road really questionable.
There was a long discussion about the parts of Peachtree which have been remodeled with a median by the BCID – are they really safer for pedestrians when drivers routinely turn right on red and sometimes make U-turns when the pedestrian WALK signal is lit? Sally said there are solutions but what really works is to hold out your hand or blow a police whistle when you want to cross.
Sally encouraged us to get the applicable City Council member in contact with the GDOT when a state-maintained road is involved – get their engineers to make a site visit to actually see the problems first hand. She also suggested that when a developer puts money into a “sidewalk bank”, rather than completing sidewalks on both sides of a cul-de-sac, the Councilmember might consider accumulating that fund until it is eligible to apply for Federal matching funds – a lot more sidewalks might be paved that way.
Finally, Sally encouraged neighborhoods to become members of PEDS.
Atlanta Beltline/Streetcar Speakers for Atlanta Beltline, Inc.
- Beth McMillan, Director of Community Planning and Engagement. 404-477-3550
- Nathan Soldat, Community Engagement Advocate 404-477-3552 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Marcus Arnold, Senior Transportation Project Manager
Beth McMillan led the presentation. She described the Beltline as being in the heart of the Atlanta region and connecting the many historic rail corridors on which the City of Atlanta was founded, uniting 45 neighborhoods. She said that 22% of Atlanta’s population and 19% of the City’s land area resides within the Atlanta Beltline. The Beltline tax allocation district is comprised of 6,500 acres.
The Beltline is made up of 1,300 acres of greenspace, 33 miles of trails, 22 miles of a transit loop, 46 miles of streetscape. Their goals are to produce 5600 units of affordable housing, 30,000 jobs within the corridor, 1,100 acres of environmental cleanup and the preservation of the historic corridor. So far, they have 6.75 miles of trails completed and 3.1 miles under design. 16.35 miles of trails are awaiting acquisition. 202 acres of greenspace have been opened (Old Fourth Ward Park, DH Stanton Park, etc.)
The presenters made the point that there have been huge private investments made in the areas around the Beltline, as shown in the image to the right. This is also borne out by visiting the huge area of intense redevelopment surrounding the Old Forth Ward Park. They reported that over 13,000 new apartment units have been completed along with 1.9 million square feet of commercial space.
The presentation continued. Many seemed interested in the project and there was no controversy until the topic of the Atlanta Streetcar came up.
Many attendees were surprised that the Atlanta Beltline project now also encompasses the Atlanta Streetcar project, though the initial premise of the Beltline project was that it would include a transportation loop. The loop concept will now be augmented by a 16-mile series of east-west connecting streetcar lines.
But the surprise grew as attendees came to understand that the Beltline’s Streetcar plan included a network throughout much of the city and, more particularly, a streetcar line up Peachtree Road through Buckhead. (!)
Other topics, however, were presented including the Beltline’s plans for “proactive rezoning”. This will involve a joint effort in conjunction with the City’s Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development “to rezone specific non-residential parcels per the recommendations in the [Beltline] master plans.” The scheduled rezonings did not yet include any in Buckhead.
Affordable housing was also discussed. 15% of each TAD issue is to be dedicated to affordable housing. The goal is to create 28,000 new units, of which 5,600 have been completed. An $8.8 million trust fund has been capitalized.
A polite but often incredulous discussion of the streetcar on Peachtree issue dominated the Q&A session. Many attendees pointed out that Buckhead simply can’t afford to dedicate one of Peachtree’s lanes in each direction to a lumbering streetcar. Peachtree Road’s lanes are already heavily traveled and there are no parallel routes available to take up any overflow.
The presenters informed BCN that Buckhead Streetcar line plan is a firm plan and not a mere proposal. They treated the extension into Buckhead as a “done deal”. The reaction of BCN’s audience was, that simply won’t happen; sanity will prevail.
Those interested in more details about the Beltline/Streetcar plan should see the February, 2014 “Atlanta BeltLine / Atlanta Streetcar System Plan Final Report”. In this report, the Buckhead route is described as involving a 6.27-mile, $376,200,000 rail line extending from Peachtree Street at 15th Street up to Peachtree Road at Club Drive (the Fulton/DeKalb boundary). Construction is not imminent; the plan suggests the Buckhead line will be built in the 2040 time frame.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business/Announcements
VII. Next Meeting
The BCN board voted not to hold BCN meetings during the months of June and July. The reason is that many members are on vacation and attendance is historically often low. The next meeting is August 13, 2015
The meeting adjourned at about 8:15 PM.