On Thursday, February 27th, the Atlanta Department of Transportation showed the most recent concept for DeKalb Ave. The project is described as “DeKalb Ave Safety Improvements,” and while it’s true that removing the reversible lane is an important safety improvement, the overall design would not fulfill the City’s commitment to improving safety for everyone on this key corridor.
Our vision for DeKalb Ave is of a greenway similar to the BeltLine alongside a safe street for all. In our vision, DeKalb Ave facilitates easy access to transit, prioritizes the safety of the most vulnerable people first, and provides transportation options that go beyond cars for the growing number of businesses and residents along the corridor.
One of our 2020 priorities is to hold the City accountable to complete projects in existing City transportation plans. DeKalb Avenue was identified as a high priority for the Renew Atlanta Bond in 2015, and the TSPLOST approved in 2016 included a multi-use trail from Inman Park to Rockyford Road. After the Renew and TSPLOST projects were cut back due to funding constraints, a short cycletrack appeared in the Mayor’s Action Plan for Safer Streets. Among the plans goals were to “expand access to MARTA stations, city parks, and schools by providing first/last mile connections.”
The City’s Strategic Transportation Plan includes an imperative that all City projects should strive to embody: “a transportation network can only be successful if it is accessible to all Atlantans.” The Mayor’s letter goes on to say “transportation is about so much more than infrastructure. It is about building connections between communities, people and opportunities… It is also about bringing new vitality and new life to streetscapes that for too long stood as barriers between communities instead of safe public spaces for our most vulnerable residents.”
We believe Atlanta is entering a new phase in its transportation systems, in which people using roadways should be prioritized starting with the most vulnerable, so our street design begins to reflect our city’s values. First people using wheelchairs/strollers, then people walking, biking or scooting, deliveries and loading, and then cars and parking.
As the first highly visible project to come out of the new ATL DOT, DeKalb Ave must fulfill these objectives. Because current Renew+ TSPLOST funding is only sufficient to design the planned second phase, the City needs to fund the full implementation of this BeltLine-like greenway on DeKalb Ave within the next three years.
While changes to the street design may result in slower speeds, that's not assured. Meanwhile, the safety of vulnerable users must be a top priority. In order to achieve this, the plan should include a reduction of the speed limit on DeKalb Ave to 25 mph. Read more on our campaign for a safe citywide speed limit of 25 mph.
The proposed cycletrack, intended to create a safe first- and last-mile mile connection to transit, is inadequate to that task as currently designed. The following modifications would make the cycletrack safer and more accessible.
1. Fix the Moreland intersection: as DeKalb crosses over Moreland, it widens substantially. The current design prioritizes that space for the movement of cars, and sandwiches the cycletrack in between a through lane and a turn lane.
This intersection is complicated, so the design needs to simplify it for everyone traveling on the roadway, and minimize the areas of conflict. Click here for our letter to the City outlining all our proposed changes.
2. Create a safe first- and last-mile connection to transit and the neighborhoods south of DeKalb Ave: extend the cycle track by three blocks to reach Oakdale Rd/Whiteford Ave and the Edgewood/Candler Park MARTA station. Also, extend the proposed LIT (light individual transportation, including bikes and scooters) lane at the Arizona intersection one block to reach Clifton, an important connection for commuters using active transportation to get to the Emory and CDC area.
The decisions that need to be made on DeKalb Ave may seem challenging today, but when we look back at this moment we’ll either see a missed opportunity--or a commitment fulfilled.
Email ATLDOT@atlantaga.gov by March 12 to share your feedback on the future of this important connection for sustainable transportation.
From ABC's Walk the Walk: 2019