Atlanta zoning rewrites could bring transit, parking changes

The amount of students choosing to ride their bikes to campus is increasing, but with the lack of bike lanes bikers have no choice but to share lanes with cars.  Photo by Jason Luong | The Signal archives
The amount of students choosing to ride their bikes to campus is increasing, but with the lack of bike lanes bikers have no choice but to share lanes with cars.
Photo by Jason Luong | The Signal archives
Atlanta will soon be working on rewriting its zoning ordinance for the first time in over 30 years, possibly prompting big changes to the city’s parking and public transportation offerings.

Tim Keane, Atlanta’s planning commissioner, is designing the zoning rewrite on the basis of making the city more urban and downtown-based. Currently, Atlanta’s approach to zoning favors a more suburban style, which prioritizes driving over walking, according to Keane.

“Right now, the expectation within the zoning ordinance is that every person will drive to do everything and will park right where they want to go,” he said. “We have to eliminate that idea and replace it with the premise that people will get around Atlanta in many different kinds of ways. We have to begin to devote less space in our city to the storage and movement of vehicles.”

One way Keane is planning on making the city more accessible to walkers, bikers, and public transit users is by decreasing the amount of parking spaces building developers will have to create in order to encourage less driving around the city.

He said that, “If we as a city continue to enable this idea that people will be able to park everywhere, then we will have failed the citizens because it is impossible to achieve that. So what people can expect is for parking to become more and more constrained. The better, more convenient, affordable, and safe option for people will be to not drive.”

Instead of driving, Keane said wants more focus to be on public transportation. He says there needs to be space in the streets for transit-only lanes, so buses can move at quicker speeds than the cars. He also wants to improve bus route efficiency in an effort to expand use of public transportation in Atlanta.

Michael Dobbins, a Georgia Tech city planning professor, agrees with Keane.

“The city has been systematically moving in these directions with incremental zoning and development practice changes since after the Olympics in 1996,” he said. “I think these moves have been positive, as evidenced by the city’s growing population, especially in areas that have used these changes to their advantage. I believe that the new zoning initiatives will only propel these goals forward toward an ever more walkable, accessible city.”

Although making public transportation seems like a good idea to many, some people think that reduced parking availability could cause major problems within the city.

Hannah Wallace, an Atlanta citizen, driver and Georgia State student said, “Less parking in Atlanta seems like it would be a huge mess. I feel like it is already so difficult to find parking in this city, and MARTA doesn’t take you to every place you need to go.”

Implementing the zoning rewrite in Atlanta could be a multi-year process, but Keane said that changes around the city will be happening sooner than expected.

“Between now and then, there are many improvements that we can make to the existing zoning ordinance, including changes regarding parking, and those changes will begin this year,” he said.

1 Comment

  1. Two things about this,

    1) Mike Dobbins isn’t just some professor, he was Planning Commissioner himself once.

    2) It seems like the author asked Hannah Wallace, person on the street, just for a reaction to less parking and didn’t get her to absorb the larger concept. I notice that The Signal is tweeting a clickbait summary of this article as well. Please consider reporting this in a nuanced manner, because planning is a complex issue.

    A GSU Planning and Development Grad

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