Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Urban Sprawl and Atlanta’s Air Quality Problems

by Erica Coslor

Spending time in Atlanta without a car is a frustrating experience. My summer internship at Georgia State University let me experience firsthand the effects of poor design and urban sprawl. Every day on my way to the MARTA station, I would walk across an overpass crossing I-75/85, and each time I would be reminded of the ill effects of traffic congestion. The humid air felt sooty from the pollution and the noise of thousands of cars was enough to interfere with conversation (unless there was a mass of gridlock). What a contrast to the cool air of the subway station and its relatively quiet cars. Better yet, once I got on a train, I was downtown for work in only 15 minutes. As the Georgia Department of Natural Resources states, Atlanta grew up with the advent of the automobile and the two-car garage, resulting in fewer in-town residents compared with older cities. This means that the city has a large population that is accustomed to living in the suburbs and driving relatively long distances to work.
There are clearly many reasons to reign in Atlanta’s urban sprawl. The air quality problems create health risks for asthma sufferers and the elderly, as well as damaging the natural environment. In addition, the city’s design makes it difficult for inner-city residents to work in the suburbs if they do not have a car. The city is finally beginning to realize the necessity of examining sprawl, if only because of the loss of federal highway dollars for failing to meet the Clean Air Act standards. I see the process of solving the automobile-related problems as an opportunity to create interest in comprehensive plans to address urban sprawl and its effects. Alternatives to single-driver commuting, such as the expansion of public transit, incentives for carpools, and private solutions, can be an important part of Atlanta’s growth plans.

With 16 lanes, interstates 75 and 85 function as CO2 emission generators in downtown Atlanta, photo by Doug Bradley Photography 

more about urban Atlanta:

Graffiti photos, Atlanta 1

New Urbanism and Planning History: Back to the Future

Skyline photos of Atlanta 1

Tomorrow is Another Day for Atlanta’s Sustainable Transport

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