It doesn’t matter what mode of transportation you choose (driving, walking, biking, transit, pogo stick, or whatever) getting around a big city like Atlanta is difficult. Congestion is rampant. There are limited sidewalks and bike lanes, and transit can take forever. But I’ve learned to deal with all these things. If I have to travel at rush hour, I exercise Buddhist patience during the 1-2 hours it takes to drive across town. If I have to travel on MARTA, I make sure to bring extra victuals to sustain myself on the inevitably long journey. If I travel by bike, I always say my prayers before doing the SUV tango. I consider these things minor nuisances.
But there is one thing that always infuriates me, and it might only be me that would let such a small and stupid thing drive me so insane. I’m talking about the selfish my-parking-lot-not-gonna-share-with-no-one-’cause-it’s-mine-and-you-can’t-have-it mentality that makes driving and walking way more difficult than it should be. What I’m referring to is parking lots on busy streets that force customers back into the roadway even when they are only going next door. I’ll include a couple of examples. Let’s say for some reason I want to visit Einstein Brothers, Wendy’s, and Office Depot in one trip. (See map below.) Don’t ask why I’m visiting Einstein’s and Wendy’s in the same trip. Maybe I’m a glutton, or maybe Einstein’s was closed when I arrived so I couldn’t get a delicious Santa Fe wrap and instead had to settle for the equally delicious Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich. It’s irrelevant.
The point is that these three locations are all within very easy walking distance. The problem is that they are all located on three different lots and do not allow people to leave their cars behind to visit other locations. “Parking is for Customers Only, Violators will be Towed”. OK so I’m probably not going to get towed, but why is walking against the rules? Why is it technically against the rules to leave my car behind and visit these three places on foot? Furthermore, if you are going to force me to drive, why are these lots not connected in some way? The orange arrows above show the only legal way to visit these three locations. I have to re-enter the extremely busy and epidemically congested Howell Mill Road twice for no good reason. These places are NEXT DOOR to each other, so why force more cars onto the road and increase the number of trips required in an already congested area? I don’t get it. Wouldn’t sharing or connecting their lots improve business by improving accessibility?
OK, now here’s another one that really blew my mind when I noticed it. If you live in midtown Atlanta, you may visit the Trader Joe’s and Whole
Paycheck Foods from time to time. These are two locations that are located a mile or two apart. Trader Joe’s is on the north end of midtown around 10th street and the other one is located down on Ponce. It takes 5 minutes or so to drive between these locations (depending on traffic). That’s OK, right? Because these locations are far apart, right? Wrong! They are literally next door to each other. The parking lot that serves Trader Joe’s and the Midtown Promenade bumps right into the parking lot that serves Whole Foods and that group of stores. See the locations A and B below. Why do I have to travel nearly 2 miles to get between them?
The picture below is taken from roughly point A on the map above. What you see in this picture is the Home Depot parking lot and the Ponce City Market. Yes, Ponce City Market on the far south side of midtown is only a few hundred feet from Trader Joe’s on 10th Street. I know that mathematically this makes sense. It’s really only about 8 blocks or so, but to actually realize how compact our city is and then think about how difficult it is to move around despite this fact is very frustrating.
To top it all off, you aren’t even allowed to walk between these two lots, at least not according to the plethora of “don’t even think about storing your car here for even one minute” signs. You are required by the rules put forth by these two establishments to get in your car and drive nearly 2 miles to travel a total of 50 feet. It boggles the mind. What would it take for these two strip mall operators to come together and say, “Hey, if we build some stairs or a ramp to let people walk between these two parking lots, people might actually be inclined to make an impromptu visit to one store when their intended purpose was to visit another.” Wouldn’t that be good for business? It’s clear that people want it. Just look at the desire path made by all the insidious rule breakers (image below). I’ve even pushed my grocery-laden bike up and down that small mountain a few times. It’s amazing how hard this town makes it to walk or bike around. It’s almost like living outside the law. Hopefully with more and more people desiring to live in walkable and bikeable areas, these things will start to change.
Anyway, this is just a rant and the rant is now over. However, future rants are sure to appear soon. After all, the July 31st transportation referendum vote is approaching and if there are two things that Atlantans love to argue about, it’s traffic and taxes.
Until next time, be careful out there.