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Letter to Editor: On Atlanta Streetcar, Think Big Picture

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May 9, 2013
Dear Curbed Atlanta:
Today you published yet another news bite on Atlanta's continuing quest for improved rail options. Comments to it will likely come from the usual suspects debating about which in-town Atlanta route is the most appropriate. Every time I hear these debates I want to publically bang my head in the street. It's understandable that with limited resources everyone wants to get it right, and I agree with the ITP sentiment that the city is the place for Atlanta's current rail investment, but where's the holistic vision?

What is lacking in all this discussion is an understanding of the sum of the parts. Officials aren't helping with their haphazard-looking studies. Naturally, options need to be studied and some rail routes will be funded before others, but what's the comprehensive plan? How do the various pieces fit into the big picture?

Atlanta can speculate about the one best rail transit investment, but it won't be very productive. There is no silver bullet route. Complex systems such as cities have emergent properties that only appear from the various parts acting in concert. So rather than focusing on whether the "left arm route" is more effective than "the right leg route," I wish we could have additional discussion about these system effects. It's a small but critical change in the discussion.

Kevin Adams, AICP

Adams, an "eclectic urban professional," is currently conducting urban agriculture systems research. He holds a masters degree from Columbia University's Architecture and Planning School in New York, and has worked in the field of economic development for a regional planning agency in Philadelphia.

[Image via Atlanta Streetcar/Facebook]

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