Last month, Ponce City Market started charging for parking and a ton of Atlantans frankly lost their shit. In an editorial this week, the AJC's snark-tastic city observer and veteran reporter Bill Torpy — the same guy who poo-poos planned bike lanes — bemoaned the demise of free parking, calling it part of the city's ongoing attempt at "urban social engineering" and an end to "Atlantans' God-given right." (Okay, so he's probably kidding on the latter description). So someone needs to set the record straight, right? While free parking might have held sway for the last half century, people are beginning to realize that it's not the way of the future. A new generation of Atlantans realize that the status quo won't cut it. And besides, as much as we like to conceptualize Atlanta as a bastion for automobiles, it wasn't always that way. Times change, and naysayers need to get with the program.
Atlanta came into existence because of the railroads. Founded as Terminus, the city endured years of rail dominance as trains rumbled through the heart of downtown — back when people actually lived and worked there. As time wore on and more people filled the area, we had to adapt to a new way of life. Pedestrians, folks on horseback and in carriages and even the occasional car began to find it troublesome to cross the active rail lines through the center of commerce. So what did Atlanta do? It built viaducts to get over the problem.
Welcome to the new Atlanta, where sensible city and business leaders are trying to get over another sort of problem. Where bicyclists and pedestrians deserve space. Where those who forgo automobiles in favor of public transportation have a say. Where millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers alike prioritize where they live to take advantage of not having to use a car to get to the growing array of draws in intown Atlanta. Because unless something is done soon, Atlanta will choke on its own success, cultivated over the last century. (When we have to plan Saturday trips around traffic — weekend traffic — something is chronically wrong here). To decry space for bikers, space for walkers, space for transit users, hurts those who choose to drive to work, school, home, shopping, sporting events, etc. MARTA might not be great, but it's getting better. Bike trails aren't the best in the country, but the city is trying. And the only thing standing in the way of progress are those that dismiss the attempts at expanding the systems and infrastructure by saying, "It will never work, this is Atlanta."
Well, shut up. Your urban ideologies reek of mothballs.
The saying goes, "There's no such thing as a free lunch," and there's no such thing as "free parking." Rather, the price we pay is in our connectivity, our health and our city's vitality. Stop bitching. And start embracing the new Atlanta. The Atlanta of alternative transit. The Atlanta where people live in the heart of town and have no intentions of leaving, no matter what life-stage they enter. The Atlanta where not everyone relies on cars. Because, like it or not, this is the Atlanta that Atlantans need. This is the Atlanta people want. And this is the Atlanta we deserve. Tim Keane gets it. Keith Parker gets it. And, love him or hate him, Kasim Reed gets it.
This is not to say that everyone should live in the city. Nor is this to say that every parking space across the city and metro should require a fee. But in the city, where there are alternatives to driving, it's time to wean ourselves off of cars, allowing us to bolster the infrastructure for walking, biking and transit. For those suburbanites who lament having to pay when they come into the city — sorry, but we aren't sorry. Either pay a few dollars to take MARTA, or pay a few dollars to park your car. It's a pretty straightforward concept.
· Ponce City Market trashes Atlantans' God-given right to free parking [AJC; subscriber]
· For Some, PCM Parking Fees are Tough to Swallow [Curbed Atlanta]
· Free Buckhead Parking could End Soon. But is That so Bad? [Curbed Atlanta]