Not to be Negative Nancies, but it's time to talk about the low points of living in Atlanta. It's not all peaches, high salaries and SweetWater, kiddies. We're honing in today on what recent transplants perceive as the city's main problems, the biggest threats to Atlanta's quality of life. Far and away the biggest gripe, traffic, will come as no surprise, but others might. As we learned yesterday, with the debut of the New Voices Atlanta project, the 45 respondents to our survey were, on average, 31 years old and have lived here for one year, having moved from cities and towns across the country. Generally speaking, they don't dislike the ATL too much, because they gave it an 8 out of 10 rating. But some said the city's problems will eventually force them to move.
As one of 20 questions, we asked Atlanta newcomers what they've liked least about living here. Roughly 90 percent mentioned traffic, car culture, sprawl and/or the paucity of reliable transit options. Answers to other questions were heavily influenced by respondents' frame of reference (for instance, Atlanta is freezing right now for Floridians, but tropical for New Yorkers). When it came to transit and traffic, however, the chorus was almost uniform: Something's really wrong here.
Other interesting findings: Exactly two respondents mentioned crime or safety issues as what they've liked leased about Atlanta. Two responded that the city still seems too segregated. Several mentioned Atlanta's lack of an "identity." A retiree who moved ITP from Stockbridge is fed up with "high HOA fees." An attorney from Los Angeles responded, simply, "Winter." Amber Baird, a 30-year-old management consultant from Philly, hasn't disliked anything so far.
Below, we've selected some of the more enlightening responses, as they pertain to gripes new Atlantans have. Names, ages and/or occupations were included when it added context to the response.
"We can see The Connector from our condo. It is backed up for hours every day."
"I love Atlanta, but the daily grind of commuting is changing my impression rapidly. I spend two hours a day in my car most days."
"The car culture. I don't drive much, and don't commute by car, but it affects the character of the city as a whole. It's depressing to walk around Midtown and not see anyone on the street, only lines of cars. And roads near my house, like Moreland, are traffic wastelands. This is very disruptive of any sense of public space."
"I hate the us-vs.-them vibe everywhere. It seems like there are so many stereotypes about individual neighborhoods, zip codes, sides of town (not to mention ITP/OTP.... although that's a lot more legit). If you live in Buckhead, then everyone south of Ponce thinks you're a snob. If you live in Decatur, then everyone thinks you're a granola. If you live away from the Beltline... well then you're nobody. I just think it's silly — how about we get on the same team here and enjoy and appreciate the wildly different sections of our city? There are interesting and cool things about Capitol View AND Virginia-Highland, y'all." — 25-year-old Julia Edwards, a teacher who most recently lived in Greenville, SC.
"When we travel back to Alabama on the weekends sometimes, we have to leave around 2:30 just to avoid the horrendous traffic. I also hate venturing into the big shopping districts on the weekends because it seems like the entire Southeast is visiting for the day."
"I really don't like having to drive everywhere. I would love the option to get to work without a car on days I didn't feel like driving. I've gained 30 pounds eating southern food and not moving." — L. Weiss, a 32-year-old construction executive from Queens.
"The lack of a cohesive, real city feel is a problem for Atlanta in my eyes. This exacerbates the traffic problems, the sprawl problems, and the infrastructure problems." — Victoria Gutierrez, 30, who's lived in Boston (most recently), San Francisco and Chicago.
Here's a grab-bag of input specifically about the state of transit in Atlanta, as newcomers see it:
"It's awful, of course. But you knew that. Everyone knows that."
"I wish MARTA's train route was more expansive. I really do take it as much as possible even though it's about a mile walk to the Midtown station."
"I'd love to take the train (the bus takes too long) but the nearest MARTA station is three miles from where I work. Not reasonable. The buses are just not doable for someone that has to be at work by 7 a.m. — I'd have to leave my house at 5:30 and, um, hell no. It's hard enough as it is. So, only option I have is braving car traffic — contributing to car traffic — which is aggravating and inefficient. I feel like we're headed in the right direction perhaps, but there's a long way to go, and it needs to be centered on trains. I know it's expensive but it's the only way to really solve the problem -- every major city has either a good subway system or a nasty traffic problem." — Buckhead charter school teacher who lives in Ormewood Park.
"Transit seems fine. I'm over public transportation system so don't really care about it all that much." — Massachusetts transplant.
"We went out of our way to buy a house next to a MARTA stop." — San Francisco transplant.
"It's not a joke, as many people say. It is in desperate need of improvement. Rail transit shouldn't only go four directions. More interconnections are needed. I only take MARTA to and from the airport, so I can't speak much to it. The streetcar needs to be expanded to the Beltline as soon as possible."
"The public transit has a long way to go. It seems to be the key to Atlanta becoming a world-class city. We have major traffic issues that could be partially resolved by improving public transit. This means not only better transit within the city, but trains to and from the suburbs for commuters."
"I think transit is amazing, you can get everywhere with a car and it is less expensive and less time-consuming. People in NYC take the subway and walk because they have to, not because they want to. I used to commute into NYC everyday. Two hours each way. You can park in Atlanta for free basically everywhere with valet parking, and there is no traffic ... seriously, move to New Jersey and you'll see traffic." — Buckhead resident of two years, who moved there for the nightlife.
"Transit in Atlanta is atrocious. Cyclists should be able to get around the city easily without fear of someone sideswiping them in an SUV because they're too busy texting."
"I haul my luggage over a mile to take MARTA to the airport. Even with its high ridership rates, the destinations are severely limited. The one day I took the bus was a miserably long adventure."
"I only take MARTA if I am going to the Georgia Dome for a game or a concert at Lakewood. MARTA is a little sketchy and the late-night return is always a hassle." — Alabama transplant.
"We have a LONG ways to go in this city. With that said, I am impressed at the improvements in MARTA since moving here. It's almost night and day from when I arrived and I credit Keith Parker and the luck of a good economy and political will shifting. Let's keep the ball rolling and make some real commitment to transit!"
"I can take MARTA to work in a pinch and that is pretty cool. It should reach more neighborhoods in my opinion. We knew this was a driving city when we moved here."
"I am a MARTA fan. I am not just a fan of the idea of MARTA, but I actually ride MARTA and enjoy doing so. I think for so many reasons (lack of affordable housing intown, climate change from cars, just the chance to sit side-by-side with a wide cross section of Atlantans) a robust MARTA rail system is essential to our community now and in the future." — Amanda Seals Bersinger, 28-year-old attorney from Montgomery.
"I'm really hoping the streetcar on the Beltline comes to fruition…that's going to be awesome for Atlanta if and when it happens."
"MARTA rail needs to be twice at robust, at least, with more branches. I'm really hoping the Clifton Corridor gets built. That would be huge."
"I feel terrible for those that have to rely on MARTA (bus and/or rail) to get to and from work because it isn't the most reliable, particularly the bus system. It's a disservice to those in the lower-wage bracket who have to suffer through a long commute to get to work because they don't have the luxury of moving near where their job is."
"One word: inconvenient. I never use it because it seems to never get me where I would like to go!"
"Have not used it since moved here." — Tampa transplant.
"I appreciate the efforts with the Atlanta Streetcar and minor improvements to MARTA service, but in general, it is abysmal. Any changes that have taken place during my time in Atlanta have felt very superficial. I attempted to live a normal life in Atlanta for one month without a car and that proved impossible, even living in a well-serviced MARTA neighborhood. It seems entirely counterintuitive, for instance, that the Braves will soon be playing out in Cobb County, encouraging more sprawl and horrible traffic." — Dena W., 23, Virginia-Highland.
"I'm an Uber girl. MARTA makes me anxious." — age 24, from Athens.
"Terrible. Terrible. Terrible. Public transportation might as well not exist — I would use it for work, but there's no MARTA station anywhere near my house and not convenient for work." — Westside resident of three years.
"I love MARTA. Everyone bitches so much, but I think it's great." — M. Bowdoin, 29, from New York City.
And now, the potpourri of Atlanta dislikes:
"LAKE LANIER IS A CESSPOOL, IT DOESN'T COUNT AS A SWIMMABLE BODY OF WATER In My Opinion." — 36-year-old saleswoman from Miami.
"The cost of organic produce and the lack of availability of certain kinds of organic produce within the city. The amount of burglaries in the neighborhood." — 33-year-old Christina Cage, who moved to East Atlanta from Los Angeles.
"Singles scene is great if you are 25 but as you get a little older everyone is married, in a serious relationship, or recently divorced (divorced at 30, the American dream). People get tied down really early here."
"I have found that this is a busy city (though definitely not too busy to hate), and unlike other places I've lived, I have to make plans with friends days, sometimes weeks, in advance in order to spend time with them. In Montgomery, Alabama, where I last lived, I routinely called friends and invited them to dinner or suggested drinks or a movie that night. Folks were generally available, likely because there were just fewer options there for entertainment."
"College football, and everything that goes along with it." – Dan K., a 25-year-old financial analyst from New Jersey.
"(I dislike) feeling less safe than I did in Chicago. Mostly, I think this is due to the fact that there are just less people out on the streets at any one time. And everyone drives instead of walks. In Chicago, I wouldn't hesitate to go running by myself after dark or walk from the neighborhood restaurant. Here I feel unsafe sometimes even in broad daylight."
"I dislike a lot of the new construction apartments/city center things here — why so much beige and stucco? Seems like the dominant 'look' is some sort of faux-Italian villa thing. Wish there was more density." — 25-year-old attorney from Philadelphia.
· NVA Begins Now: 45 (Relatively) New Atlantans Speak Out [Curbed Atlanta]