Get this: Not so long ago, surface parking lots accounted for a whopping 75 percent of the land in Midtown's commercial district, according to Sally Flocks, president of PEDS, an Atlanta-based advocacy group for pedestrians. Flocks pointed out the contrast between Midtown and other car-centric Atlanta locales of the 1990s, which have blossomed into more human-friendly districts, in a recent AJC column that reads like one big hat-tip to walkability advocates such as the Midtown Alliance, Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia State University, whose students have become "the lifeblood of downtown," as Flocks puts it. She posits that 20 years ago, people who preferred walking to driving "were not on the region's radar screen," spurring billions in auto-oriented development and road-building "to create a region as hostile to pedestrians as ours had become." Flocks is taking the nostalgic big-picture approach (recalling how the Olympics reminded Atlantans what a joy it can be to "take back the streets," like Atlanta Streets Alive years later), but she acknowledges that many challenges remain. As Walk Score is more than happy to point out.
Walk Score's most recent analysis, the 2015 City & Neighborhood Ranking, still puts Atlanta in the meh category with a lackluster score of 46, which has not changed in a couple of years. (For context, contrast that score with the United States' gold standard, New York City, with its 81 overall score). Meanwhile, Atlanta's Bike Score has jumped from 43 to 50 since 2013, and pockets of the city absolutely shine in terms of walkability. Take the aforementioned GSU area, whose 96 Walk Score supplanted Buckhead Village in 2015 to become Atlanta's premier pedestrian district.
Flocks name-drops Decatur, Georgia Tech's Technology Square and of course the Beltline — things that either didn't exist or were far less conducive to hoofing it 20 years ago. Looking into the next decade, she ends on an optimistic note: "More and more partners are now on board — far too many to name," Flocks writes. "Working together, they're transforming our urban centers into places where the cleanest and healthiest form of travel is emerging as the one that people value most."