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A downtown Atlanta without terrible — or any — drivers

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Georgia Tech study envisions the totally different (hypothetical) downtown of 2041

Atlanta’s Planning Commissioner Tim Keane is developing a reputation for dreaming big. In pursuit of those dreams, he asked a group of master’s students at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture to imagine the downtown Atlanta of the future.

Creative Loafing reports that the results of that request, compiled into a 123-page report, paint a picture of a vibrant, driver-free downtown. As in, zero cars. Which probably strikes most Atlantans as being either euphoric or proof of the socialist apocalypse.

Downtown Atlanta 2041: Autonomous Vehicles and A-Street Grids — as the study is called — starts by delving into the history of the region, looking at the topography and early settlement patterns that still affect the city today. After all, without knowing the past, it's hard to predict the future.

Obviously, some of the major takeaways from the plan have to do with transportation, parking, and pedestrian amenities: all factors in creating a vibrant, easy to navigate district. The study takes numbers from previous ARC projections, which estimate the population of the area will hit 53,828 in 2040, and extrapolates the effects of such an influx.

To handle the new population (and the increase in office workers that flood the area each day), the report surmises that more carless options will be needed to support the city. And with less cars on the road, only 50 percent of the current space devoted to parking will be needed.

In addition to autonomous buses whisking people around the heart of the city, the downtown area envisioned by the report will rely heavily on more people-friendly streets. The study breaks down public rights-of-way with signature, neighborhood, and service streets, creating a hierarchy of walkable paths with wide sidewalks and amenities

Finally, the report delves into four distinctive neighborhoods which could potentially develop in downtown.

With South Downtown identified as an Arts District (yes, please), Five Points designated as a Forest in the City, Fairlie Poplar a hub for bicycle-oriented development, and Baker Street conceptualized as the Eco District, there are some meaty (if somewhat fantastical) propositions for Commissioner Keane to take into consideration.

Only time will tell if these big ideas are outlandish or substantive.