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Artist envisions Atlanta expressways as MARTA lines, highlighting car dependence

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“The larger point I want to make with these maps is that the infrastructure decisions our politicians make don’t exist in a vacuum”

The revised MARTA line vision. Images courtesy of Jake Berman

It doesn’t take a cartographer to tell you that Atlanta isn’t exactly a shining example of modern-day people-moving systems.

By traditional urbanist theory, MARTA’s reach is far too limited, the Atlanta Streetcar line is much too small and slow (shutting down when travelers need it most), and too few people utilize the city’s public transit systems to unburden its car-choked highways.

What’s the solution? How about we start with thought-provoking visuals?

An artful urbanist has redesigned a map of MARTA—and overlaid a depiction of Atlanta’s expressway system—that highlights just how dominant the city’s automobile infrastructure is. Imagine how different Atlanta’s functionality would be if those multilane highways were at least accompanied by transit lines.

The official map shown on MARTA’s website.

New York-based artist and lawyer Jake Berman, who crafts and sells prints of transit systems in cities around the globe, told Curbed Atlanta he’s motivated to create his maps by the car congestion he experiences everywhere he goes.

“In every city I’ve been in—whether it’s Atlanta, L.A., or Memphis—the universal experience is traffic, which is what inspired me to start drawing these maps in the first place,” he said.

The objective is to highlight the fact that “infrastructure decisions our politicians make don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Berman. “Most of the expressway system was built in Atlanta because it had the support of voters, while comparable MARTA expansion to deal with Atlanta’s sprawl was never really done to the same level.”

His Atlanta works, he told the local Reddit community, were initially an effort to help a friend navigate MARTA’s rail system more easily, but the results provide commentary on the state of the city’s transit system, too.

“I think the maps say that there’s a lot of opportunity in Atlanta, especially given that More MARTA is now a go,” he said. “Atlanta’s a place with good bones, especially the intown neighborhoods which were originally built during the streetcar era.

“There’s a lot of places where Atlanta’s well-suited for denser development,” Berman continued. “It’s good to know that the political support is finally there to expand the alternatives to driving.”

MARTA’s board of directors approved the $2.7 billion More MARTA plan in October, calling for a major expansion of the streetcar system, improved bus services, and train station improvements, among other upgrades.