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Report: Despite rise of micromobility options, emissions on the rise in metro Atlanta

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While e-scooters gain popularity, GDOT is finding ways to expand the highways

A heat map shows where auto emissions stem from in the metro Atlanta region.
Emission levels increased more than 80 percent from 1990 to 2017.
Images: Boston University and The New York Times

As micromobility options and bicycling become more popular across metro Atlanta and other major cities, logic would suggest folks are becoming less car-dependent, generally speaking.

After all, infrastructure changes for alternative modes of transportation abound in Atlanta, and the city recently launched its own department of transportation, promising more than $200 million in projects to make the city safer for pedestrians, cyclists, scooter riders, and the rest over the next few years.

But according to new research by The New York Times and Boston University—a report featuring “The Most Detailed Map of Auto Emissions in America”—metro Atlanta isn’t going green fast enough to curb auto emissions.

First, the good news: The region’s emissions per capita have declined by 3 percent between 1990 and 2017.

That’s in part because the amount of driving in metro Atlanta increased more slowly than the population.

On the whole, though—as is the case with almost every fast-growing metropolitan area—emissions spiked. In Atlanta’s case, by 84 percent during the same timeframe, according to the data.

A chart shows how Atlanta’s emissions have risen since 1990.
Total emissions have increased in nearly every metro area.

Granted, the City of Atlanta wasn’t dotted with dockless e-scooters and bikes until mid-2018.

A City of Atlanta report released this past spring showed that, of the nearly 400,000 miles traveled by way of dockless two-wheelers in March alone, 30 percent replaced car trips.

Then again, the Georgia Department of Transportation is working on a multi-billion plan that, among other things, is expected to expand the state’s interstate system by widening highways and creating new toll lanes.

Critics of the plans have asked GDOT officials to pump the breaks on projects and further take into account the potential for mass transit expansion.