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Survey: Midtown locals really, really want alternative transportation improvements

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Prioritization of automobile infrastructure seems even less important than upgrades for e-scooters

Aerial view of Midtown Atlanta, with a skyline at left and the highway to the right.
The fast-evolving subdistrict needs more alternative transportation infrastructure, surveyed locals say.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta

A wide swath of Midtown residents, business owners, and patrons want the neighborhood to be more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly, according to a recent survey conducted by Midtown Alliance.

They’re less concerned with prioritizing infrastructure improvements for the likes of e-scooters and automobiles, the results suggest.

Midtown Alliance launched the survey this spring in an effort to determine how residents, workers, and visitors want to see the community evolve in coming years.

More than 5,000 people participated in the survey, which is conducted every three years.

Since the last time Midtown Alliance gauged the community’s wants and needs, in 2016, dozens of office and residential developments have come online, some 14,000 new jobs have been introduced to the area, and about 50 new residents have moved in each week.

Obviously, the neighborhood is changing fast.

But if the thousands of people who submitted responses to the survey provide any indication of how they travel—or want to travel—it seems Midtown’s preference for vehicle mobility could be waning.

Midtown Alliance

“Ninety-four percent of survey respondents agree that ‘as Midtown’s population continues to grow, the district is no longer just a place to drive through quickly,’” Midtown Alliance officials concluded in a blog post outlining survey results.

It’s also worth noting 96 percent of people who weighed in said improving walkability in the neighborhood should be the No. 1 priority.

“Even [prioritizing] controversial e-scooters outranked desire for investment in projects that support motor vehicles,” the post read.

Forty-two percent of respondents said “dockless scooters” should be a high or very high priority for future infrastructure improvements.

Just 39 percent of those people said the same about cars.

A demand for focus on mass transit witnessed the largest spike in interest since the 2013 survey.

Six years ago, 74 percent of survey participants said transit upgrades should be high or very high on the docket. In 2019, 90 percent said so.

The vast majority of respondents also said the “function and feel of Spring and West Peachtree streets should be improved to more effectively serve people walking, biking and riding e-scooters, as well as motorists.”

“Complete streets” initiatives for both of those high-traffic corridors are in limbo, awaiting approval from Midtown Alliance’s partners, including the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Midtown Alliance

The survey also addressed how Midtown residents, workers, and patrons viewed neighborhood safety.

Sixty percent of people said they’d describe Midtown as “safe from crime” in 2019, whereas only 43 percent did in 2013.

Those surveyed also expressed an interest in boosting the district’s green space, which already boasts the city’s marquee park, Piedmont Park.

“Many Midtown residents currently don’t live within a 10-minute walk of a park,” the group’s post said, later adding that 95 percent of respondents would like to see “smaller parks and permanent plazas,” such as Commercial Row Commons, throughout the neighborhood.

“If these smaller parks or plazas were created, respondents said their most desired amenities would be places to sit, scheduled live music and entertainment, and places to buy food and drinks,” according to the post.