|Citizens Against Unnecessary Thoroughfares In Our Neighborhoods|
Caution Caution Caution Caution Caution Caution Caution Caution
United Transportation Initiatives
in Our Neighborhoods
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Governor’s Office of Highway Safety
in Hot Off The Press
Percentage of bridges in metro Atlanta rated “deficient” in a recent study: 20
Percentage of major roads and highways in metro Atlanta that are considered “congested”: 76
Percentage of Atlanta commuters who drive to work alone: 65
Total number of people killed in traffic accidents in Georgia from 2001-2005: 8,182
Projected cost of a planned “colossus of roads” for metro Atlanta: $50 billion
Pounds of pollutants MARTA kept out of the air in 2001: 300 million
Number of vehicles MARTA keeps off the roads daily: 185,000
Number of times “public transit” is mentioned as a possible solution to Atlanta’s traffic woes in the aforementioned study: 0
Sources: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; “Future Mobility in Georgia,” TRIP; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, U.S. Census
A NEW CAUTION: Macon's roadbusters
Familiar fight: Middle Georgia road-builders, many residents are locked in struggle over growth.
Dan Chapman - Staff - www.AJC.com
Monday, May 8, 2000
Macon --- The hairdresser feared her mostly rural community would turn into an industrial park.
The college administrator suspected neighborhood streets might be five-laned.
The housewife envisioned a bulldozer toppling the towering magnolia where her children play.
"What we all have in common," says Suzan Rivers, the housewife, "is a love of this city. We don't want it to get torn up."
They --- housewives, teachers, retirees, preachers, architects, dentists, lawyers, foresters, doctors --- also didn't want this midsize central Georgia city to turn into another traffic- and sprawl-fueled Atlanta. So they banded together to fight City Hall, transportation officials and the road-builders who are spending $320 million paving miles of Bibb County.
"Why can't Macon learn from Atlanta's mistakes?" asks Lee Martin, a small businessman whose 1960s idealism was rekindled by the road-building battles.
Martin, Rivers and dozens of other activists decided Atlanta's history is, indeed, replete with sprawl-busting lessons. Their education can be summed up in a word: CAUTION.
Citizens Against Unnecessary Thoroughfares in Old Neighborhoods --- CAUTION Inc. --- was formed in 1982 to combat plans to build a highway from downtown Atlanta east toward Stone Mountain. If built, neighborhoods like Druid Hills and Candler Park would have been ripped apart.
For 20 years, it was a citizens-vs.-developers battle played out in courtrooms, jail cells, kudzu-filled fields and politicians' chambers. More than 500 homes and untold acres of land were leveled.
In the end, though, CAUTION prevailed. Today, the Freedom Parkway meanders 3.1 miles from the Downtown Connector, past Jimmy Carter's presidential library and public-policy center, before dead-ending at one of Atlanta's most cherished parks.
CAUTION Macon fights strikingly similar --- and, at times, nasty --- battles. Name-calling. Lawsuits. Allegations of wasteful spending, political chicanery, conflicts of interest.
Dan Fischer, a former urban planner and city administrator in Colorado, accuses city, county and state officials of not fully informing Bibb County residents of the magnitude of the road-building projects.
"My experience in local government didn't prepare me for Macon government," says Fischer, now an administrator at Mercer University. "It's when they started doing obviously unjustified damage to neighborhoods that people realized there was something illogical about the process. They were willing to sacrifice the integrity of in-lying neighborhoods strictly to accommodate suburban sprawl."
Hogwash, responds Larry Justice, the longtime Bibb County commissioner who calls CAUTION "an outside group of agitators."
"Here's where I have a problem with these CAUTION people: They do not want growth," says Justice, a commissioner for 28 years. "They're being shortsighted. They're not looking down the road for their children and their grandchildren."
CAUTION has won and lost road-building battles during its two-year fight. Its most recent defeat came in February, when a federal judge dismissed CAUTION's lawsuit to keep a two-lane road from turning into a five-lane thoroughfare. Yet even its critics agree CAUTION has changed the democratic dynamic in once-placid Bibb County.
'We want to catch up'
Robert Fountain gleans different lessons from Atlanta's history. As Bibb County engineer, Fountain ascribes to the grow-or-die theory of economic development. Good roads attract business. New business keeps property taxes down. Lower taxes equal happier citizens.
"Ideally, I see us as a second hub to Atlanta in economic growth," says Fountain, county engineer for 26 years. "We want to catch up. Since the '40s, we haven't spent any money on this town. This is the best thing to happen to this whole community."
Fountain and others envision the transformation of this old mill town into a distribution hub with rail lines and four-lane roads heading in all compass directions. One of the keys, Fountain and others say, is to improve and expand the roads leading to the Perimeter-like beltway.
The Fall Line Freeway would serve as one leg of the triangle-shaped outer belt. Planned as a 215-mile highway linking Augusta with Columbus through Middle Georgia, the stretch around Macon remains in limbo. The road-bulders' preferred route runs through environmentally sensitive wetlands and near the Ocmulgee National Monument and burial grounds.
State and local transportation officials say their route wouldn't unnecessarily damage the 20,700 acres of "cultural property" considered historically important to the Muscogee Indian Nation. They're submitting an environmental assessment to the feds this month for approval.
Roughly a third of the $320 million in state, federal and local road-building money would help finish the Fall Line Freeway. While many a CAUTION member individually opposes the road's local segment, the group hasn't taken an official position.
Macon, whose air grows increasingly polluted each year, is expected to achieve this summer the same dubious air-quality non-attainment distinction that Atlanta already owns. If so, future road-building projects --- and Bibb County's hoped-for growth --- may be slowed.
Yet Macon barely grows now. With 115,000 citizens, it averages less than 1 percent growth per year. Fountain says the region averages maybe 6 percent growth.
But critics consider that insufficient to justify 62 road projects.
"All they're doing is taking federal money and just laying down asphalt without rhyme or reason," says CAUTION's Tom Scholl, an ordained minister. "We want every dime of the money spent. We just don't want them to spend it where they want to spend it."
"Pennies for Progress" is how Macon and Bibb County officials --- with a healthy assist from Atlantan Tom Moreland's engineering and program management firm --- campaigned for their road-building referendum in 1994. With an additional plea for Macon's future economic viability, the 1 percent sales tax proposal garnered a slim majority of Bibb County voters.
More than $130 million has since been raised locally.
Graders and dump trucks crisscrossed Bibb County. Downtown roads were expanded and repaved. Front yards in intown, suburban and rural communities were ripped up to make room for two-, three- and five-lane roads. The goal remains to ease congestion and make smooth the drive from city to suburb to country.
By September 1998, the road-building revulsion had crested. CAUTION Macon was formed, largely with the moral and technical support of its Atlanta kin --- including Tom Marney, Jim Chapman and Mary Norwood --- and the financial backing of more than 1,000 Maconites.
The grass-roots organization mobilized quickly and effectively. Core members focused on specific topics. Scholl, for example, crunches traffic counts and growth projections. Rivers researches historical precedents. Susan Hanberry, a middle-school teacher, is the environmental whiz. The Internet is tapped for information about road battles across the country, as well as to keep CAUTION members and journalists informed (www.cautionmacon.org.).
Neighborhood associations and politicians were mobilized. In historic College Hill, neighbors tied hundreds of yellow ribbons around threatened magnolias. Similar acts of protest took place in the predominantly black neighborhood surrounding Jeff Davis/ Telfair Street.
CAUTION railed against poor planning, in general, and unfaithfulness to the county's land-use plan, in particular. The crux of CAUTION's discontent, though, was a feeling that the integrity of intown neighborhoods was being compromised to further suburban sprawl and the industrialization of Bibb County.
Justice, the chairman of the county commission the last 11 years, scoffs at CAUTION's assertion, insisting traffic counts and Macon's development as a regional job, entertainment, medical and educational hub justifies its road-building largesse.
"All this hoopla about sprawl is ridiculous," he says. "We don't want to see another Atlanta in Macon. But at the same time, we do want to see good, solid growth."
CAUTION, further miffed that some projects changed dramatically post-referendum, was fed up. A show of force was needed.
Roughly 1,000 people showed up for CAUTION's September 1998 kickoff rally in front of Macon's courthouse. Their grievances were many. But their immediate demands --- most of which were met --- were few.
They wanted nationally renowned and environmentally sensitive urban planner Walter Kulash hired as a consultant. They wanted finished road projects better landscaped. And they wanted only elected officials to serve on the road-building executive committee.
Even state officials complained of the lack of citizen participation.
In a November 1998 letter to Macon's mayor, former state historic preservation officer Mark Edwards wrote "there seems to be a lack of meaningful public participation in the local transportation planning process, at least concerning impacts to historic properties." Edwards later accused a top Georgia Department of Natural Resources official of "making a mockery out of the democratic process" in his "zeal" to build the Fall Line Freeway.
Bibb County's engineer acknowledges that public officials should've been more considerate of citizens' concerns.
"We had a lot of (input), but the timing may not have been the best," Fountain says. "If I could do it all over again, I would set up a system to bring in neighborhood (residents) at the very, very beginning of the project."
Unmollified, CAUTION decided to get tough. They needed a fight. They found one on Houston Road.
A crushing blow
Traffic is light along Houston ("How-stun") Road as a minivan full of CAUTION members wends through south Macon. They point out their homes, their churches, the pecan orchards and cotton fields. They ignore the yellow bulldozers, the scraped-flat fields and the powerfully sweet smell of uprooted trees.
CAUTION latched on to Houston Road as the most egregious of road-building projects. Prior to the referendum, residents were told that only a turn lane would be added to a 3.2-mile stretch of road. Post-referendum, they learned Houston would become a five-lane thoroughfare.
"Little by little, it went from two lanes to three lanes to five lanes," recalls Marilyn Meggs, a housewife-turned-activist. "They told us it was a done deal."
CAUTION filed a lawsuit last October to stop the $8 million Houston Road project. The group said the Georgia Department of Transportation failed to adequately consider the road's environmental impact. Kulash, who was hired by project manager Moreland Altobelli, testified against Houston Road, saying it would encourage strip development.
Kulash's switch fueled a conflict-of-interest charge lodged by the road-builders. They also said Kulash designed projects without a Georgia engineer's license --- even though he'd worked with them for months.
In February, a federal judge denied CAUTION's request to halt the Houston Road project. It was a crushing blow, but not a fatal one.
CAUTION is an undeniable force in Macon life. It has forced road-builders to scale back projects in working-class west Macon, upscale north Macon and historic downtown Macon.
Citizens in neighboring Monroe County now seek CAUTION's advice on ways to combat road projects. The nonprofit sponsors "smart growth" forums to gauge candidates' views.
It's investigating ways to legislatively ensure road-builders don't steamroll other smallish communities. CAUTION members know once Macon's fight ends, road-building battles will continue in other Georgia towns with growth-at-all-costs politicians and pliant, unsophisticated citizens.
"This is little ol' Macon," says Suzan Rivers. "If this is happening here, it's happening all over Georgia. Think how many neighborhoods all over Georgia are being destroyed."
|Smart Growth and Intelligent Transportation Systems are the wave of the future for smart cities. Unfortunately Bibb County and the City Of Macon have not embraced that philosophy yet. Rail is the only thing they have looked at. They have NOT incorporated in a meaningful way, transit (the 2025 Transportation Plan devotes only one paragraph to transit!!), pedestrian, bicycling, or 'system planning' in their transportation plan. You might want to look at some of the web sites listed below. They might help you with a 'quick read' about transportation ideas, issues and policies:|
Despite advances in technology, improvements are nowhere in sightBy Arrol Gellner, Friday, February 29, 2008.
Someday, when the history of our Petroleum Age is written and the internal-combustion automobile is considered a quaint and rather silly conveyance on par with the oxcart, scholars will have a field day examining the myriad aspects of our vanished autocentric society. And without a doubt the most moribund and farcical discipline connected with this era will turn out to be that of the traffic engineers, whose automotive monomania helped turn the built environment into a playground planned almost exclusively around motor vehicles -- to the detriment of pedestrians, other modes of transport, and Mother Nature herself.
It may not seem odd that traffic engineers should be preoccupied with cars. But the word "traffic," it's well to remember, doesn't refer to automobiles by default -- it refers to the movement of people and goods. You'd never guess as much judging by contemporary usage, because the central and practically sole concern of traffic engineers across America has to do with moving cars around at the expense of all else.
Most engineering disciplines pride themselves on creating progress in their respective fields. In a single century, for example, aircraft engineers went from building sputtering kites of wood and paper to designing planes that can fly by themselves at 600 miles an hour. And in just 50 years, electronics engineers have made even more phenomenal strides: Consider the astonishing progress made in television alone, not to speak of computing.
Yet until very recently, the traffic engineer's only response to the demands of a changing world has been to bang out the same old two-note refrain: wider roads, more traffic lights. This is basically the same so-called solution that's been offered since the 1920s, even though neither strategy has ever shown much success in easing traffic congestion. Moreover, during the last two decades, while computers have been used to make virtually every two-bit consumer item smart, traffic controls remain determinedly brainless. Only recently has the consideration of "dynamic elements" even entered the realm of traffic engineering. The radical idea here -- are you sitting down? -- is that traffic controls should actually respond to varying conditions using sensors that measure traffic flow.
Hence, after 80-odd years of stubbornly resorting to the same ham-fisted repertoire of road widening and signal planting, some nameless traffic engineer apparently had the wit to wonder, "Gee, should our designs actually relate to what's going on? Should we try to make use of that wacky new computer technology everyone's talking about? Should traffic signals actually recognize that no one is coming the other way, instead of stopping people just for the hell of it?"
To which his or her colleagues no doubt responded: "Nah, that's crazy talk."
Given the glacial progress traffic engineering has made in the past eight decades, don't expect the introduction of dynamic elements, or anything else, to improve your neighborhood's traffic situation for a long, long time. By then, perhaps, our autocentric definition of "traffic" will have grown to reclaim those who walk, bicycle or take public transportation, leaving traffic engineering as it's currently practiced right up there with alchemy, bloodletting and other things we used to think made perfect sense.
Copyright 2008 Arrol Gellner
August 5, 2009
Books of The Times
When David Fought Goliath in Washington Square Park
By DWIGHT GARNER
WRESTLING WITH MOSES
How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City
By Anthony Flint
Illustrated. 231 pages. Random House. $27.
Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs are the subject and the author of two of the most indelible nonfiction books of the 20th century: Robert Caro’s biography of Moses, “The Power Broker” (1974) and Jacobs’s own “Death and Life of Great American Cities” (1961). If you want to know about these towering oppositional figures, those are the bedrock texts, and neither feels remotely like homework: they’re as alive today as when they were written.
It’s not immediately clear, in other words, why anyone needs a book like Anthony Flint’s well-carpentered but breezy “Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City.”
Yet Mr. Flint, a former reporter for The Boston Globe, makes an interesting case for his book’s relevance. He points out the curious fact that Jacobs is not mentioned once in “The Power Broker.” Mr. Caro had devoted an entire chapter to her in his original manuscript, but for space reasons it was cut from the 1,246-page published version.
What’s more, Jacobs fended off biographers. Despite Alice S. Alexiou’s biography, published by Rutgers University Press in 2006, the intricacies of her life and her battles with Moses are not well known.
Moses and Jacobs clashed during the 1950s and ’60s over three of the huge public works projects Moses tried to force on Manhattan. It is hard even to list them now without cringing — or nearly weeping with gratitude that they never came to pass.
There was his plan to build a four-lane highway through the middle of Washington Square Park. Another project would have razed 14 blocks in the heart of Greenwich Village under the guise of urban renewal. There was also a plan to plunge a 10-lane elevated superhighway, to be called the Lower Manhattan Expressway, through SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
Each of these projects is, from today’s vantage point, clearly insane; each would have had cataclysmic effects on the quality of life in Manhattan. But their flaws were less obvious to many at the time. It took an accidental activist, Jacobs, and her ability to marshal popular support and political will, to stop them. The battles over all three projects form the spine of “Wrestling With Moses.”
Robert Moses (1888-1981) and Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) were almost perfect antagonists. He grew up wealthy on East 46th Street in Manhattan, attended Yale and Oxford and, after becoming a close aid to Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York in the 1920s, held a series of appointed positions that allowed him to become, for more than four decades, the driving and nearly omnipotent force behind the rapidly changing physical environment of New York.
He was a workaholic, and ruthless — a man driven to get things done. And get things done he did: Moses built Lincoln Center, Shea Stadium, Jones Beach, the United Nations, the Central Park Zoo and the Niagara and St. Lawrence power projects. He built the Long Island and Cross Bronx Expressways, the West Side Highway and the Triborough and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges.
Mr. Flint writes: “He was responsible for 13 bridges, 2 tunnels, 637 miles of highways, 658 playgrounds, 10 giant public swimming pools, 17 state parks and dozens of new or renovated city parks.” He was not used to people standing in his way.
Jane Jacobs (née Jane Butzner), on the other hand, was born in Scranton, Pa., the daughter of a family physician and a schoolteacher. When she moved to New York City in 1934 at 18, she had only a high school diploma and a degree from a secretarial and stenography school.
She worked at secretarial and low-paying journalism jobs until she began to get assignments from Vogue and later Architectural Forum, where she became an editor. In 1944 she married the architect Robert Hyde Jacobs, and the couple refurbished and moved into a three-story building on Hudson Street in the West Village.
In her journalism Jacobs became an ardent critic of urban renewal, the tearing down of old neighborhoods to make way for blocklike towers and other “improvements.” Her big breakthrough came in 1958, when she got an assignment from William H. Whyte, an editor at Fortune (and the author of “The Organization Man”), to put her ideas into an article called “Downtown Is for People.” It put her on the map, and led to the publication of “The Death and Life of American Cities” three years later.
Around the time she was writing “Downtown Is for People,” Jacobs became involved in the fight against the proposed highway through Washington Square Park — a park where her own children had often played.
She helped rally prominent citizens like Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Mead and the New Yorker architectural critic Lewis Mumford to the cause. Jacobs was a kind of “war-room impresario,” Mr. Flint writes, who urged a three-pronged attack: “grassroots organizing, designed to draw in more allies, more pressure on local politicians, and a stepped-up campaign to gain attention in the media.”
Mr. Flint makes Jacobs’s war rooms sound like nice places to be. People sat around the table during meetings, he writes, drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes. So many people came every night that Jacobs disconnected her doorbell and began to leave her door unlocked.
Mr. Flint neatly summarizes all three battles between Jacobs and her forces and Moses and his. He captures Mr. Moses’s pique at being stymied. “There is nobody against this,” he sputtered about the Washington Square Park plan. “Nobody, nobody, nobody but a bunch of, a bunch of mothers.”
Mr. Flint describes how “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” came to be written, and puts it in context amid the classics of dissent in the early 1960s, books that included “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan, “The Other America” by Michael Harrington and “Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader.
Jacobs became famous (she was photographed by Diane Arbus for Esquire), but she ultimately grew tired of the spotlight and of public battles; she wanted to spend more time writing books. She and her family moved in 1968 to Toronto, partly for the peace and quiet (though she was dragged into urban planning issues there) and partly so her sons would not be drafted to fight in Vietnam.
About her years on the barricades, she later told one interviewer: “I hate the government for making my life absurd.”