While increased traffic initiated by this development is of major concern, we opted to look at the effects of this development on all forms of transportation because when cars are given priority, all other transit options lose to some degree.
When they submit their TIA, it will be reviewed, along with other items, by ACC Transportation and Public Works. If roadways and intersections cannot continue to function at a minimum standard established by ACC policy due to the anticipated vehicular impact of the development, the development cannot be approved as submitted.
The developer would be required to fund roadway and intersection improvements to address these substandard conditions in order to proceed with the project.
It is not unheard of to hire an independent third party to conduct a peer review of the developer’s TIA.
While we can not have a fully informed discussion until Selig submits the required information, we can outline a few of the relevant concerns.
The proposed design of this particular development is problematic because it is a major auto-oriented, suburban-style development placed in an already congested, urbanized area.
Transportation and land use are inextricably linked: a suburban-style parking provision guarantees suburban-style traffic. With the economic repercussions of Athens’ new “non-attainment” status for failing to meet federal Clean Air standards looming over us, the impacts of additional congestion and its associated pollutants are magnified.
Oconee Street is the only street within a half-mile of downtown Athens with existing traffic volumes already exceeding the engineering standard for maximum capacity (or put in technical terms, a volume to capacity ratio exceeding 1.o).
This prompts several questions:
- Do we want to widen roads leading into downtown, whether to accommodate new development or existing traffic? Would this be physically possible to accommodate given existing connecting infrastructure? Existing parking requirements for downtown indicate that this is not a priority for our community – our parking regulations would only require two spaces for each residence, or 440 parking spaces. They have included 1150.
- How will roadway improvements intended to increase vehicular capacity impact the pedestrian experience downtown?
- Will three curb-cuts on Broad Street render it unusable for pedestrians?
How do people shop at Walmart? Is a big-box a walking/bicycling destination?
Although we all agree on the importance of a walkable downtown grocery store, a walkable grocery is not defined by the location of the grocery and its proximity to residents alone. If the design prioritizes the auto and does not offer a pedestrian friendly streetscape and ease of connectivity to neighborhoods and downtown, it will not be a walkable destination.
Easy parking generates car trips, not walking, bicycling, or bus patronage. With 1,100 parking spaces (a suburban- style development calculation that will represent approximately a 60% increase in downtown parking) this project could dramatically increase congestion. This amount is over 4 times the amount required by local regulations.
Transportation and land use are inextricably linked: a suburban-style parking provision guarantees suburban-style traffic.
The more auto-oriented the design of a project, the more car trips and fewer bicycling, walking, and transit trips we might expect it to generate.
Safety – Excessive curb-cuts for vehicular convenience, acceleration and deceleration lanes that allow for more efficient vehicular turns, and a huge supply of parking areas all contribute to greater potential conflict areas for bicyclists and pedestrians. (All transit users are bicyclists or pedestrians.)
Incentive – Easy and abundant parking is not only a disincentive to walk or bike, but it makes on-site navigation more difficult for the non-drivers.
Neighborhood Cut-Through Traffic in Chicopee-Dudley Neighborhood – Broad, Wilkerson, First, MLK, Arch, Herman, Mulberry, Poplar, Peter. The volume AND speed of cut through traffic is already a substantial safety concern. Without viable access from and to a functional Oconee Street, this issue will be compounded by the development.
The design appears to ignore the ACC Transportation Corridor Concept Map, which shows a future connector street extending along Hickory from Broad to Oconee and beyond.
This road was previously planned for and is required by the Corridor Concept map and implementing regulations. This public road connection from Hickory Street to Oconee Street is important because it can alleviate the anticipated increase in cut through traffic by adding distribution capacity to the grid network.
- Commit to limiting impacts on congestion, air quality, and cut-throughs in nearby neighborhoods by substantially reducing anchor size and parking allotment, thereby facilitating a more balanced mode-split of trips generated by the development.
- The project should become part of the urban fabric; it doesn’t have to look like everything else in Athens – but it should not function as an isolated, insulated “development” that can only be conveniently accessed by car.
- Building main entrances should front public roads for easy access by bicyclists and pedestrians.
- The extension of Hickory Street required by the ACC Transportation Corridor Concept Map should be a viable transit route and not merely a circuitous drive through a structured parking area out to the other side of the development. It should be a multi-modal public road, as planned on and as required by local code.
- Pedestrians and cyclists should easily be able to transition from the public right-of-way (or parking areas) through the site and into functional spaces.