Monday, June 21, 2010

Atlanta could learn from Portland's commuting communities

Posted By on Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 2:34 PM

Where else can Atlanta look for solutions for its commuting nightmares?

Good magazine recently highlighted an interview with Portland, Oregon, mayor Sam Adams on his city’s approach toward neighborhoods and community building. A large part of Portland’s urban design includes a deceptively simple guideline: make it so that everyone can reach everything they need within 20 minutes of where they live.

This doesn’t extend to driving, and I can say as a recent transplant from Athens (where people bike from work to food to party) that the contrast between his city and ours is stark, but insightful:

“Two-thirds of all trips in Portland and in most American cities are not about getting to and from work. So if I can offer quality, affordable goods and services, eliminate food deserts, have neighborhoods with schools and parks and amenities — if I can create these 20-minute complete neighborhoods all over Portland — it strengthens our local economy. We drive 20 percent less than cities of comparable size, and because we don't manufacture cars, produce oil, or have car insurance companies, every dollar that we don't spend elsewhere, will stay in Portland's economy. There's about $850 million that stays in Portlanders' pockets because we drive less.”

Is it too late for Atlanta to be a 20-minute neighborhood town? Does the Beltline have the potential to allow people access to the needs they normally drive across town to meet? Or, as metro Atlanta changes, do you think places like Lawrenceville — which, unlike, say, Decatur, have no real transit system — will eventually morph into self-contained 20-minute suburbs?

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