Mar 14, 2022 - News

Atlanta's Peachtree Street traffic program to shut down

A photograph of a street with two far lanes blocked off with cones and wheel stops and planters to create a buffer between pedestrians and cars.
Crews started work on the shared space program in 2021. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

Cyclists, pedestrian and wheelchair users are in a standoff against City Hall over plans to revert three blocks of Peachtree Street that were transformed during the pandemic into a calmer, safer street back to four lanes of automobile traffic.

Why it matters: Despite desires to become a more walkable and bikeable city, Atlanta remains stuck in a war of cars versus people and speed versus safety.

Catch up quick: On March 10, Mayor Andre Dickens announced the city was closing out the Peachtree Shared Space program and erasing all traces of the initiative.

  • Launched in June 2021 by then city planning commissioner Tim Keane, the initiative was pitched as a multi-phase pilot program to use Atlanta's signature street as a lab for slowing traffic, giving pedestrians more room to walk and adding color and signs to the road.
  • In the program's first 90 days, city data says, the area saw a 27% increase in pedestrians, an 11% reduction in motor vehicles, and no more than 11.1 seconds of additional travel time.

What they're saying: The Shared Space program should expand, advocates say. Its demolition sends the wrong message for a city that wants safer streets and more options for biking and walking (and is trying to hire a new planning commissioner), they add.

In an interview with Axios, Dickens said the program had operated nearly three times longer than originally planned and that data would be put to use as the city aims to expand its safer streets program, some of which could take place elsewhere on Peachtree.

  • "This should not be seen as something that we're stopping because it failed or stopping because there was pressure or stopping for any reason," Dickens said. "It's a pilot. And now you spend time to do the assessment."

Pushback: The project had strong support from neighborhoods, the company that operates AmericasMart and major hotels fronting Peachtree, according to the city and the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association. However, like the earlier proposed conversion of an adjacent one-way street used to funnel cars through downtown, the Shared Space program met opposition from a small but influential group of high-rise owners and businesses.

  • One of those owners, Richard Bowers, did not respond to an email from Axios seeking comment.

Dickens tells Axios he was not presented with state legislation that would restrict the city's ability to experiment with road diets to make safer streets. But the possibility of such a measure, he says, factored in to the decisions related to ending the Shared Space program.

What's next: Supporters are calling for Dickens to declare a 30-day timeout, followed by the buildout of the next phases and they want answers about what happens to remaining funding dedicated to the program.

  • Save Share Peachtree, a coalition opposing the demolition, is holding a peaceful protest at 4pm Monday at the corner of Andrew Young International Boulevard NW and Peachtree Street NE.
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