Why don’t Superheroes live in Atlanta? A Call for Density. And MARTA funding.
Spider-man 2, probably the greatest superhero movie of all time, was on TV the other day (we have a list here if you care to comment). As I watched the wall crawler swing around Manhattan, I couldn’t help but think how useless his powers would be in Atlanta. Not all of them, just his chosen mode of transportation – web swinging. Why? Think about it this way: How does Spider-Man get to Buckhead from Downtown if that’s where he’s needed?
Let’s say, Spider-Man is swinging around downtown on a recent visit to Atlanta. He’s enjoying the warm weather and blue sky as he passes 191 Peachtree St. His Spidey-sense starts tingling, letting him know he’s needed in Buckhead. He starts to make his way north, but he quickly comes to ‘The Connector’ and realizes there’s no way to swing across this barren suburban desert. He hops on a car on Peachtree and surfs that till he hits a red light and sees the traffic for miles. Fearing time is not on his side, he makes his way towards the Peachtree Summit building by slinging his way from light pole to light pole. Then something catches his eye.
So he hops on MARTA which will take him directly to Buckhead. After standing on a crowded car for a couple of stops, the cabin clears and he’s able to grab a seat and read the current edition of the paper (he doesn’t have pockets or a utility belt to carry his iPhone). All in all it was a pretty nice ride to the north side of the city. In fact, there wasn’t one crime to fight. Mainly because MARTA empties out after the Midtown stops as evidenced below.
But here’s the point: Spider-Man couldn’t live in Atlanta because the city is too spread out. In order to travel efficiently, Spider-Man needs density. He needs to be able to get from one place to another without losing too much time. As Atlanta has sprawled all over Georgia, it became a harder place to secure, to fight crime, to fight fires, to educate its citizens and travel around. If you want to complete the analogy, replace Spider-Man with the Atlanta Police Department or Fire Department.
What do we do? We need to increase the density of Atlanta by investing our resources in town – downtown through midtown. Encourage projects to happen between Downtown and Midtown (the “So-No” nothing’s happening district). We need to begin reusing the abandoned school buildings from the middle of the city out for boutique office space, residential apartments, or, best of all, schools! And build the streetcar! (More on that later.) Atlanta is a skeleton of a great city. The bones are here, we just need to add some muscle.
And while we’re at it, fund MARTA. It’s vital to the success of a dense Atlanta.
How are we going to recruit superheros to live here if we make getting to their job too difficult?