Weekly Links: brief commentary on local, state, and national stories from (roughly) the past week
Athens Bans E-Scooters
From The Red and Black. The Athens-Clarke County mayor and commission voted unanimously yesterday to ban e-scooters from the city. The ban will last for one year while officials work on a more permanent legal framework for the devices. As in many other places, Athens has experienced safety issues related to e-scooters being operated and discarded on sidewalks. Those who oppose the ban, including the local libertarian party, say the issue is more about personal responsibility: those operating e-scooters are to blame, not the e-scooters themselves.
Of course, drivers of automobiles also have a personal responsibility, but that hasn’t stopped us from mandating where cars can be driven, how fast they can go, when they need to stop, where they can be parked, etc. Society has largely accepted that in order to maximize our freedom of mobility, some restrictions are often required. Many cities ban cyclists from riding on sidewalks while more cities are initiating auto-free zones and converting congested streets into pedestrian-only avenues.
While banning e-scooters may seem like an extreme stance given that other cities have (often awkwardly) decided to regulate on the fly, the move by Athens isn’t that unusual given the larger pedestrian-friendly movement. There’s also a growing backlash against tech companies dumping products on the market while exhibiting a disregard for community health. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media clearly provide extensive benefits, but companies and governments have done a poor job of addressing the extensive harms that have resulted. The current model of attempting to regulate away harms while products are in the market doesn’t seem to be working all that well. Athens is turning the model on its head, opting for a ban/moratorium while it creates the rules.
If Only Atlanta Got That Train Station…
From The Atlanta Business Chronicle. The Virgin Group is teaming up with Brightline to bring passenger rail to Atlanta…maybe. In its initial public offering filing last week, Virgin Trains USA named the Atlanta-Charlotte corridor as a potential project for the passenger rail company. Brightline is already operating passenger rail service in the Miami region, but the company is teaming with Richard Branson’s Virgin to take the concept elsewhere.
The only problem is that Atlantans will have no place to board the train. For many years, the Gulch has been the talked about site for a passenger rail station given its the historical and current juncture of many rail lines. However, the Atlanta city council’s recently approved Gulch redevelopment deal is void of such a structure despite widespread demands from the community.
Japan Reduced Suicide on Trains By Installing Blue Lights
From CityLab. This is an older story from CityLab, but Tom Whitwell recently shared it on his “52 Things I Learned This Year” list on Medium. Like most things, Japan takes design, transportation, and psychology seriously. Japan’s rail system is so punctual that the West Japan Railway once issued a public apology after one of its trains left the station 25 seconds early.
Japan, though, also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. To address suicide attempts at train stations, the country would like to install physical barriers. But its expensive. Some stations therefore experimented with cheaper alternatives like light design. Blue mood lighting was installed in some stations under the theory that it would have a calming effect and discourage suicide attempts. Well, after a 10 year study, the stations that installed the lights saw an 84 percent decline in suicide attempts. Those stations that did not install the blue lights saw no decline.
People Might Finally Be Able to Rent Out Garages in Atlanta
From Twitter. A few weeks ago we highlighted Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane’s proposal to significantly curb minimum parking requirements throughout the city. Tim Keane recently shared on Twitter that the city will also be discussing accessory dwelling units during their December 13 meeting. Accessory dwelling units are secondary structures on a lot designed to operate as a separate living unit from the main house. Currently, such structures are only allowed in the R-5 district, but proposals to expand their use into the lower-density R-4 districts will be discussed.
This means owners could convert their garages or guest houses into rental units, which would allow for higher densities without changing the look or feel of the neighborhood.
Also at Zoning Rev Bd on 12-13 at 6 PM. Zoning amendments to make other housing options possible – including making 1000’s of small apartment units legal. Lots more to do but this is progress. For more go 👇 this is a city after all. https://t.co/Vs9pz3yggi#atlCityDesign pic.twitter.com/ieRUomQ5f6
— Tim Keane (@TimKeaneATL) November 26, 2018
Cover Photo: Downtown Athens, GA by Richard Chambers via Wikipedia