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Proposal for Downtown parking deck tests Atlanta’s commitment to transit, reducing car trips

Today, the City of Atlanta Design Review Committee is going to be pondering this mess: a proposal for a huge new parking deck to be built for Emory Hospital, two blocks north of the Civic Center MARTA Station.

The deck would have 3,034 spaces. Per the application, they’re for employees only — which means that even during off-peak times, the unused capacity won’t be shared with any other group. It’ll just sit unused.

parking deck
Rendering of the proposed new parking garage for Emory Hospital

We have a parking study from CAP that says we already have a glut of parking Downtown. And yes, though it’s on the northernmost edge, this is technically in Downtown. That puts it in the SPI-1 zoning area, which has no parking requirement. You can build anything here without parking, and that’s a good thing because of the walkable layout of streets and the great transit access.

The deck proposal includes the bare minimum requirement (20 feet deep) of “active use” space along part of West Peachtree and Linden Streets. But that’s not really viable for retail. Are there are any 20′-deep spaces that are actually active? It seems unlikely.

A giant parking deck doesn’t make sense near transit & a freeway cap

This will be the third such mega-garage within the three-block Civic Center MARTA walkshed. Where do all these people park currently? The image below, taken from a tweet, shows some of the parking near where this new deck is going.

Where the deck will sit
The number of parking decks that would end up next to Civic Center MARTA and the proposed Stitch cap over the freeway would be pretty ridiculous if this gets built.

Note: the far right of the above image is where the Stitch proposal for an interstate cap will be, beside the MARTA station. How useful is it to invest in an interstate cap when we’re basically bringing the deadness of car infrastructure up to the street level as well, and not just in the gulch of freeway that’s being capped?

How dedicated to spurring transit use and reducing car trips are we as a city if we basically deaden the area around a train station with multiple parking decks, rather than filling it with people places? And how dedicated to climate goals is Atlanta if it allows Emory to spur this many new car trips into the city daily, in a place with good transit access?

The updated Downtown Master Plan approved by City Council last year calls for a zero net increase in trips into the area. This garage doesn’t fit in with that plan, and it doesn’t fit in with good urbanism for the city center of Atlanta.

EDIT: Some people have pointed out that this garage is likely related to Emory’s new Cancer Institute. But when it comes to accommodating access to the growth of all kinds of buildings in Downtown/Midtown, we can do better than this model: a giant parking deck with a laughably small amount of commercial space at the bottom. We have to find ways to grow our developments in the city center without also growing the status quo level of parking ratios and car trips, and so that we capture the truly “urban” value of space near transit. SaveSave