By John Schaffner
Now that Peachtree Road streetscape is well underway, the Buckhead Community Improvement District and BATMA (Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association) are partnering on a Piedmont Area Transportation Study to plot the future of Piedmont Road from Roswell Road to I-85.
Denise Starling, executive director of BATMA , told members of the Buckhead Business Association this “hard visioning” process is “the first time BATMA and the CID have formally worked together” on a project.
Reporting on the new 10-12-month study at the BBA’s March 15 breakfast meeting, Starling told the group, “It is a little different from the typical transportation project. We flipped the process around to ensure that public engagement is a key part of the whole thing.”
She warned those at the BBA meeting not to expect to see any changes on the street for a couple of years.
The study is encompassing all of Piedmont Road from Roswell Road on the north end to I-85 on the south end. “That is enormous,” she said. “The character of the corridor along that distance is very different.”
To address that change in character, the project has been divided into five sections. The first segment is from Roswell Road down to Peachtree. The second goes from Peachtree to Pharr Road. That is followed by Pharr to Sidney Marcus Boulevard, Sidney Marcus to Lindbergh and Lindbergh to I-85.
“Each of those segments really have a different character and different problems,” she reiterated.
“We are centering our process around each of those segments from technical analysis as well as public engagement,” she explained. “So as we move further into the process you will see us focus further on those segments and engage the community around these segments.”
Starling emphasized that this is not a traffic study but is a regional impact study, “looking at every thing from land use to alternative forms of transportation. It is really looking at more comprehensive things.”
Starling said, “We are not going to get too deep into the land use part of it at this point, but we will come up with some recommendations that will address land use. The capital expenditures could include road widening, traffic signal retiming or a variety of things like that.”
She said the recommendations will identify big ticket, small ticket, long-term and short-term projects.
She emphasized that all of the community engagement is being put on the front end. “You drive the process. You to tell the consultants what you want out of the process.”
She said the community will be targeted for input on each segment of the corridor at least twice during the process—once upfront and a second time as they get to the recommendations phase of the project. They also plan to have updates on their website and through the BBA newsletter to ensure they have information on the project getting out to the public.
They have already begun the process of polling the community with a survey similar to the one they had on tables at the BBA meeting for those attending to fill out.
This is a sample of the questions on the polling sheet:
What should Piedmont be?
What are Piedmont’s biggest problems?
How do you use Piedmont most? What time of day do you use Piedmont most often?
Where are the worst problems?
Do you ever leave your car behind and use these forms of alternative transportation?
If you don’t take the train or bus, why not?
Some of the results to date Starling relayed to the group included:
What is Piedmont—a workhorse or grand boulevard? She said, the results are split right down the middle.
What are the biggest problems? “Too congested is coming in first, but flat out ugly is right up there,” she announced with surprise. She also said they are looking at what the employers can do and are willing to do—in terms of flex hours, etc.—to help with the congestion problem.
She said she was surprised with the responses to how people use Piedmont. She thought it would be more work related. She said 58 percent are just using it to move around the community.
Finally, Starling also offered a quick update on the Buc, the shuttle bus around key Buckhead spots, saying it is doing well and averaging 2,000 riders a day.