Commuting Downtown Interview with Glenn Kurtz
Downtown Atlanta is rapidly experiencing a shift in transportation trends. Commuters are turning to public transpiration and bicycles to travel instead of personal cars; the opening of the streetcar line and the planned MARTA expansion are fueling a push towards public transportation; and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the Atlanta BeltLine and Central Atlanta Progress are making the urban center more bike-friendly. This month, a protected bike lane opened on Peachtree Center Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Downtown.
Glenn Kurtz, executive vice president of Lanier Parking Solutions, a Peachtree Center tenant, got rid of his car six years ago and relies on a variety of transportation options to get around. A transportation industry veteran, Glenn is responsible for developing and marketing new services that integrate parking and Transportation Demand Management (TDM), such as the Atlanta Streetcar and Zipcar. We asked Glenn a few questions about his passion for cycling and the future of transportation in downtown Atlanta.
How long have you been working in downtown Atlanta?
Lanier has been at Peachtree Center for the past eight years.
Why do you ride your bike to work every day?
Truth be told, I do not ride my bike to work every day, but I also rarely drive alone. I got rid of my car approximately six years ago and use a combination of transportation options that include public transit, biking, carpooling, Uber/Lyft and walking. Getting rid of my car was one of the hardest things of ever did, but ultimately, was one of the most rewarding. Now my commute indirectly improves my health, my income and my outlook. I would not choose to own a car at this point.
How are you involved with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC)? How have they impacted biking in Downtown and Atlanta in general?
I have been on the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition Board for four years and been Chairman of the Board for the past two years. Historically, downtown Atlanta and the city as a whole has not been a very bike friendly place. Prior to 2000, Atlanta’s roads were rarely shared with cyclists. In fact, cycling was associated with those who couldn’t afford an automobile or wore spandex.
However, during the 2000’s, due to Atlanta’s increasing density, growing in-town population and focus on sustainability, cycling has seen a renaissance. Thanks to the work of the ABC and other advocacy organizations throughout downtown and the city of Atlanta, an increased awareness and infrastructure is having a positive impact.
ABC organizes numerous social events to get people engaged with cycling. A few events include Atlanta Streets Alive and the Mobile Social. In 2010, Atlanta started investing in bike infrastructure by building nearly 15 new miles of bike lanes, both dedicated and shared. This has included The Beltline, 10th Street Cycle Track and now the Peachtree Center Cycle Track. The future looks even brighter for biking in downtown and the rest of the city as ABC has worked with multiple stakeholders to broker a deal for the creation of a Chief Bicycle Officer for the City of Atlanta and a city wide bike share program. Both should be in place later this year or early 2016.
How do you think the new Peachtree Center Cycle Track will impact Downtown’s bikeability?
The Peachtree Center Cycle Track will provide a safe north-south cycling route through the heart of Downtown. This protected bike lane will connect to other bikeways planned in Downtown on Peachtree Street, John Portman Boulevard, Edgewood Avenue and Auburn Avenue, as well as the citywide network proposed in Cycle Atlanta. This is a game changer for downtown Atlanta and the city’s bikeability.
Additionally, I believe you will see bike rental businesses starting to pop up in downtown. The Peachtree Center Cycle Track and assorted connected bike lanes will become critical to the success of bike share, which is slated to start in 2015-16. I also believe that this type of infrastructure will accelerate the trend in bike commuting, which has tripled in the past decade. The mantra – “if you build it they will come” - has never been more apt then when you build bike infrastructure.
How have alternative transport options, including biking, transformed Downtown in recent years? How will they continue to do so in the future?
As I mentioned earlier, I got rid of my car six years ago. I could not have done this without the downtown transportation infrastructure. This includes roads, transit, the streetcar, Uber/Lyft, Zipcar, sidewalks and bike lanes. I use all of these options for my mobility on any given day. This is a huge advantage to other activity centers that only have one or two options.
Another critical piece of “infrastructure” that pulls all of these options together and makes them seamless is the smartphone. The smartphone allows me to choose the transportation option in real time that is quickest, least expensive and most convenient. Every transportation decision I make I weigh the cost, time and comfort it will take me to get to my destination. So, when you think you cannot get to work downtown or elsewhere in the city because of the limited reach of transit, I say connect transit to biking, the streetcar, Uber/Lyft, Zipcar and walking and there is no place you cannot go.