Already, there are signs of change. A recent article inFolha de São Paulo points to a pair of local developers who are already working on mixed-use projects, with shops on the ground floor, although in São Paulo, this is still seen as a new idea. Or rather, a retro idea that appears poised to make a comeback.
Like many U.S. transit agencies, MARTA has long struggled to secure reliable funding. The agency doesn’t receive money from the state, instead relying on sales tax income from participating counties, making it vulnerable to big economic swings. After the Great Recession, MARTA reduced staff and service while increasing fares, and when an effort to expand the revenue base failed in a 2012 referendum, the agency found itself facing a $33 million deficit.
So MARTA got creative. Keith Parker, who took over the agency in late 2012, implemented a transformation initiative that involved, among other things, a new planning strategy emphasizing TOD. In spring of 2013, Parker announced that MARTA would have five station-area projects underway within two years; to date the agency has identified developers for three projects, targeted several stations for the final two projects, and expects groundbreaking on some of the buildings as early as next year.
Enabling the projects is MARTA’s recognition that certain stations have devoted too much space to parking—an insight that several transit agencies around the world now share. At King Memorial Station, an urban station that Rhein says doesn’t make sense to reach by car, the agency owned four acres of parking lots adjacent to the station that it didn’t even use. Instead, the space had been subleased to a nearby hospital.
I asked a woman who was out for a hike on the paths if she knew about the development plans for the nearby site. She said she hadn’t realized what was going on, and that she treasured the little green space that remained in the neighborhood she’s lived in all her life, including the grounds of Zoo Miami, which are also nearby.
“I’m really not a city person,” she said. Then she gestured north toward downtown Miami where, more than 20 miles of continuous low-rise sprawl away, the towers of Brickell Avenue rise. “I’m not about up there, I’m about down this way.”
“Down this way” once was a much wilder place. But Miami has marched relentlessly south, development after development after development. The result has been plenty of lush lawns and landscaped housing tracts, along with acres of parking lots and big-box strips. But the few fragments of natural green space are becoming farther and farther between, and invasive species are overwhelming the scattered pieces of natural forest that remain.
Roberts’s solutions aside, the fact that map lovers and transit fans are still so passionate about a 40-year old design that only saw a few years of use speaks to the lasting power of Vignelli’s approach. Joel Street, trying to figure out the “Vignelli conundrum" in the most recent issue of The American Reader thinks that, as bothersome as its abstraction is to so many, the average straphanger may be closer to accepting it than before. “As we interact with increasingly abstract technology, with its swipes and pinches, cuts and pastes,” writes Street, “the colorful, angular world of the Vignelli map will start to seem less strange, and new maps of every sort may mirror its aesthetic merits without stirring discomfort in newer generations.”
For just under $35, Changwoners receive an unlimited annual membership and access to over 240 stations across the city. Cycling has become so popular since the service launched that a costume-themed Changwon Bike Party is held each month. Nubija can also boast the title of being the world’s only bike-sharing service that is wholly owned and operated by the city it’s servicing. But if you’re still not beginning to feel a little insecure about your local bike-share, Nubija bike-sharing even has an official theme song. ‘Most wonderful bike capital Changwon City.’