Each morning in Midtown, starting before the crack of dawn, you’ll see commuters trickle out of apartments, houses, MARTA stations and buses, moving on foot throughout the district. They’ll cross at crosswalks, perhaps stopping to grab a coffee, backpacks on their backs, making the walk to work in Midtown.
Kaitlin Vaughn is one such walking commuter. She walks about a half mile to and from her office at TSW Design. She does the walk each morning and evening, as well as during her lunch break to take care of her dog.
“I didn’t want to live somewhere where I would have to drive to work,” said Vaughn. “I love the vibe of being in a truly walkable urban center--living that life is nice,” she said.
Walking to work
TSW is one of many Midtown employers that supports walking and other clean commute options. For instance, employees at TSW can choose between a MARTA card or untaxed dollars that can be used for parking—or as a bonus for clean commuters who walk or cycle into the office. Twenty percent of TSW employees who filled out Midtown Alliance’s 2019 Community Survey primarily walk to work.
Another Midtown employer, Kimley-Horn, has a high rate of employees who walk to work. Out of the employees who filled out the Community Survey, 32% regularly walk to work.
“Many of our employees are Midtown residents and have an enjoyable walk experience. The combination of dense residential development and wide, tree-lined, shaded sidewalks make it easy to forgo a parking pass,” said Cole Smith, a Planning Analyst at Kimley-Horn. Kimley-Horn has options for commuters to choose either a parking pass or a free MARTA pass, and is located at the Biltmore, just a short walk from Midtown Station.
Georgia Tech reported 13% of its employees walk to work, in its Parking and Transportation Services Annual Commute Survey in 2018.
“More and more people seeking sustainable, active modes of travel are walking to work due to the increase in housing being constructed in the Midtown area,” said Sherry Davidson, senior director of Parking and Transportation at Georgia Tech. “Georgia Tech supports alternative modes of transportation such as biking, walking, and transit by offering complementary programs such as bike rental and free campus transit (including to/from MARTA) as well as showers and bike rooms in new buildings.”
It’s clear from the people who live, work and visit Midtown that walking is crucial to their experiences of the district. In the 2019 Midtown Community Survey, respondents ranked walking as a transportation mode that should be a priority in investing in infrastructure—in fact, 96% of respondents marked walking as a high or very high priority in future projects.
The ease of walking in Midtown is a factor that many people who live work and/or play in Midtown count as positive. Ninety-four percent of Midtown Community Survey respondents agree that “as Midtown’s population continues to grow, the district is no longer just a place to drive through quickly.” Midtown is ranked by Walk Score as "very walkable" and was given a rating of 88.
Midtown’s walkability was a goal that had to be carefully planned and developed over the past few decades. Blueprint Midtown, the document that guides the work of Midtown Alliance and informs public and private investment in the district includes the transportation initiative: “Enhance the pedestrian realm with improved sidewalks, including mid-block crosswalks and signals; the addition of trees, sculpture, fountains, and street and pedestrian lighting; and way-finding directional signage.
And since 2005, Midtown Alliance has implemented 15 new miles of streetscape improvements, including enhanced sidewalk conditions for all pedestrians’ safety and ease of use.
And, in heat of the summer, Midtown walkers enjoy the cooling shade of the more than 2,500 trees lining sidewalks in the district.
The future of walking in Midtown
However, there is still work to be done. Midtown Alliance’s 2017 Transportation Plan found that parts of Midtown have fast traffic, long stretches between crosswalks, barren, narrow, or broken sidewalks and too-large block size. Currently, Midtown Alliance is working on projects to improve sidewalk and other pedestrian conditions throughout the district in accordance with the needs outlined in the 2016 plan. You can always check the status of capital improvement projects at Midtown Alliance’s website.
“Wide, high-quality sidewalks and safe crossing treatments at more and more intersections have made walking safer and inviting,” said Sally Flocks, Executive Director of PEDS, a pedestrian advocacy organization in Atlanta. Flocks also said that there is work to be done moving onward in terms of sidewalk accessibility in construction zones and safety concerns around e-scooters.
There’s an easy way to enjoy all that Midtown has to offer to those on foot. The IN*MidtownATL app includes offers at local restaurants and shops, historical information throughout the district and even information about construction projects you pass by on your way.
It's your turn to hit the sidewalks
The Midtown Walk Challenge, taking place from September 9-13, is the perfect chance to get out and about throughout the district. Register now to get some fresh air and win awesome great Midtown prizes.