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Thread: Street layout in Atlanta

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    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Street layout in Atlanta

    I was looking at Atlanta a little more closely today and it dawned on me their street system has almost no grid system on any level outside of downtown/midtown. If you take a look at this map you'll see what I mean. Does anyone have any insight into this?
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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The book Measuring America has a chapter that explains differences between Northern and Southern states in how land was surveyed and allocated after the Revolution. From two reviews:

    In the South, the legislatures were dominated by landowners who relied upon local surveyors who did not use chains and theodolites, but instead relied on marked trees and memory. Such a system caused violent struggles, but it also meant that doubts over actual ownership inhibited speculation and transfer of land. In the North, farmers would settle, improve the land, sell, and move to another measured plat; in the south, owners kept the property for generations, and Linklater refers to the effect on southern literature of such patterns of survey and ownership as being good material for future scholarly research. The squares laid out in the 19th century did not help efficient farming, but they helped the financier, who could easily track the value of the squares; settlement was based on speculation. The squares impressed themselves on urban consciousness, too.
    Surveying in squares was a novel concept. It created land masses that were easily identified and was preferable to the alternative metes and bounds system. Under metes and bounds plots of land were marked out based on natural boundaries like streams or ridge lines and landmarks. This system worked well for the first lands marked off, but the last lands marked often had irregular, unusual shapes. These were difficult to survey. The landmarks could be poorly identified and sometimes uncertain. That meant lawsuits over land ownership were more numerous. The system was preferred where aristocracy prevailed and aristocrats had the resources to win the lawsuits. Others were reluctant to buy or sell land because title and boundaries were uncertain. The author believes this system hindered economic development in the South.
    The more random or "traditional" pattern of how land was divided in Southern states influenced where roads would be placed. Upstate New York was surveyed before the PLSS, but land ownership patterns are more regular thanks to long rangelines, military tracts, speculation by groups with vast land holdings, and so on.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    I was looking at Atlanta a little more closely today and it dawned on me their street system has almost no grid system on any level outside of downtown/midtown. If you take a look at this map you'll see what I mean. Does anyone have any insight into this?
    Geez, where do I start? The ATL in 1874, for what it's worth: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...wards-1874.jpg

    1. The core of downtown - three landowners laying out their own grids around the railroads and the huge central railroad gulch (the intersection of the N-S and E-W lines)
    2. General Sherman (burn baby burn)
    3. Growth patterns - the map linked above was Atlanta - growth outwards from there was generally absorbing other existing communities with their own street patterns and then infilling along the connecting roads.
    4. Geography - hills and meandering creeks don't always work well with strict grid patterns. The landmark Peachtree Road, for example, follows an old Indian trail along a ridge line that serves as a mini-Continental Divide (waterways to the east drain into the Atlantic, and those to the west drain into the Gulf of Mexico).
    5. Interstate Highway development destroyed a good chunk of traditional grid pattern.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I think it should also be emphasized that Atlanta was created specifically to be rail city. I want to say this kind of makes the city unique in that most cities had to adapt to rail while Atlanta was specifically built around it. This of course made it a strategic target in the Civil War...

    I think part of what makes Atlanta a mess today is how the interstates parallel the rail corridors. Granted, they don't follow the corridors exactly but they still all meet in the same place - Downtown Atlanta. Having 3 interstates converge in the CBD is just insane.

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    Cyburbian
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    That is the southeast US for you ( none Florida) and in states like Alabama ,Georgia , Mississippi , North Carolina , South Carolina and Tennessee are like this the city,suburb, towns and country roads are one big mess. Very hard to get around on foot or in car it big mess and very easy to get lost even with map and you good at map.

    Also older cities in southwest part of the US before the 50's had short block that was well short from one road to next , people walked back than so the blocks where short . When cities became car centric and people drove the word block had no meaning any more has all traffic feed from subdivition to the main road call it what ever the road .

    The word supper block was block from one major throgh road ( arteries) to the next ( arteries) where the suburbs make use of arteries to get any where in the city to stop through traffic in the subdivition .To get pizza , local store or mall you take arteries in the southwest they are mostly 1.6 KM the arteries and are grid but the subdivition build in the 50's are not.

    What a lot of cities did in south west that was part of the surveyed grid was build in older areas build roads that where 1.6 KM a 0.9 mile.These sections are further divided into quarter sections and so forth making very short blocks.


    sorry but does NOT look like the southeast was not part of the surveyed grid and so you not going find streets on grid.It has nothing to do with land not being flat but that they did not take the surveyed grid and that is why the streets are mess.

    If you looking for city move to move to southwest there you find nice grid system.

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    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nec209 View post
    That is the southeast US for you ( none Florida) and in states like Alabama ,Georgia , Mississippi , North Carolina , South Carolina and Tennessee are like this the city,suburb, towns and country roads are one big mess. Very hard to get around on foot or in car it big mess and very easy to get lost even with map and you good at map.

    Also older cities in southwest part of the US before the 50's had short block that was well short from one road to next , people walked back than so the blocks where short . When cities became car centric and people drove the word block had no meaning any more has all traffic feed from subdivition to the main road call it what ever the road .

    The word supper block was block from one major throgh road ( arteries) to the next ( arteries) where the suburbs make use of arteries to get any where in the city to stop through traffic in the subdivition .To get pizza , local store or mall you take arteries in the southwest they are mostly 1.6 KM the arteries and are grid but the subdivition build in the 50's are not.

    What a lot of cities did in south west that was part of the surveyed grid was build in older areas build roads that where 1.6 KM a 0.9 mile.These sections are further divided into quarter sections and so forth making very short blocks.


    sorry but does NOT look like the southeast was not part of the surveyed grid and so you not going find streets on grid.It has nothing to do with land not being flat but that they did not take the surveyed grid and that is why the streets are mess.

    If you looking for city move to move to southwest there you find nice grid system.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    It may have something to do with that Atlanta was a fairly small city well into the 20th century. A compact downtown core surrounded by residential neighborhoods that quickly petered out into rural areas. By the time Atlanta really started to grow, after WWII, the trend was firmly against grids.

    The cities in the eastern half of the US that feature a prominent grid system were cities that grew rapidly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This was partly due to fashion but also because grids allow for quick development.There are cities like Baltimore, DC and Philadelphia were the grid relentlessly marched onwards regardless of the topography. New York destroyed most of its topography to satisfy the grid requirements. The common form of housing in those cities were rowhouses, which were naturally suited to a grid system. Atlanta and most southern cities were never rowhouse towns and areas of single family housing don't demand grids. A perfect example of how a common building typology and street layouts nurtured each other.

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