It’s tough to get there from here

Twin Lakes development/City of Peachtree Corners
You can’t get there from here. That’s what folks were saying to me when I first moved to my stomping grounds of many decades in Peachtree Corners. I always disagreed with that description about getting to Peachtree Corners. Getting to ‘PTC’ (no, not Peachtree City, a similar-sounding city to our south had already been using those initials) is not impossible. Rather, you can get there from here, you’ll just have to pack a lunch because you’ll be sitting on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard or Holcomb Bridge Road while traveling to this young city 20-plus miles north of Atlanta.

OK, you won’t have to pack a lunch every time while getting to Peachtree Corners. It’s easy to zoom to the area during the off-peak hours – say 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday. You would be amazed at how Peachtree Industrial Boulevard is like Germany’s Autobahn at those hours. Yes, be careful because both the cities of Doraville and Dunwoody set up speed traps when one least expects them.

Let’s get back to Peachtree Corners. There have been some items in the news that have been piquing the interest of those who pay attention to the Atlanta metro area’s rapid growth. Aside from the announcement of a unique bridge, the opening of high-end bistros and eateries like Pub Ten and the upcoming Noble Fin, the city plans a multi-use development geared towards those in the millennial generation. The 39-acre Twin Lakes development will provide access to a lake and include a 295-unit housing complex and pedestrian trails. Additionally, there will be hiking and biking opportunities along with a pool and paddle boats. Two retail stores will also be a part of the development.

The Twin Lakes idea is an excellent plan to attract future generations to this already-growing city. Still, it’s tough to get there from here. Peachtree Corners is nothing like the Perimeter Mall area where that same idea of housing, retail and recreation are all within walking distance of a MARTA station. The MARTA station links that ‘live-work-play’ area to the rest of metro Atlanta. Indeed, a typical ‘millennial’ has plenty to do in that part of Dunwoody, but he or she can easily get on a train to where there is recreation and nightlife in Atlanta’s Buckhead Community and Midtown. Let’s remember that ‘millennials’ do not like driving automobiles much. While there will be plenty to do at Twin Lakes, a ‘millennial’ will still wish to get to Buckhead or Midtown at some point. This is ‘can’t get there from here’ in reverse. A typical ‘millennial’ doesn’t wish to sit in traffic on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard get to Buckhead on a Friday night. And no, not every Friday night is wrought with bad traffic, but even when one can speed down the ‘Doraville/Dunwoody Autobahn,’ it’s a lot of driving that a ‘millennial’ doesn’t wish to do on a ‘night on the town.’

Twin Lakes is a great idea, but the fact is it will be a disconnected development. Both commissioners and citizens alike never wished to link Gwinnett to the rest of the metro area through public transportation. When it came up for votes, the majority of Gwinnett residents voted down the idea of MARTA coming to the county, citing ‘exorbitant taxes,’ crime (okay, that’s for another blog post) and what they viewed as an ‘incompetent agency’ running the transportation system. Those who voted it down claimed that supporters of public transportation in Gwinnett had their ‘heads in the sand.’ Those people love using that term as a form of being condescending to those who hold different opinions that conflict with their own narrow world view.

History proves that they were all wrong. One need not look further than the Gwinnett CID area of Pleasant Hill Road. Travel up the congested corridor and anyone can see that there’s a diverse set of citizens who are a part of a great deal of foot traffic. These folks are obviously not a part of this nation’s robust car culture and actually use the sidewalks. I was once told by a county commissioner that they would not use the sidewalks. They along with their neighbors could have easily benefited from MARTA rail if it came up to their area. Imagine if MARTA was extended to that corridor in the early 1990s and kept expanding behind that area, maybe even to Athens. For years the Gwinnett CID has struggled to deal with the wrongheaded decision to not bring MARTA or some type of public transportation to the area. Sure, the Diverging Diamond put a ‘Band-Aid’ on the horrific Pleasant Hill Road traffic situation, but the area needs a major re-working including access to public transportation. Hmm, whose heads are ‘in the sand’ now? I know, I’m wasting space pointing out the obvious because those people who turned down MARTA will find a way to weasel out of the argument and the fact is that they will still be wrong.

Understandably, saying that a county needs to improve public transportation is easier said than done. Still, so much more could have been done over the past quarter century. Gwinnett sat on its hands while continuing its out-of-control growth by rubber-stamping more housing and retail strip centers. Don’t get me wrong because growth is good, but what has happened in Gwinnett and other metro Atlanta area counties is ‘Dumb Growth’ and it never needed to happen. Developing ‘live-work-play’ communities is a good idea, but the fact is that it doesn’t fully work unless there is access to public transportation.  


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