Built Environment Analysis Revision

History and the Built Environment’s Role in Creating an Income Inequality Epidemic in Atlanta, Georgia

Inequality In America’s Cities 2012
Source: Berube, Alan, “All Cities Are Not Created Unequal.” Brookings. Brookings Institution, 20 Feb. 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/research/all-cities-are-not-created-unequal/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Atlanta has the highest 95/20 ratio of income inequality out of the fifty largest cities in America. The 95/20 ratio is used to represent the top five percent of earnings made by city residents, divided by the bottom 20 percent of earnings made by city residents (Berube). The prominence of income inequality in the city of Atlanta can be detected in the built environment and its rhetoric, the things the man-made landscape conveys to its inhabitants. The rhetoric of the built environment of Atlanta shows that racial discrimination, white flight, car dominated transportation networks, and segregation by race and class are responsible for Atlanta’s high level of income inequality, and these same factors that brought on severe income inequality in Atlanta are perpetuating the problem today.

Historical Impacts on Income Inequality and the Built Environment

In order to understand and evaluate the built environment’s current impact on income inequality in Atlanta, we must first look at the history of the city. In the 1960s, many white residents of Atlanta responded to racial integration by fleeing the city and creating suburbs to keep racial segregation intact, this phenomenon is commonly referred to as white flight (Paget-Seekins). Racism was the foundation of these suburbs in their birth, therefore racial discrimination continued to be a significant factor shaping the built environment as they grew. The suburban communities in Cobb County declined the offer to be connected to the city by the MARTA rail line because they did not want to allow poor African Americans access to their white-only communities (Paget-Seekins). Today, Atlanta’s suburbs still do not have public transportation connecting to the city. As a result of suburban sprawl and a lack of public transportation linking the suburbs to the city, Atlanta became characterized by its congested highways and car-dominated transpiration network. Recent efforts to reduce traffic congestion during rush hour, when people are commuting to and from work, have been focused on changing the highways, but suburban counties have still rejected extending public transportation lines to help solve the problem. The free HOV lane on I-85, connecting downtown Atlanta to many suburbs, was recently repurposed as a paid HOT lane or high-occupancy toll lane. They are commonly referred to as “Lexus lanes,” insinuating that only Lexus owners could afford to pay to use them (Khoeini and Guensler). The built environment of Atlanta taking shape to accommodate suburban residents, because of white flight and suburban sprawl, in the form of car dominated transportation networks continues on today. Atlanta continues to expand and improve transportation networks for cars, while making less improvements to its mass public transit network. Consistent, safe, and reliable public transportation routes are currently only present in the center of the city and the immediately surrounding areas. If you live more than a few miles outside of the center of Atlanta, it is likely that you would need a car to access certain necessities. The included images of maps, depicting the official MARTA public transit rail line and the Metro Atlanta area as a whole, are present to illustrate that only a small portion of people in the Atlanta area have access to public transportation. The small loop surrounding the city of Atlanta, in the map of the full Metro Atlanta area, is the same area represented in the MARTA rail line map.

Map of the Metro Atlanta Area
Source: https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/resources/most-popular/map-of-metro-atlanta
Map of the MARTA Station Rail Line
Source: https://martaguide.com/rail-station-map/

The Role of Transportation in Perpetuating Income Inequality

While there are some public transportation options for people living further away from the downtown area, the current accommodations are insufficient for people who do not own cars. Laurel Paget-Seekins brings up the inadequacy of transportation routes in Metro Atlanta in her article, “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice.” She recounts the 2011 conviction of  Metro Atlanta resident Raquel Nelson, after her four-year-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver, in her scholarly research article. Paget-Seekins reveals that Nelson, an African American single mother with three young children and no car, was attempting to cross a busy Cobb County highway with her children to reach the first of two busses that took them to and from the grocery store, when the drunk driver struck them. Before being granted a retrial, Nelson was sentenced to serve three years in prison. Once caught, the driver only received six-months jail time, although he confessed to being under the influence and had been convicted twice in the past for hit-and-runs. Raquel Nelson’s tragic story paints a picture of problems that exist in the Atlanta, such as inadequate public transportation available to the poor in suburban areas, underfunding of transit, scarce transportation infrastructure in car dominated areas, and a continuation of the long history of race and class divisions. The built environment of suburban neighborhoods has been shaped around car owning middle to upper class white residents and serves as a barrier excluding many low-income families from living in these areas. According to Sarah Schindler, intentional and unintentional barriers preventing poor and African American people from accessing certain areas of the community are prevelant in United States cities. She describes how planners can limit access for these groups of people in certain areas of the city through the built environment, such as making bridges too low for public transit busses to pass underneath or placing bus stops across from a destination but separated by a busy highway.

Gentrification as a Means to Meet Growing Demand and a Cause of Growing Levels of Income Inequality

Historically, low-income families reside in the inner-city close to public transportation because it is expensive to own a car, while middle and upper class families reside in the suburbs and commute into the city for work. However, this trend is shifting. Middle and upper class white families are increasingly moving into the city (Carlson). According to the documentary The Human Scale, this is occurring in part because it takes so much more time out of someone’s day to commute from the suburbs each day for work, and people come home from work when it is already dark and feel drained. Upper and middle class white families desiring to move into the city of Atlanta have created more demand for high quality housing in upscale neighborhoods. Therefore, neighborhoods in Atlanta that have housed mostly low-income people are being gentrified, renovated to cater towards the middle-class, to meet the growing demand. When neighborhoods are gentrified, the cost of rent increases and drives out low-income residents. The Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta could be seen as a microcosm of the city of Atlanta, as when you visit you see people from all walks of life existing in the same space and participating in all different kinds of activities. A 1998 Atlanta Journal and Constitution article discusses the plans at the time for gentrifying the neighborhood, including adding a miniature police precinct to help clear out the homeless population, “people just sitting around and taking up so much more space than their bodies take up” (Turner). The police precinct’s presence in Little Five Points today, along with fairly high rent prices in the area, shows that the gentrification plans did indeed go through. In addition to pushing for a new police precinct, the plans also called for street lights and benches to attract people to the area and make it more enjoyable.

Homeless Deterrent Benches in Salt Lake City
Source: Rosenberger, Robert, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 19 June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/how-cities-use-design-to-drive-homeless-people-away/373067/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.

An article titled, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away,” describes the methods different cities have used to prevent homeless people from sleeping in public spaces. The author also includes many images as examples of “homeless deterrence technologies” from different cities around the United States, to explain to the reader that many instances of homeless deterrence commonly go unnoticed. The photo I have included of a bench in a Salt Lake City park, illustrating how bench design can discourage sleeping, looks almost identical to the benches seen in Little Five Point’s Findley Plaza. The armrests in the center of the bench make it very difficult for someone to use it as a place to sleep.

Benches in Atlanta’s Little Five Points Neighborhood
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2i-OmuCd-T8/TrrDIj8Ql2I/AAAAAAAAB04/PzPvSu9dbMA/s1600/IMAG0103.jpg

However, today if you visit Findley Plaza in the Little Five Points neighborhood you will notice that the benches have all been removed, the shops are booming with customers, and it is difficult to even find a space to park your car. While there is still a relatively large homeless population, it is clear that they are not wanted and efforts have been made to clear them out.

Inadequate Amenities for Low-Income Families Pushed Further Away From The City

As previously stated, the quality and quantity of public transportation decreases the further you move away from the center of the city. Consequently, low-income families, particularly those that do not own a car, who have had to moved away from the cities because of increased rent prices are in a worse situation because they do not have the same amenities available to them. An example of this occurring in Atlanta is with the Cobb County resident Raquel Nelson who lost her son when he was hit by a car as the family had to take two busses and cross a busy intersection just to reach the grocery store, as they did not own a car (Paget-Seekins). While this is just the way one person was negatively impacted by having to move away from the center of Atlanta, to a place they could afford that did not offer adequate amenities, Catherine Ross’ “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta BeltLine” provides a more widespread illustration of the issue. The BeltLine is a redevelopment project for underused land, through the creation of paved trails, increasing pedestrian accessibility and connecting people to destinations such as health clinics and public schools. However, the problem is that in all cases the percentages of the population from the low-income Southeast, Southwest, and Westside planning areas that will have access to the benefits of the BeltLine are significantly less than the percentages of population of the much more affluent Northside and Northeast planning areas. A comparison of maps included in this study clearly illustrates unequal access, one map shows BeltLine access to grocery stores and the other showing average median household income. Insufficient pedestrian infrastructure providing access to grocery stores is a huge problem for low-income families without cars. In addition to this, it is apparent that racial discrimination still affects the built environment of the Cobb County suburbs to some degree. Cobb County and other metro Atlanta suburbs plan to expand their public transportation services, but the plans seem to be aimed at benefiting middle-class white collar workers, by giving the option to take public transit into Atlanta for work instead of driving. The low-income residents of Cobb County without cars, like Raquel Nelson, will likely not benefit from the transit expansions as a result of insufficient pedestrian infrastructure and unreliable bus services (Paget-Seekins). These issues demonstrate the impact of income inequality on the changes to the build environment, as high-income areas are provided with higher quality infrastructure than low-income areas. In turn, the lack of quality infrastructure in low-income areas, where pedestrian infrastructure makes a greater impact, enforces income inequality severity in Atlanta.

Average Median Household Income in Relation to AMI
Source: Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.
BeltLine Access to Chain Grocery Stores
Source: Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.

As seen in the map above, depicting median household income, the city of Atlanta is very segregated by income. The following map depicts the racial segregation that is present in Atlanta as well. The neighborhood one grows up in has been shown to impact their chances for upward economic mobility, therefore gentrification and segregation of neighborhoods by class perpetuate income inequality. A Harvard University study analyzed the tax records of over five million children who, at some point, relocated to a different county, in order to examine the impact that the neighborhood a child grows up in has on their income as an adult. The data was found to verify the claim that hometowns significantly affect children’s future chances for upward economic mobility. The same study also found that qualities that decrease the chance of upward economic mobility include segregation by class and race, high levels of income inequality, high rates of violent crime, car dominated transportation networks, and more African American residents than residents of any other race (Chetty and Hendren).

Map of Racial Segregation in Atlanta
Source: Turner, Kimberly. “How Segregated is Atlanta? This Race Map Reveals the Truth.” Curbed Atlanta, Jun 2, 2014, http://atlanta.curbed.com/2014/6/2/10092862/how-segregated-is-atlanta, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.

In Conclusion

Therefore, we can conclude that the high levels of income inequality in Atlanta can be attributed to many of the qualities found in the study, “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940.” Included maps, created using U.S. Census Bureau data, illustrate the prevalence of these issues in the city of Atlanta. Analysis of the studies that have been discussed, in relation to income inequality, support the idea that these issues have not only caused high levels of income inequality, but also that they are perpetuating the issue. A legacy of racial discrimination in Atlanta is the driving force in this perpetuation. According to Schindler, “employers in the suburbs of Atlanta, in some cases, have had to pay higher than minimum wage to attract workers, as low-income workers in the city cannot access the suburbs.” Also, the implementation of HOT lanes, to help relieve Atlanta’s severe rush hour traffic on I-85, is one of very few congestions relief options currently executable (Khoeini and Guensler). The suburbs needing minimum wage workers and low-income individuals without cars needing minimum wage jobs, along with the absence of many viable traffic relief solutions, shines light on the reality that expanding public transportation lines into suburban areas could benefit everyone involved. However, these counties continue to vote against inviting MARTA to expand. As in the past, the counties are trying to prevent low-income and black individuals from accessing their communities (Paget-Seekins). Expanding public transportation could effectively help integrate areas that are currently segregated  by race and class, as people who cannot afford cars could live in less expensive suburban neighborhoods that are currently predominately white and remain unaccessible due to their lack of public transportation. As Chetty and Hendren explain, growing up in a low-income community negatively impacts a child’s chance for upward economic mobility and growing up in a high-income community positively impacts their chance for upward economic mobility. Integration of races and classes could be the key to bringing Atlanta down from its number one slot for the highest income inequality in the country. All of the evidence points towards transportation barriers being the largest reason segregation by race and class is perpetuated. However, policymakers and planners will have to rid themselves of racial discrimination in order to shape the built environment to be more inclusionary, consequently decreasing the income inequality ratio.

Works Cited

Berube, Alan, “All Cities Are Not Created Unequal.” Brookings. Brookings Institution, 20 Feb. 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/research/all-cities-are-not-created-unequal/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

Chetty, Raj and Nathaniel Hendren. “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940,” NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 23002, Apr. 2015, http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/nbhds_exec_summary.pdf. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

Carlson, Adam. “Study: Black Atlantans prefer suburbs, whites moving to city ‘core’” The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Jan 8, 2015, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.

The Human Scale. Dir. Andreas Mol Dalsgaard. 2012. Andreas Mol Dalsgaard, Film.

Khoeini, Sara and Randall Guensler. “Using Vehicle Value as a Proxy for Income: A Case Study on Atlanta’s I-85 HOT Lane.” Research in Transportation Economics, vol. 44, no. Road Pricing in the United States, 01 June 2014, pp. 33-42. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2014.04.003.

“MARTA Map.” MARTA Guide, martaguide.com, https://martaguide.com/rail-station-map/.

“Metro Atlanta Regional Map.” Metro Atlanta Chamber,  metroatlantachamber.com, https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/resources/most-popular/map-of-metro-atlanta.

Paget-Seekins, Laurel. “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice.” Race, Poverty & the Environment, no. 1, 2012, p. 22. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.41762530&site=eds-live.

Rosenberger, Robert, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 19 June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/how-cities-use-design-to-drive-homeless-people-away/373067/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.

Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.

Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment.” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 124, 01 Apr. 2015, p. 1934. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edslex&AN=edslex375D9927&site=eds-live.

Trincia, Beau. “Little Five Points” New Public Domain, newpublicdomain.com, 9 Nov 2011, http://www.newpublicdomain.com/2011/11/obstructing-public-gathering-space.html.

Turner, Kimberly. “How Segregated is Atlanta? This Race Map Reveals the Truth.” Curbed Atlanta, Jun 2, 2014, http://atlanta.curbed.com/2014/6/2/10092862/how-segregated-is-atlanta, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.

Turner, Melissa. “CHANGING BOHEMIA Little Five Points, a Haven of Counterculture, Faces Gentrification and Dissension.” The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Jun 29, 1998, pp. E;01, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/247585702?accountid=11226.

Built Environment Analysis Draft

Inequality In America’s Cities 2012
Source: Berube, Alan, “All Cities Are Not Created Unequal.” Brookings. Brookings Institution, 20 Feb. 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/research/all-cities-are-not-created-unequal/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Atlanta has the highest 95/20 ratio of income inequality, with 95 being the income in which household earnings are 95 percent of all other household earnings divided by the earnings when a household earns 20 percent of all of household earnings (Berube). The rhetoric of the built environment of Atlanta shows that racial discrimination, white flight, car dominated transportation network, and segregation by race and class are responsible for Atlanta’s high level of income inequality, and these same factors that brought on severe income inequality in Atlanta are perpetuating the problem today.
In order to understand and evaluate the built environment’s current impact on income inequality in Atlanta, we must first look at the history of the city. In the 1960’s many white residents of Atlanta responded to racial integration by fleeing the city and creating suburbs to keep racial segregation intact (Paget-Seekins). Racism was the foundation of these suburbs in their birth, therefore racial discrimination continued to be a significant factor shaping the built environment as they grew. The suburban communities in Cobb County declined the offer to be connected to the city by the MARTA rail line because they did not want to allow poor African Americans access to their white-only communities (Paget-Seekins). Today, Atlanta’s suburbs still do not have public transportation connecting to Atlanta. As a result of suburban sprawl and a lack of public transportation linking the suburbs to the city, Atlanta became characterized by its congested highways and car-dominated transpiration network. Recent efforts to reduce traffic congestion during rush hour when people are commuting to and from work have been focused on changing the highways, but suburban counties have still rejected extending public transportation lines to help solve the problem. The free HOV lane on I-85, connecting downtown Atlanta to many suburbs, was recently repurposed into a HOT lane or high-occupancy toll lane. They are commonly referred to as “Lexus lanes” insinuating that only Lexus owners could afford to pay to use them (Khoeini and Guensler). The built environment of Atlanta taking shape to accommodate suburban residents, because of white flight and suburban sprawl, in the form of car dominated transportation networks continues on today. Atlanta continues to expand and improve transportation networks for cars, while making less improvements to the public transit network networks. Consistent, safe, and reliable public transportation routes are currently only present in the center of the city and immediately surrounding areas. If you live more than a few miles outside of the center of Atlanta, it is likely that you would need a car to access certain necessities. The images of maps depicting map of the official MARTA public transit rail line and the Metro Atlanta area as a whole are included to illustrate that only a small portion of people in the Atlanta area have access to public transportation. The small loop surrounding the city of Atlanta in the map of the full Metro Atlanta area is the area represented in the MARTA rail line map.

Map of the Metro Atlanta Area
Source: https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/resources/most-popular/map-of-metro-atlanta
Map of the MARTA Station Rail Line
Source: https://martaguide.com/rail-station-map/

While there are some public transportation options for people living further away from the downtown area, the current accommodations are insufficient for people who do not own cars. Laurel Paget-Seekins brings up the inadequacy of transportation routes in Metro Atlanta in her article, “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice.” She recounts the 2011 conviction of  Metro Atlanta resident Raquel Nelson after her four-year-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver in her scholarly research article. Paget-Seekins reveals that Nelson, an African American single mother with three young children and no car, was attempting to cross a busy Cobb County highway with her children to reach the first of two busses, that took them to and from the grocery store, when the drunk driver struck them. Before being granted a retrial, Nelson was sentenced to serve three years in prison. Once caught, the driver only received six-months jail time, although he confessed to being under the influence and had been convicted twice in the past for hit-and-runs. Raquel Nelson’s tragic story paints a picture of problems that exist in the Atlanta such as inadequate public transportation available to the poor in suburban areas, underfunding of transit, scarce transportation infrastructure in car dominated areas, and a continuation of the long history of race and class divisions. The built environment has been shaped around car owning middle to upper class white residents and serves as a barrier excluding many low-income families from living in these areas. According to Sarah Schindler, intentional and unintentional barriers preventing poor and African American people from accessing certain areas of the community are prevelant in United States cities. She describes how planners can limit access for these groups of people in certain areas of the city by doing things such as making bridges too low for public transit busses to pass underneath or placing bus stops across from a destination separated by a busy highway.

 

Historically, low-income families reside in the inner-city close to public transportation because it is expensive to own a car while middle and upper class families reside in the suburbs and commute into the city for work. However, this trend is shift and middle and upper class white families are increasingly moving into the city (Carlson). According to the documentary The Human Scale, this is occurring in part because it takes so much more time out of someones day to commute from the suburbs each day for work, and people come home from work when it is already dark and feel drained. Upper and middle class white families desiring to move into the city of Atlanta has created more demand for high quality housing in nice neighborhoods. Therefore, neighborhoods in Atlanta that have housed mostly low-income people are being gentrified to meet the growing demand. When neighborhoods are gentrified the cost of rent increases, in turn driving out low-income residents. The Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta could be seen as a microcosm of the city of Atlanta, as when you visit you see people from all walks of life existing in the same space and participating in all different kinds of activities. A 1998 Atlanta Journal and Constitution article discusses the plans at the time for gentrifying the neighborhood, including adding a miniature police precinct to help clear out the homeless population, “people just sitting around and taking up so much more space than their bodies take up” (Turner). The police precinct’s presence in Little Five Points today, along with fairly high rent prices show that the gentrification plans did indeed go through. In addition to pushing for a new police precinct, the plans also called for street lights and benches to attract people to the area and make it more enjoyable.

Homeless Deterrent Benches in Salt Lake City
Source: Rosenberger, Robert, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 19 June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/how-cities-use-design-to-drive-homeless-people-away/373067/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.

An article titled, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away,” describes the methods different cities have used to prevent homeless people from sleeping in public spaces. The author also includes many images of examples of “homeless deterrence technologies” in different cities around the United States to explain to the reader that many instances of homeless deterrence commonly go unnoticed. A photo I have included of a bench in a Salt Lake City park illustrating how bench design can discourage sleeping, looks almost identical to the benches seen in Little Five Point’s Findley Plaza. The armrests in the center of the bench make it very difficult for someone to use it as a place to sleep.

Benches in Atlanta’s Little Five Points Neighborhood
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2i-OmuCd-T8/TrrDIj8Ql2I/AAAAAAAAB04/PzPvSu9dbMA/s1600/IMAG0103.jpg

However, today if you visit Findley Plaza in the Little Five Points neighborhood you will notice that the benches have all been removed, the shops are booming with customers, and it is difficult to even find a space to park your car. While there is still a relatively large homeless population, it is clear that they are not wanted and efforts have been made to clear them out.

 

As previously stated, the quality and quantity of public transportation decreases the further you move away from the center of the city. Consequently, low-income families, particularly those that do not own a car, who have had to moved away from the cities because of increased rent prices are in a worse situation because they do not have the same amenities available to them. An example of this occurring in Atlanta is with the Cobb County resident Raquel Nelson who lost her son when he was hit by a car as the family had to take two busses and cross a busy intersection just to reach the grocery store, as they did not own a car (Paget-Seekins). While this is just the way one person was negatively impacted by having to move away from the center of Atlanta to a place they could afford that did not offer adequate amenities, Catherine Ross’ “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta BeltLine” provides a more widespread illustration of the issue. The BeltLine is a redevelopment project for underused land, through the creation of paved trails, increasing pedestrian accessibility and connecting people to destinations such as health clinics and public schools. However, the problem is that in all cases the percentages of the populations from the low-income Southeast, Southwest, and Westside planning areas that will have access to the benefits of the BeltLine are significantly less than the percentages of populations of the much more affluent Northside and Northeast planning areas. A comparison of maps included in this study clearly illustrates unequal access, one map shows BeltLine access to grocery stores and the other showing average median household income. Insufficient pedestrian infrastructure providing access to grocery stores is a huge problem for low-income families without cars. In addition to this, it is apparent that racial discrimination still affects the built environment of the Cobb County suburbs to some degree. Cobb County and other metro Atlanta suburbs plan to expand their public transportation services, but the plans seem to be aimed at benefiting middle-class white collar workers by giving the option to take public transit into Atlanta for work instead of driving. The low-income residents of Cobb County without cars, like Raquel Nelson, will likely not benefit from the transit expansions as a result of insufficient pedestrian infrastructure and unreliable bus services (Paget-Seekins). These issues demonstrates the impact of income inequality on the changes to the build environment as high-income areas are provided with higher quality infrastructure than low-income areas. In turn, the lack of quality infrastructure in low-income areas, where pedestrian infrastructure makes a greater impact, enforces the income inequality gap in Atlanta.

Average Median Household Income in Relation to AMI
Source: Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.
BeltLine Access to Chain Grocery Stores
Source: Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.

As seen in the map above depicting median household income, the city of Atlanta is very segregated by income. The following map depicts the racial segregation that is present in Atlanta as well. The neighborhood one grows up in has been shown to impact their chances for upward economic mobility, therefore gentrification and neighborhoods segregated by class perpetuate income inequality. A Harvard University study analyzed the tax records of over five million children who, at some point, relocated to a different county to examine the impact that the neighborhood a child grows up in has on their income as an adult. The data was found to verify the claim that hometowns significantly affect children’s future chances for upward economic mobility. The same study also found that qualities that decrease the chance of upward economic mobility include segregation by class and race, high levels of income inequality, high rates of violent crime, car dominated transportation networks, and more African American residents than residents of any other race (Chetty and Hendren).

Map of Racial Segregation in Atlanta
Source: Turner, Kimberly. “How Segregated is Atlanta? This Race Map Reveals the Truth.” Curbed Atlanta, Jun 2, 2014, http://atlanta.curbed.com/2014/6/2/10092862/how-segregated-is-atlanta, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.

Therefore, we can conclude that the high levels of income inequality in Atlanta can be attributed to many of the qualities found in the study, “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940.” Included maps created using U.S. Census Bureau data illustrate the prevalence of these issues in the city of Atlanta. Analysis of the studies that have been discussed in relation to income inequality support the idea that these issues have not only caused high levels of income inequality, but also that they are perpetuating the issue. A legacy of racial discrimination in Atlanta is the driving force in this perpetuation. According to Schindler, “employers in the suburbs of Atlanta, in some cases, have had to pay higher than minimum wage to attract workers, as low-income workers in the city cannot access the suburbs.” Also, implementation of HOT lanes to help relieve Atlanta’s severe rush hour traffic on I-85 is one of very few congestions relief options currently executable (Khoeini and Guensler). The suburbs needing minimum wage workers and low-income individuals without cars needing minimum wage jobs along with the absence of many viable traffic relief solutions shines light on the reality that expanding public transportation lines into suburban could benefit everyone involved. However, these counties continue to vote against inviting MARTA to expand. As in the past, the counties are trying to prevent low-income and black individuals from accessing their communities (Paget-Seekins). Expanding public transportation could effectively help integrate areas that are currently segregated  by race and class as people who cannot afford cars could live in less expensive suburban areas that currently lack transportation and are predominately white communities. As Chetty and Hendren explain, a child growing up in a low-income community negatively impacts their chance for upward economic mobility and growing up in the high-income community positively impacts their chance for upward economic mobility, integration of races and classes could be the key to bringing Atlanta down from its number one slot for the highest income inequality in the country. All of the evidence points towards transportation barriers being the largest reason segregation by race and class is perpetuated. However, policymakers and planners will have to rid themselves of racial discrimination in order to shape the built environment to be more inclusionary, consequently decreasing the income inequality ratio.

Works Cited

Berube, Alan, “All Cities Are Not Created Unequal.” Brookings. Brookings Institution, 20 Feb. 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/research/all-cities-are-not-created-unequal/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

Chetty, Raj and Nathaniel Hendren. “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940,” NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 23002, Apr. 2015, http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/nbhds_exec_summary.pdf. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

Carlson, Adam. “Study: Black Atlantans prefer suburbs, whites moving to city ‘core’” The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Jan 8, 2015, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.

The Human Scale. Dir. Andreas Mol Dalsgaard. 2012. Andreas Mol Dalsgaard, Film.

Khoeini, Sara and Randall Guensler. “Using Vehicle Value as a Proxy for Income: A Case Study on Atlanta’s I-85 HOT Lane.” Research in Transportation Economics, vol. 44, no. Road Pricing in the United States, 01 June 2014, pp. 33-42. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2014.04.003.

“MARTA Map.” MARTA Guide, martaguide.com, https://martaguide.com/rail-station-map/.

“Metro Atlanta Regional Map.” Metro Atlanta Chamber,  metroatlantachamber.com, https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/resources/most-popular/map-of-metro-atlanta.

Paget-Seekins, Laurel. “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice.” Race, Poverty & the Environment, no. 1, 2012, p. 22. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.41762530&site=eds-live.

Rosenberger, Robert, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 19 June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/how-cities-use-design-to-drive-homeless-people-away/373067/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.

Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.

Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment.” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 124, 01 Apr. 2015, p. 1934. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edslex&AN=edslex375D9927&site=eds-live.

Trincia, Beau. “Little Five Points” New Public Domain, newpublicdomain.com, 9 Nov 2011, http://www.newpublicdomain.com/2011/11/obstructing-public-gathering-space.html.

Turner, Kimberly. “How Segregated is Atlanta? This Race Map Reveals the Truth.” Curbed Atlanta, Jun 2, 2014, http://atlanta.curbed.com/2014/6/2/10092862/how-segregated-is-atlanta, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.

Turner, Melissa. “CHANGING BOHEMIA Little Five Points, a Haven of Counterculture, Faces Gentrification and Dissension.” The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Jun 29, 1998, pp. E;01, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/247585702?accountid=11226.

Annotated Bibliography (10 entries)

Paget-Seekins, Laurel. “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice.” Race, Poverty & the Environment, no. 1, 2012, p. 22. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.41762530&site=eds-live. Laurel Paget-Seekins, a woman who has lived in Atlanta without a car for seven years and holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, recounts the 2011 conviction of Raquel Nelson after her four-year-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver in this 2012 scholarly research article. Paget-Seekins reveals that Nelson, an African American single mother with three young children and no car, was attempting to cross a busy Cobb County highway with her children to reach the first of two busses, that took them to and from the grocery store, when the drunk driver struck them. Before being granted a retrial, Nelson was sentenced to serve three years in prison. Once he was caught, the driver only received six-months jail time, although he confessed to being under the influence and had been convicted twice in the past for hit-and-runs. Paget-Seekins includes Raquel Nelson’s tragic story in this article to paint a picture of problems that exist in Atlanta such as inadequate public transportation available to the poor in suburban areas, underfunding of transit, scarce transportation infrastructure in car dominated areas, and a continuation of the long history of race and class divisions. Laurel Paget-Seekins’ status as a highly educated, prosperous member of the community, that relies solely on public transportation to get around, gives her the ability to see the community from the perspectives of the affluent and the impoverished simultaneously. In my opinion, her capacity to empathize with groups of people that are incognizant of each other’s lives, along with her expertise in civil engineering, substantiates her criticisms and suggestions because it supports the assumption that the peer reviewed article should be predominately unbiased. This source explains that Atlanta’s suburbs originated during the civil rights movement as a response to the desegregation of Atlanta. Racism was the foundation of these suburbs when they were born. As they grew, racial discrimination was a significant factor in the shaping of the built environment and continues to impact the built environment today. Most significantly, the suburbs of Cobb County declined the offer to be connected to Atlanta by the MARTA rail line because they did not want to give poor African Americans access to their white only communities. The prevalence of racial discrimination has decreased considerably. Cobb County was only 56% white in 2010 when Raquel Nelson’s son was killed, however public transportation remains scarce and unsafe to access without a car. It is apparent that racial discrimination still affects the built environment of the Cobb County suburbs to some degree. Cobb County and other metro Atlanta suburbs plan to expand their public transportation services, but the plans seem to be aimed at benefiting middle-class white collar workers by giving the option to take public transit into Atlanta for work instead of driving. The low-income residents of Cobb County without cars, like Raquel Nelson, will likely not benefit from the transit expansions as a result of insufficient pedestrian infrastructure and unreliable bus services. I selected this source to be part of my research because it is very closely related to my research’s overarching theme of analyzing the impact of Atlanta’s large economic gap on transportation and the shaping of the built environment.

Khoeini, Sara and Randall Guensler. “Using Vehicle Value as a Proxy for Income: A Case Study on Atlanta’s I-85 HOT Lane.” Research in Transportation Economics, vol. 44, no. Road Pricing in the United States, 01 June 2014, pp. 33-42. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2014.04.003. High-occupancy toll lanes (HOTs) are commonly referred to as “Lexus Lanes,” to suggest that a Lexus owner would pay the fee to use the lane. In their article, Sara Khoeini and Randall Guensler record the Georgia Institute of Technology experiment, investigating the socioeconomic impact of Atlanta’s HOTs, explaining their methodology for collecting data and sharing their findings. This experiment on the I-85 HOT lanes differs from previous experiments on the socioeconomic impacts of HOT because vehicle value is used as a substitute for income. Using vehicle value to obtain results instead of income is less expensive and takes less time, therefore the researchers used the evaluation of the socioeconomic impact of HOT lanes to test the accuracy of using vehicle value for the calculations. The final results revealed that high-income commuters use the HOT lanes twice as much as the lowest-income commuters, but the lowest-income commuters are still using the HOT lane commonly, undermining the validity of the term “Lexus Lane”. The statement, “one of the reasons behind converting the HOV lane into an HOT lane was that the existing carpool lane was becoming congested like its general purpose lane counterparts,” suggests that congestion during commuting peak periods is increasing. The congestion caused by suburban commuters is influencing the shape of the built environment of Atlanta by demanding congestion relief projects, such as the implementation of HOT lanes. I chose this source because it provides evidence that suggests that the creation of HOT lanes is one of very few congestions relief options currently executable. The absence of many viable traffic relief solutions shines light on the possibility that public transportation will have an increased impact on the built environment by expanding to lighten commuting traffic. The article is written in such exceptional detail that the experiment could very likely be replicated using only the article. The meticulous, objective writing, present throughout most of the article, along with article’s status as peer reviewed gives me no reason to question the credibility of Khoeini and Guensler.

Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019. Catherine L. Ross’ in depth analysis of the Atlanta BeltLine is separated by theme into eleven sections, but I limited my research down to the fifth section titled “Access and Social Equity.” Ross begins by explaining the BeltLine as a redevelopment of underused land, through the creation of paved trails, increasing pedestrian accessibility and connecting people to destinations such as health clinics and public schools. She then evaluates data related to the parks, trails, transit, and redevelopment placing the results, in the form of calculated indicators of the project’s results in different areas, into tables. The products of her evaluations, displayed in the tables, revealed that improvements in accessibility and other benefits of the project are distributed unequally geographically and demographically. In all cases, the percentages of the populations from the Southeast, Southwest, and Westside planning areas that will have access to the benefits of the BeltLine are significantly less than the percentages of populations of the Northside and Northeast planning areas. It is extremely improbable that the Northside and Northeast planning areas, comprised almost entirely of people with the highest median income, will accidentally feature superior accessibility for a much higher percentage of residents than the other planning areas with majority low-income residents. A comparison of maps included in this study clearly illustrates unequal access to the readers, one map showing Beltline access to grocery stores and the other showing average median household income. In Laurel Paget-Seekins’ article cited above, it is shown that insufficient pedestrian infrastructure providing access to grocery stores is a huge problem for low-income families without cars. The issues discussed in this article are related to the findings of the study, “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940” because it demonstrates the impact of income inequality on the changes to the build environment as high-income areas are provided with higher quality infrastructure than low-income areas. In turn, the lack of quality infrastructure in low-income areas, where pedestrian infrastructure makes a greater impact, enforces the income inequality gap in Atlanta. Ross’ work is highly credible, seeing as she is an internationally recognized expert on the topics discussed in this study and has received high honors, including being selected to advise the Obama Administration in the subject of urban affairs.

Average Median Household Income in Relation to AMI
Source: Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.
BeltLine Access to Chain Grocery Stores
Source: Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019.

Chetty, Raj and Nathaniel Hendren. “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940,” NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 23002, Apr. 2015, http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/nbhds_exec_summary.pdf. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017. The version of this study referenced for my investigation is the executive summary of the full-length paper, written by the same authors, condensing the eighty-seven-page account into six pages. The summary familiarizes readers with the researchers’ methodologies and findings. In this study, Chetty and Hendren analyze the tax records of over five million children who, at some point, relocated to a different county to examine the impact that the neighborhood a child grows up in has on their income as an adult. The data, available for the public to download, is used to verify the claim that hometowns significantly affect children’s future chances for upward economic mobility and calculate the estimated effect of each county in America on a child’s probable economic mobility. Analysis of the findings of the study reveals that many of qualities found to decrease rates of upward economical mobility are present in Atlanta. Atlanta has a lot of segregation by class and race, the highest level of income inequality in the county, high rates of violent crime, and more African American residents than residents of any other race. Therefore, the information in this article helps explain what caused Atlanta’s income inequality ratio to rank the highest in the country. In connection to the article “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice,” public transportation’s shortcomings in Atlanta seem to have been caused by the presence of factors Chetty and Hendren show to hurt economic mobility. These shortcomings also appear to be perpetuating income inequality, by causing increases in factors such as segregation by race and class. The highly awarded authors both hold Ph.D.’s in economics from prestigious universities, Chetty from Harvard University and Hendren from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to this, the study receives credibility because it has been widely cited. The study seems to be primarily objective, due to its heavy involvement with numerical records. Their suggestions for improving rates of economic mobility are not necessarily without flaw, but the research their study is comprised of could help policymakers enact plans to improve the rates. This source is valuable to my research because it shows how aspects of the built environment can contribute to economic success.

Berube, Alan, “All Cities Are Not Created Unequal.” Brookings. Brookings Institution, 20 Feb. 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/research/all-cities-are-not-created-unequal/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017. Alan Berube, senior fellow and deputy director at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, discusses the issue of income inequality throughout large United States cities in this article. The raw data complied from the U.S. Census Bureau, ranking the cities by an inequality ratio, is given in the attached appendix and is used by Berube as a basis for comparing inequality across the cities. Although this data is from 2012, it is the newest compilation of U.S. Census Bureau data ranking cities by inequality that I could find. It is not proof that Atlanta currently holds the title of number one in terms of income inequality, but it does show that Atlanta has a very large gap between the highest incomes and the lowest. The Brookings Institute is a non-profit organization formed over one-hundred years ago with a reputation for having a central to slightly left-leaning political stance. However, an academic study ranked Brookings at a fifty-three on a scale from one to one-hundred, with one begin most conservative and one-hundred most liberal, giving the impression that they try to prevent political bias. The article seems to take a somewhat liberal stance on the issue of income inequality, referencing the prominence of income inequality in Barrack Obama’s list of campaign issues. Therefore, I will reference the U.S. Census Bureau data complied by Berube, as opposed to referencing his analysis of the data. Statistical data proving Atlanta has a high income inequality ratio is useful as it relates to the academic study, “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940.” The data presented in this article allows me to accurately establish economic inequality a problem for the city of Atlanta and analyze the causes using evidence found in The Fading American Dream.

Inequality In America’s Cities 2012
Source: Berube, Alan, “All Cities Are Not Created Unequal.” Brookings. Brookings Institution, 20 Feb. 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/research/all-cities-are-not-created-unequal/. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

Turner, Melissa. “CHANGING BOHEMIA Little Five Points, a Haven of Counterculture, Faces Gentrification and Dissension.” The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Jun 29, 1998, pp. E;01, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/247585702?accountid=11226. Melissa Turner’s article discusses gentrification plans for Little Five Points, made by the president of the Little Five Points Business Association, that were causing conflict in the community almost twenty years ago when it was written. She writes about a decline in tolerance among the community as she goes through the proposed attempts at revitalization and quotes members of the community on the topic. This article is problematic because it is dated and discusses plans that were not yet enacted at the time the article was published. It is possible that the policies discussed could have been only rumors or were rejected. However, it is a useful source when utilized to compare plans for Little Five Points from twenty years ago to what you can observe visiting the space today. The mini-precinct, business association president Shapiro was pushing for by Turner’s account, was successfully installed in the neighborhood and is present among the commercial stores on the strip. This article provides evidence that the Little Five Points police precinct was created to “clean-up” the neighborhood and solve the homeless problem. Turner cites business owners and other people with positions of power in the neighborhood wanting to drive out, “people just sitting around and taking up so much more space than their bodies take up.”

Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation through Physical Design of the Built Environment.” The Yale Law Journal, vol. 124, 01 Apr. 2015, p. 1934. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edslex&AN=edslex375D9927&site=eds-live. Sarah Schindler discusses how the built environment has been intentionally and unintentionally crafted to exclude the poor and people of color in most American cities in her academic study. She explains how the built environment influences our behavior, discusses the practice of architectural exclusion, considers instances in which the courts analyzed exclusion in the built environment, tells about the current legal restraints on exclusion, and describes how exclusionary aspects of the built environment created in the past are difficult to change. For the purposes of my study, I am only using information from the second part of Schindler’s study titled, “Architectural Exclusion: Practice.” In this section, the author goes into detail explaining the ways in which the built environment can restrict “undesirable people’s” access to specific places or areas. First, she gives examples of physical barriers that intentionally restrict poor people and African-American people from accessing places. A specific example of this occurring in America is with Robert Moses’ bridges in Long Island, New York. Moses designed all of the bridges of Long Island to be low so that busses could not pass underneath. At the time, most lower-income people took public busses to get everywhere, making it very difficult for them to reach Long Island’s famous Jones Beach. She also provides examples of highways put in place to separate rich areas from poor areas and walls put in place to separate rich neighborhoods from poor neighborhoods. Next, Schindler explains that the layout of public transportation routes is also commonly taken advantage of in making the built environment restrict access to some members of the community. Transit routes usually pass over wealthy communities without having a stop or do not go into wealthy communities at all. Schindler more specifically mentions that public transportation routes rarely exist in wealthy suburban areas. She states that employers in the suburbs of Atlanta, in some cases, have had to pay higher than minimum wage to attract workers, as low-income workers in the city cannot access the suburbs. Schindler’s study relates to the article written by Laurel Paget-Seekins because she explains that in some cases transit will get people close to their destination without actually reaching it, and then leaves them having to cross dangerous routes to actually reach the destination. Schindler uses a mall moving their bus stop across the highway without having any cross walks as an example, but this is similar to Paget-Seekins’ story about the Atlanta woman whose son died while they were crossing a dangerous intersection to reach the grocery store. I chose to include this article in my research as a source of specific kinds of ways the built environment separates and excludes people. Schindler’s given examples help me to look at Atlanta and analyze how the built environment excludes people and perpetuates segregation. Sarah Schindler appears to be a very credible source of authority who has done her research on the topic of architectural exclusion. The section of her study I am using as a source is free of bias or personal opinion and consists of mostly real world examples. Schindler’s study is published in the prestigious Yale Law Journal, and she cites a large number of sources.

Rosenberger, Robert, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 19 June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/how-cities-use-design-to-drive-homeless-people-away/373067/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017. Rosenberger’s article describes the methods different cities have used to prevent homeless people from sleeping in public spaces. He shows images of many examples of “homeless deterrence technologies” in different cities around the United States to explain to the reader that many instances of homeless deterrence commonly go unnoticed. This is relevant to my research because a photo of a bench in a Salt Lake City park Rosenberger includes in his article, illustrating how bench design can discourage sleeping, looks almost identical to the benches in Little Five Point’s Findley Plaza. Benches that discourage the homeless from sleeping in Little Five Points relate to Melissa Turner’s article, as she quoted the president of the business association wanting to gentrify Little Five Points almost twenty years ago. The presence of these benches is evidence that those gentrification plans were, at least in some part, enacted. I chose to include this article in my research because it is evidence of the perpetuation of economic inequality in Atlanta. Instead of providing the homeless with a better place to sleep, such as a homeless shelter, Little Five Points put large armrests in the center of their public benches to solve the problem of homelessness. Rosenberger’s claims, regarding homeless deterrence, are credible because he provides photo evidence showing many instances of it occurring in many different cities. He is a professor for the Georgia Institute of Technology’s school of public policy, therefore he should be a reliable source for information regarding anti-homeless public policy.

Homeless Deterrent Benches in Salt Lake City
Source: Rosenberger, Robert, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic, 19 June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/how-cities-use-design-to-drive-homeless-people-away/373067/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.
Benches in Atlanta’s Little Five Points Neighborhood
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2i-OmuCd-T8/TrrDIj8Ql2I/AAAAAAAAB04/PzPvSu9dbMA/s1600/IMAG0103.jpg

Turner, Kimberly. “How Segregated is Atlanta? This Race Map Reveals the Truth.” Curbed Atlanta, Jun 2, 2014, http://atlanta.curbed.com/2014/6/2/10092862/how-segregated-is-atlanta, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017. Kimberly Turner’s article for Curbed Atlanta about racial segregation in the city of Atlanta does not include much commentary. The purpose of article is to share images from an interactive map created by the University of Virginia that shows a dot for each resident in the spot and is colored based on that person’s race. Curbed Atlanta is a popular source without any sort of peer review, and I could not find any information on the author besides other articles she has written for Curbed Atlanta. However, just looking at the images included in the article from the University of Virginia map, the source is credible. The image of the map included in the article matches the interactive map zoomed in on Atlanta. I did not use the University of Virginia as my source for the map because the interactive map has no labels and Turner added the names of Atlanta neighborhoods on their locations. The map is useful to substantiate the claim made in my paper, that Atlanta remains racially segregated today. It relates to the study by Chetty and Hendren, as they say that racial segregation is a factor that negatively affects economic mobility, and the map proves that Atlanta is racially segregated. Therefore, I can evaluate the high level of income inequality in Atlanta with racial segregation as a factor perpetuating the problem.

Map of Racial Segregation in Atlanta
Source: Turner, Kimberly. “How Segregated is Atlanta? This Race Map Reveals the Truth.” Curbed Atlanta, Jun 2, 2014, http://atlanta.curbed.com/2014/6/2/10092862/how-segregated-is-atlanta, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017.

The Human Scale. Dir. Andreas Mol Dalsgaard. 2012. Andreas Mol Dalsgaard, Film. Revolutionary architect Jan Gehl, featured in the documentary the Human Scale, argues that as the percentage of the world population living in urban environments increases, cities need to be designed for people instead cars. The documentary supports Gehl’s argument by consulting other experts to compare the general quality of life in cities from different parts of the world, some car dominated and others pedestrian dominated. Dalsgaard’s purpose is to challenge the traditional idea of what a city should look like in order to persuade viewers that cities that cater to the needs of pedestrians, as opposed to cars, are more sustainable and livable. The documentary’s visualization of the differences between cities designed with people in mind and cities designed with traffic efficiency in mind provides evidence that car dominated cities have higher levels of inequality than pedestrian dominated cities. In all of the cities designed for cars that are covered in the film, low-income accessibility difficulties are discussed by the experts who are featured. While Dalsgaard also shows that in cities designed for people, accessibility is universal and benefits all of the residents. Footage and discussion covering universal design for crosswalks that take priority over traffic relates to Catherine Ross’ assessment of the Atlanta BeltLine because it highlights the BeltLine’s shortcomings. While in some cities universal accessibility is a goal, the BeltLine was shown by Ross to be much less accessible in low-income communities than in high-income communities. Although the Human Scale offers great visual representations of the problems characteristic of car dominated cities, most of the experts interviewed throughout the film seem to be biased. While people were interviewed criticizing pedestrian focused development, the experts quoted throughout the film are very complimentary. In addition to this bias, the writer/director and primary expert are from Denmark, and Copenhagen is used as the ideal city model throughout the documentary.

Carlson, Adam. “Study: Black Atlantans prefer suburbs, whites moving to city ‘core’” The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Jan 8, 2015, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Accessed 18 Apr. 2017. Carlson analyzes and responds to a study about migration to and from Atlanta by race, and he cites this study by Lyman Stone as his source in the article. Carlson quotes Stone stating that, “Among migrants within the Atlanta region, whites were far more likely to prefer the urban core, while blacks were more likely to prefer the suburbs.” The article and information Carlson provides from the study are useful to my own research in substantiating the claim that migration trends in Atlanta are changing, more blacks are moving to the suburbs and more whites to the cities. However, there are problems with the article as it says that “black Atlantans prefer suburbs”. Although the statistics the study is based on support the claim that blacks are increasingly moving to the suburbs, the study does not go into reasons for moving to the suburbs or the city. This relates to the article previously cited that discusses the impacts of the Atlanta BeltLine because that article explains that poor blacks have been forced to move towards the suburbs because of increased prices of apartments in the city core. Therefore, it is likely that although blacks have been moving to the suburbs more commonly, they do not necessarily prefer to live in the suburbs. Carlson identifies issues with the study in his article explaining that, “he atypically includes Cobb County as part of the city’s ‘core,’ along with DeKalb and Fulton, because of its access to public transit, according to the service maps he referenced.” The problems with the article and the study make it difficult for me to use much information from the article, but I believe that the information about the statistics of migration of blacks to the suburbs and whites closer to the city is still useful to me.

Annotated Bibliography (5 entries)

Paget-Seekins, Laurel. “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice.” Race, Poverty & the Environment, no. 1, 2012, p. 22. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.41762530&site=eds-live. Laurel Paget-Seekins, a woman who has lived in Atlanta without a car for seven years and holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, recounts the 2011 conviction of Raquel Nelson after her four-year-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver in this 2012 scholarly research article. Paget-Seekins reveals that Nelson, an African American single mother with three young children and no car, was attempting to cross a busy Cobb County highway with her children to reach the first of two busses, that took them to and from the grocery store, when the drunk driver struck them. Before being granted a retrial, Nelson was sentenced to serve three years in prison. Once he was caught, the driver only received six-months jail time, although he confessed to being under the influence and had been convicted twice in the past for hit-and-runs. Paget-Seekins includes Raquel Nelson’s tragic story in this article to paint a picture of problems that exist in Atlanta such as inadequate public transportation available to the poor in suburban areas, underfunding of transit, scarce transportation infrastructure in car dominated areas, and a continuation of the long history of race and class divisions. Laurel Paget-Seekins’ status as a highly educated, prosperous member of the community, that relies solely on public transportation to get around, gives her the ability to see the community from the perspectives of the affluent and the impoverished simultaneously. In my opinion, her capacity to empathize with groups of people that are incognizant of each other’s lives, along with her expertise in civil engineering, substantiates her criticisms and suggestions because it supports the assumption that the peer reviewed article should be predominately unbiased. This source explains that Atlanta’s suburbs originated during the civil rights movement as a response to the desegregation of Atlanta. Racism was the foundation of these suburbs when they were born. As they grew, racial discrimination was a significant factor in the shaping of the built environment and continues to impact the built environment today. Most significantly, the suburbs of Cobb County declined the offer to be connected to Atlanta by the MARTA rail line because they did not want to give poor African Americans access to their white only communities. The prevalence of racial discrimination has decreased considerably. Cobb County was only 56% white in 2010 when Raquel Nelson’s son was killed, however public transportation remains scarce and unsafe to access without a car. It is apparent that racial discrimination still affects the built environment of the Cobb County suburbs to some degree. Cobb County and other metro Atlanta suburbs plan to expand their public transportation services, but the plans seem to be aimed at benefiting middle-class white collar workers by giving the option to take public transit into Atlanta for work instead of driving. The low-income residents of Cobb County without cars, like Raquel Nelson, will likely not benefit from the transit expansions as a result of insufficient pedestrian infrastructure and unreliable bus services. I selected this source to be part of my research because it is very closely related to my research’s overarching theme of analyzing the impact of Atlanta’s large economic gap on transportation and the shaping of the built environment.

 

Khoeini, Sara and Randall Guensler. “Using Vehicle Value as a Proxy for Income: A Case Study on Atlanta’s I-85 HOT Lane.” Research in Transportation Economics, vol. 44, no. Road Pricing in the United States, 01 June 2014, pp. 33-42. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.retrec.2014.04.003. High-occupancy toll lanes (HOTs) are commonly referred to as “Lexus Lanes,” to suggest that a Lexus owner would pay the fee to use the lane. In their article, Sara Khoeini and Randall Guensler record the Georgia Institute of Technology experiment, investigating the socioeconomic impact of Atlanta’s HOTs, explaining their methodology for collecting data and sharing their findings. This experiment on the I-85 HOT lanes differs from previous experiments on the socioeconomic impacts of HOT because vehicle value is used as a substitute for income. Using vehicle value to obtain results instead of income is less expensive and takes less time, therefore the researchers used the evaluation of the socioeconomic impact of HOT lanes to test the accuracy of using vehicle value for the calculations. The final results revealed that high-income commuters use the HOT lanes twice as much as the lowest-income commuters, but the lowest-income commuters are still using the HOT lane commonly, undermining the validity of the term “Lexus Lane”. The statement, “one of the reasons behind converting the HOV lane into an HOT lane was that the existing carpool lane was becoming congested like its general purpose lane counterparts,” suggests that congestion during commuting peak periods is increasing. The congestion caused by suburban commuters is influencing the shape of the built environment of Atlanta by demanding congestion relief projects, such as the implementation of HOT lanes. I chose this source because it provides evidence that suggests that the creation of HOT lanes is one of very few congestions relief options currently executable. The absence of many viable traffic relief solutions shines light on the possibility that public transportation will have an increased impact on the built environment by expanding to lighten commuting traffic. The article is written in such exceptional detail that the experiment could very likely be replicated using only the article. The meticulous, objective writing, present throughout most of the article, along with article’s status as peer reviewed gives me no reason to question the credibility of Khoeini and Guensler.

 

Ross, Catherine L., et al. “Health Impact Assessment of the Atlanta Beltline.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 42, no. 3, Mar. 2012, pp. 62-213. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.10.019. Catherine L. Ross’ in depth analysis of the Atlanta BeltLine is separated by theme into eleven sections, but I limited my research down to the fifth section titled “Access and Social Equity.” Ross begins by explaining the BeltLine as a redevelopment of underused land, through the creation of paved trails, increasing pedestrian accessibility and connecting people to destinations such as health clinics and public schools. She then evaluates data related to the parks, trails, transit, and redevelopment placing the results, in the form of calculated indicators of the project’s results in different areas, into tables. The products of her evaluations, displayed in the tables, revealed that improvements in accessibility and other benefits of the project are distributed unequally geographically and demographically. In all cases, the percentages of the populations from the Southeast, Southwest, and Westside planning areas that will have access to the benefits of the BeltLine are significantly less than the percentages of populations of the Northside and Northeast planning areas. It is extremely improbable that the Northside and Northeast planning areas, comprised almost entirely of people with the highest median income, will accidentally feature superior accessibility for a much higher percentage of residents than the other planning areas with majority low-income residents. A comparison of maps included in this study clearly illustrates unequal access to the readers, one map showing Beltline access to grocery stores and the other showing average median household income. In Laurel Paget-Seekins’ article cited above, it is shown that insufficient pedestrian infrastructure providing access to grocery stores is a huge problem for low-income families without cars. The issues discussed in this article are related to the findings of the study, “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940” because it demonstrates the impact of income inequality on the changes to the build environment as high-income areas are provided with higher quality infrastructure than low-income areas. In turn, the lack of quality infrastructure in low-income areas, where pedestrian infrastructure makes a greater impact, enforces the income inequality gap in Atlanta. Ross’ work is highly credible, seeing as she is an internationally recognized expert on the topics discussed in this study and has received high honors, including being selected to advise the Obama Administration in the subject of urban affairs.

 

Chetty, Raj and Nathaniel Hendren. “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940,” NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 23002, Apr. 2015, http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/nbhds_exec_summary.pdf. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017. The version of this study referenced for my investigation is the executive summary of the full-length paper, written by the same authors, condensing the eighty-seven-page account into six pages. The summary familiarizes readers with the researchers’ methodologies and findings. In this study, Chetty and Hendren analyze the tax records of over five million children who, at some point, relocated to a different county to examine the impact that the neighborhood a child grows up in has on their income as an adult. The data, available for the public to download, is used to verify the claim that hometowns significantly affect children’s future chances for upward economic mobility and calculate the estimated effect of each county in America on a child’s probable economic mobility. Analysis of the findings of the study reveals that many of qualities found to decrease rates of upward economical mobility are present in Atlanta. Atlanta has a lot of segregation by class and race, the highest level of income inequality in the county, high rates of violent crime, and more African American residents than residents of any other race. Therefore, the information in this article helps explain what caused Atlanta’s income inequality ratio to rank the highest in the country. In connection to the article “Atlanta: Unsafe at any Speed: Transit Fatality Raises Issues of Race, Poverty and Transportation Justice,” public transportation’s shortcomings in Atlanta seem to have been caused by the presence of factors Chetty and Hendren show to hurt economic mobility. These shortcomings also appear to be perpetuating income inequality, by causing increases in factors such as segregation by race and class. The highly awarded authors both hold Ph.D.’s in economics from prestigious universities, Chetty from Harvard University and Hendren from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to this, the study receives credibility because it has been widely cited. The study seems to be primarily objective, due to its heavy involvement with numerical records. Their suggestions for improving rates of economic mobility are not necessarily without flaw, but the research their study is comprised of could help policymakers enact plans to improve the rates. This source is valuable to my research because it shows how aspects of the built environment can contribute to economic success.

 

Berube, Alan, “All Cities Are Not Created Unequal.” Brookings. Brookings Institution, 20 Feb. 2014. Web. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017. Alan Berube, senior fellow and deputy director at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, discusses the issue of income inequality throughout large United States cities in this article. The raw data complied from the U.S. Census Bureau, ranking the cities by an inequality ratio, is given in the attached appendix and is used by Berube as a basis for comparing inequality across the cities. Although this data is from 2012, it is the newest compilation of U.S. Census Bureau data ranking cities by inequality that I could find. It is not proof that Atlanta currently holds the title of number one in terms of income inequality, but it does show that Atlanta has a very large gap between the highest incomes and the lowest. The Brookings Institute is a non-profit organization formed over one-hundred years ago with a reputation for having a central to slightly left-leaning political stance. However, an academic study ranked Brookings at a fifty-three on a scale from one to one-hundred, with one begin most conservative and one-hundred most liberal, giving the impression that they try to prevent political bias. The article seems to take a somewhat liberal stance on the issue of income inequality, referencing the prominence of income inequality in Barrack Obama’s list of campaign issues. Therefore, I will reference the U.S. Census Bureau data complied by Berube, as opposed to referencing his analysis of the data. Statistical data proving Atlanta has a high income inequality ratio is useful as it relates to the academic study, “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility Since 1940.” The data presented in this article allows me to accurately establish economic inequality a problem for the city of Atlanta and analyze the causes using evidence found in The Fading American Dream.

Personal Site Response: Little Five Points

As I approached the main plaza on an overcast Monday afternoon, the faint but familiar smell of cigarettes crept up my nose. The area, typically overrun by a parade of visibly well-off suburban teens and college students tasting the city life on the weekends, felt desolate in a soothing and refreshing way. I felt a surge of exuberance throughout my entire body, as I realized that today I would not be forced to endure the seven stages of grief every time I witnessed teen girls taking turns photographing each other in front of graffiti murals for Instagram. The aroma of cigarettes intensified and extended deeper into me, easing my body into deep comfort as always. The source of the smell was then laid out right before me. Five hollow-eyed men, I believed to be homeless because of their tattered attire, uneven facial scruff, and greasy hair, sat together as three took drags from cigarettes. One of the non-smokers was pouring out his soul with each strum on his acoustic guitar. The melody infiltrated my head through the weak barrier in my ears and churned my thoughts around, thickening them gradually. The rhythm of my stride synchronized with the beat of the guitarist’s boot thumping the concrete.

Homeless train kids in the Little Five Points plaza.
Source: Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

At this time, I was taken back to memories of previous experiences from the same area, Little Five Points. I recalled the countless number of homeless artists that I had encountered over the past few years in the neighborhood performing music or selling works of art. I then formed the belief that the artistic vibe Little Five Points has been emitting out into the surrounding area has served as a magnet that has attracted two main groups to the area. The first kind of people attracted have been homeless men and women who have a passion for creating art but have not succeeded in making their passion lucrative enough to support themselves. In contrast, the second kind of people attracted have been privileged middle class teenagers who have the ability to spend their parents’ money on expensive vintage, artsy fashion statements that could have been found at a thrift store for a few dollars. The day I visited, the first group was a much more common sight. I saw that there were a few other homeless men and women visible to me, some distance away from the plaza, selling handmade jewelry. The atmosphere of the plaza was that of being in a tiny but diversely populated urban park, without the grass. Essentially the plaza, located in the center of the popular section of Little Five Points, was just a small free space open to the public. The plaza space had basic amenities that were utilized mostly by the homeless, such as wooden benches that seated multiple people, trees that provided shaded covering, and lamp posts that kept the area lit at night.

A store front photo of the Pot Shop and Atlanta Police Precinct.
Source: atlantaphotos.com

The plaza existed in the space where sidewalk from the left and right had split and connected to form an irregular shaped loop. The long side of the plaza was bordered by ten of the many stores that made up the entire Little Five Points shopping district. I felt as if the rundown look featured on the exterior of many of the stores been done deliberately. I had quickly noticed that the Little Five Points shopping district housed mostly shops that sold vintage items. Therefore, I came to the conclusion that shop owners allowed for the paint to peel and embraced any vintage aesthetics available to them, to cash in on the current trend in popular culture.

Even on a slow weekday afternoon, the success Little Five Points’ capitalist ploy was very evident to me looking through the stores. The first store I observed, Crystal Blue, was a shop that sold alternative spirituality items and specialized in the sale of healing crystals. They sold everything an amateur alternative Tumblr blogger could possibly need to align their chakras and open their third eye. Of course, the shop also gave these customers easy access to moderately overpriced decorative spiritual items and accessories to prove to everyone around them that they live a truly spiritual lifestyle. There is no item that screams that message to the world more effectively than Crystal Blue’s forty-five dollar Buddha tapestry hung, in all of its glory, on the wall of a college dorm room. The variety of healing crystals that were available in the store was so great, they must have managed to hold cures to every single pain or misfortune a human being could experience.

A view of the interior of Crystal Blue centered on the main display cases.
Source: Google Street View Images

I moved on to browse my second destination, Criminal Records. When I first caught a glance of the inside of the record store, I felt like I was a kid in a candy store. The large selection of physical copies of albums laid out before me, in a neatly organized manner, impressed me. However, after doing some digging through the CDs and vinyl records sections, my opinion changed drastically. The factor that had the greatest influence in changing my opinion was the cost of a new CD or record. The price of a new record was between twenty and forty dollars on average. I felt outraged seeing the price tags so steep on new records, when that technology has been outdated for a long time. In order to listen to a record, you also need to purchase a good quality record player which could cost hundreds of dollars. The most common excuse people give to justify purchasing expensive vinyl albums with newly released music has always been the assertion that the sound quality is better. However, if a lot of money has not been invested into a high quality record player, the sound will not be able match the quality of a digital recording. Instead of breaking the bank on an expensive record player that can only play very costly and outdated media, today it seems much more logical purchase a high quality set of speakers or headphones and get digital music at a very low price. Crystal Blue and Criminal Records both seemed to be managed well in respect to the people running the programs having caught onto what has recently surged in popularity. However, it was my opinion based on observations that both businesses have put the weight of their complete economic success on the chance that consumers will continue to make economic decisions that seem illogical.

When I looked later at the price tags on some of the items available in these two stores compared to what they cost online, I found it incredible that Crystal Blue and Criminal Records have managed to consistently turn a profit and remain in business. Not only have the businesses been exclusively selling overpriced trending items, but the items also have very little practical use. While it seemed I should have been triggered by this, I could not manage to muster up even a silver of any of my expected emotional reactions such as feeling shocked or distressed. It became very clear to me, in that moment, that the big money makers and the phonies have a symbiotic relationship that has been surrounded by misunderstanding. The trend followers, who have always purchased every trending alternative fashion and lifestyle item available, have believed all along that their relationship with the manufacturing money makers was fair and mutualistic. These phonies have believed that they could buy their individuality by spending large sums of money, to assimilate to the alternative popular culture’s ideals for physical appearance, moral beliefs, and personal interests. However, their relationship has been dangerous and parasitic since the beginning. The money makers have been digging the fangs of influence into the brains of normal people, transforming them into the most favorable hosts. These leaches have swiftly rewired the neurons of once normal brains, mass populating the world with phonies through the powerful influence of social media.

A photo of identical robots for the purpose of illustrating conformity.
Source: Forbes.com

The hosts will often be allowed to collect the rewards of social acceptance and admiration that they have craved so strongly. However, the beneficial feelings bestowed upon them as their reward for conforming to mass culture are only temporary. The short-lived feeling of being admired by peers only for your physical appearance, fashion sense, and artistic tastes leaves a hole in a human being. We have a natural need to be appreciated for our personalities and our unique characteristics. The phonies feel the empty hole growing inside of themselves, but they have continued stuffing it shut with more and more trending material items. However, I believe the parasites will continue to dig deeper, spoon feeding their hosts temporary positive feelings in exchange for their money and true pure form. Unless social media, in all of its supreme influence, stops convincing the gullible hosts that by continuing the cycle their stomachs will eventually be filled.

Focused Built Environment Description: Little Five Points

As I approached the main plaza on an overcast Monday afternoon, my nose picked up a dull musty odor. The area was lightly populated, unlike on weekend days when the sidewalks are packed full of people. The smell I had noticed became sharper the closer I got to a group of five men sitting in and around a wooden bench. As I walked past the group, I noticed that three of them were puffing on lit cigarettes. One of the other men stomped his foot on a beat as he strummed an acoustic guitar covered fully in stickers, while the others talked amongst themselves. The men wore stringy, straw-like hair with straggly, unkempt beards. Their clothing appeared disheveled and unwashed. The few other people scattered around the area, visible from my vantage point, had a similar appearance to these men.

A bird’s eye view of the main plaza in the Little Five Points commercial district of Atlanta.
Source: Google Satellite Images

The main plaza was situated near the center of the small shopping and dining district called Little Five Points. If you saw the plaza from a bird’s eye view, it would be shaped like an isosceles right triangle with the tip of the ninety-degree angle rounded off. The perimeter of the plaza was made up of a straight sidewalk that merged with a curved sidewalk at the other two points on its triangle shape. The inner space between those sidewalks was the home to many individual trees surrounded by mulch in their own separate enclosures that were encircled with small metal fences. Additionally, the area contained several lamp posts, wooden benches, and trash cans scattered throughout. There were six old brick buildings painted florescent colors, hosting ten places of business within them, along the straight sidewalk of the plaza. From the outside, the buildings had a grungy and unique appearance when compared to most other popular Atlanta shopping strips.

A view from the street of the left corner of the main plaza and some of the surrounding stores.
Source: Google Street View Images

Most of the store fronts had shabby weathered paint jobs and metal bars visible through their doors or windows. The items displayed in the shops’ windows were in many cases different from the conventional items commonly showcased in store windows. For example, after I had walked by the ten shops on the strip I had seen luchador masks, spiritual items, marijuana leaves, traditional African masks, and vintage children’s toys exhibited through windows.

After observing the exterior of each of the individual businesses and the areas around them, I began browsing from the inside. I opened the door to Crystal Blue, stepped inside, and found myself immediately greeted by a woman standing behind a u-shaped glass display case in the center of the baby blue store. Natural light flooded into the space through the large store front windows, and the air was filled with the faint tones of ambient music and hushed sounds produced by three people as they gently browsed the merchandise.

View of the Crystal Blue store from the front.
Source: Crystal Blue Official MySpace Page

Healing crystals were the central product of this shop, set out individually in the display cases or grouped together by kind inside of plastic buckets in the front section of the building. The crystals were available in numerous sizes, shapes, colors, designs, textures, and transparencies and labeled with a handwritten description of their healing properties. The store also had an abundant selection of meditation supplies and spiritual books to offer, occupying the space in the rear section on both left and right sides of the display cases. I exited from the building and continued a few doors down the strip to Criminal Records. The shop had a long and narrow rectangular shape layout, and the checkout area was just to the left as I entered. Once the door had closed behind me, a young man in casual clothing standing behind the checkout counter promptly informed me that he would need to hold my purse in the front while I browsed the store. Alternative rock music rained down on everyone in the store from speakers mounted above. The entire store was well lit, however artificial yellow light dominated the space, as the light from outside did not reach the end of the long store. The sources of the artificial light were concert style light fixtures on the ceiling, and the decoration style was modern and alternative.

A view of the interior layout of Criminal Records.
Source: Google Street View Images

There were several rows of wood and metal shelving, racks, and boxes lined with CDs, vinyl records, and comic books sorted by alphabetical order and genre. The store was stocked with new items sealed in their original packaging, with the exception of a small selection of used items located in the very back. A tall, thin man in his twenties wearing glasses and nice clothing was meticulously searching through the used records section. The only other people in the store were the cashier and two other male employees in the comic books section up front. As I slowly moved closer to the counter to pick up my purse, the unintelligible murmurs between the two employees in the comic book section took the form of a crisp conversation about potential new items for the store. I continued past them, and the cashier returned my purse. I exited the store facing the plaza and sat down on an empty bench. From my seat, I watched people go about their business in the plaza and along the strip for about thirty minutes. Seven or eight people went from store to store accumulating shopping bags along the way, some traveling in groups and others alone. A man with a youthful face but tired eyes in raggedy clothing pushed his belongings down the sidewalk alongside the road in a wobbly shopping cart. A woman laid curled up on the concrete with her head hidden beneath her arms and rested on a worn down book bag. A man who sported aviator sunglasses, Doc Marten boots, and a thick brown mustache walked through the plaza with a rhythmic stride, past the sleeping woman, carried a plastic shopping bag with a denim jacket spilling over the edges.

Personal Site Response: Doll’s Head Trail

After following a series of fishing bobbers glued to trees for half a mile down the main trail of Constitution Lakes Park, I arrived at the Doll’s Head Trail loop. From a distance, I noticed an assortment of concentrated objects while entering the trail. The atmosphere felt eerie to me, as I was relatively deep in the woods surrounded by strange objects. After more investigation, I noticed that each group of objects was put together by someone to represent something specific as opposed to being placed randomly without purpose. This changed my impression of the trail and the arrangements present from a general island of misfit toys to messages conveyed by artists through the medium of trash. Some of these displays, such as a doll resembling Chucky seemingly burned at the stake, seemed less meaningful and more amusing and disturbing for the purpose of intriguing the viewer. However, others were artistic expressions of personal opinions like a hollow television containing a popped basketball, camp fuel, an electronic device, a golf ball, and a can with the phrases, “FIERY RHETORIC”, “BURNT VISION”, “TOO MUCH SPORTS”, “ADS”, “STAY”, and “GADGETS WE DON’T NEED” written on them. Through this, the artist expressed to me that television programs are full of worthless things. The screen flashes things at us to attract our attention so that we stay, but gives us little useful substance. While dolls and doll heads were fairly common along the trail, I was surprised that there were not more. The name “Doll’s Head Trail” led me to believe that the purpose of the loop was art made from doll’s heads. However, analyzing it as a whole, I believe that the purpose of the doll heads is to draw people in so that there is an audience to receive the artists’ messages. Then the purpose of Doll’s Head Trail itself is to give people an open place to leave messages for other people to inspect and digest. Even after looking at all of the art and reading positive messages and quotes written on the objects, the place still had an eerie feeling. The swampy land and the old items gave me a heavy and strange feeling throughout my walk around the loop. Then leaving the trail, a stray dog ran at me, stared at me for a few seconds, and then ran back into the brush. This experience left me feeling much more spooked about the place than when I had first arrived.  However, I did manage to leave my mark like all of the other artists who have contributed to the collection that makes up Doll’s Head Trail.

Focused Built Environment Description: Doll’s Head Trail

After following the main trail at Constitution Lakes Park for around half a mile, you stumble upon a densely concentrated assortment of weathered down objects. A sign names this location as Doll’s Head Trail. From a distance, it is easy to misinterpret the objects and assume the space is used for dumping trash. However, when you take a closer look it becomes clear that the clusters of objects were purposefully arranged together. The groups of items consist primarily of common garbage such as beat up car parts, broken sporting equipment, grimy children’s toys, shoes missing their match, rusted metal, fragmented electronic devices, and mucky bottles. For the most part, these objects are grouped together and laid out constructing an image. For instance, a plastic toy motorcycle and car whose paint jobs have become extremely faded by the elements rest in the leaves side by side. Inside of the car, there is a dirty baby doll in a twisted position with a cell phone and a glass bottle. The hood of the car, somewhat sunken into the ground, reads “DON’T DRINK & TEXT & DRIVE”. The most frequently recurring articles on the main loop of the trail are segments of grungy baby dolls. The first doll to greet you as you continue following the trail has missing limbs, appears to be charred, and is raised approximately three feet in the air by a wooden stake through its body.  The dolls you subsequently meet are not as boldly placed. Many of them are simply the heads of dolls, nestled into trees or resting on the ground, decorated by sharpie markings.  A significant number of the other objects on the trail have permanent marker writing on them as well. The writing is typically related to the articles themselves and is part of a bigger picture. For example, a popped basketball with the words, “TOO MUCH SPORTS” inscribed on it was placed inside of the frame of an old television. The writing on the objects along the loop must have been done by many different people because there is a wide variety of dissimilar handwriting throughout. The relation between the items and the text written on them in combination with the clearly deliberate placement of each article indicates that the people responsible are trying to convey something to their audience of people walking the trail.