As a local contributor here at AC, I try hard each month to write well-informed articles about the city of Atlanta: the sights, the nice places to visit, exemplary small businesses, etc. However, that type of focus is not entirely honest. As much as I love this city – and I do love it, make no mistake – there are aspects of it that I would change, were I given power to do so. It’s actually stronger than that: there are some things about this town that I truly despise. So, I thought I would write an article that took a look at some of these unique characteristics of Atlanta that get under my skin.
1. The traffic flow / street design is an absolute mess. While many cities claim to have this problem, Atlanta takes it to the level of an Olympic sport. I can only imagine what was going through the mind of the city designers. “I know – let’s take three of the largest, busiest interstate highways in the Southeast (I-20, I-75, I-85), and let’s run them straight through the middle of Atlanta. In fact, let’s merge the traffic on two of them (I-75, I-85) and set a collision course with I-20 right smack in the middle of downtown”. This is what happens. The result is a catastrophe. The interstates remain the main traffic arteries for the city, only now all of that traffic is rushing headlong into one crucial intersection. The result: a sea of red brake lights.
2. There are too many choices. This seems like a very strange complaint. However, what I mean to say is that there is simply too much competition for basic services like car repair, food shopping, health care, etc. I’m not an economics expert, and maybe what I’m about to say is completely wrong, but in my opinion this all leads to no-one really caring about their consumers. The customers reinforce this notion. In their mind, if they’re not given the absolute best service they’ve ever seen, chances are good that they’ll simply go somewhere else next time. There’s no reason not to; there are so many choices for basic services that you could easily visit a different store each time you went shopping, repeating only once or twice a year. This makes it very frustrating for store owners, who often give up trying to care about customer retention. There is very little if any “feeling” that the store owners know their customers, or attempt to recognize regular customers. That interaction is an important part of the shopping experience for me, having the vendor remember my needs and try to cater to them, even as I give a particular vendor my exclusive business. It’s hard to find that level of mutual respect in Atlanta.
3. The level of crime always feels very high. I have no idea of the actual statistics of crime in Atlanta, as I’ve always resisted reading such things. However, if you work or live in the downtown area, you are constantly aware of the potential. It’s truly sad. It doesn’t matter what the actual statistics are; if residents / workers in Atlanta are constantly reminded of the possibility of crime, and the existence of potential trouble around them, the crime might as well be very high as the trepidation and the anxiety is always present. Atlanta has sections which are very poor and rundown, with a history of violent crimes. These sections often overlap with some of the most promising areas of downtown – the Georgia Tech campus, for example. It’s no wonder that a great deal of affluent workers have moved to the northern suburbs, even at the cost of an increased commute. When that money leaves the town, so do the resources which are available to fight this type of urban decay. I’ve lived in a lot of cities during my life, and none of them have the overwhelming atmosphere, the “low clouds” of crime, that you see in Atlanta.
Atlanta really is a fantastic city, at the end of the day. I feel I’ve made a good choice living here and I do feel that the positive aspects of this town outweigh the negatives. However, there are negatives, some of which I’ve outlined. Just like an old friend, Atlanta has things you love about it and things you really, really dislike, but you stick with them because of all the wonderful memories the two of you have together.