NING ZHANG - Urban Catalyst: Transit Oriented Development, Atlanta High-Speed Railway Station
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Urban Catalyst: Transit Oriented Development, Atlanta High-Speed Railway Station


Architectural design
The project was awarded the 2020 AIA Georgia Design Excellence Award and 2020 AIA Savannah Citation Award for Master’s Thesis work at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Global urbanization, population growth, and urgent environmental concerns create infrastructural challenges that cannot be resolved with our current modes of transport. A sustainable alternative to car/air travel is therefore imperative.

Over the last 10 years, metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion has grown from the 15th to the 4th worst in the country. The city of Atlanta simply grew faster than the infrastructure could keep pace. Atlanta’s transportation challenges now are experiencing rapid growth, under-investment, and high demand for the future. The region has the top challenge to attracting and retaining companies and high-quality jobs that comes with them.

Following the major crises, there was a significant shift in the orientation of urban and transport planning. Environmental and energy efficiency became of paramount importance while overcoming automobile dependence and urban sprawl became key objectives. During the 1990s and 2000s, these goals became universal as new evidence of climate change and the depletion of oil reserves were added to the initial estimates.

Within this framework, proposals such as the compact city, topocentric development, transit-oriented development (TOD), smart growth, and new urbanism emerged through intensive research on land use and transport interaction. Significant changes are needed in its’ development to ensure a sustainable economic, social and environmental perspective. This study investigated the possibility of introducing transit-oriented development (TOD) principles to a typical suburban municipality of Atlanta. Adopting the TOD model on the high-speed rail (HSR) station in the Atlanta urban and transport context will impact and change the city's future city urban lifestyle.

The project explores the impact that a Transit Oriented Development would have on a city the size of Atlanta and proposes a design for a high-speed rail station that would aid in the development of the surrounding areas into a transit-oriented mixed-use hub. The project inspired by “Arcology”, is a complex yet functional living system to address the many issues of urban life.

The research is going to elicit information about people’s travel experiences and behaviors and discuss how it achieves different outcomes from other qualitative transport survey methods. Meantime the study will collect information on different transportation methods and research the station area conditions in Atlanta. The study will focus on peer city TOD programs with their appropriate contexts and explores the skills and techniques between different countries to overcome some of the main criticisms of the travel method. The study will conduct a literature review of TOD research and evaluates some of the critical challenges of applying TOD principles to the high-speed rail station and identifies potential ways for overcoming the crises which we mentioned. Finally, the study will guide the design proposal work to discusses the potential ways to overcome those key challenges.

The high-speed rail is going to revolutionary travel. It will provide extremely fast travel times with direct connections between cities, enabling completely new ways of working and spending our leisure time, which in turn will lead to a multitude of economic, environmental, and knowledge exchange benefits.

The study base on the city of Atlanta’s transportation, undertaking the TOD model to create a vision for the future high-speed rail station which can adapt to a range of possible contexts: city-center, edge of the city, or adjoining an existing infrastructure hub, such as an airport and MARTA. The urban integration of the high-speed in cities and towns of different sizes and different locations within these cities. To study a relationship with its local environment: an integrated piece of an urban composition as a symbol in Atlanta.

The thesis aims to determine how the general planning guidelines, which have already been applied in US and European contexts, could serve as comprehensive land use and transport plan. Significant adjustments to local conditions are required to reverse the urban landscape's chronic pathologies that incorporate suburbanization trends and planning failures. The thesis aims to expand access to transit, help achieve sustainability goals for carbon footprint, mode share, and land use. In addition, the thesis aims to enhance economic competitiveness, attract more creative class workers and also to support regional partners, and create more destinations on the MARTA network in Atlanta.

In addition, the design explores how to combine several urban and transportation ways which are needed to be addressed to adapt the TOD model to local conditions are the most efficient way. The proposal will be the catalyst for the next real estate boom, significantly reduce our dependence on oil, shrink the national carbon footprint, reduce congestion, and create efficient mobility that’s safe and affordable for its passengers. Meantime, the proposal considers three-dimensional urban development around the station. The enrichment can come from urban infrastructure if it is useful and engaging to a diverse population. Large-scale parks and plazas are connected by a system of pedestrian walkways that extend to surrounding areas. The design is promoting accessibility to a wide range of people and activities and also transform the industrial wasteland into a new vibrant urban district and infrastructural hub. In this study, mixed-use development across the existing railroad tracks, reuniting the city and reinventing the station as an integral part of the city center. The new urban destination creates a coherent urban experience and creates a comfortable seamless transition.


 Savannah College of Art and Design


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