by Annie Blissit, May 15, 2017
Hi, I’m Annie! I am a water engineer and part-time M.S. student in the Environmental Engineering program. You may be wondering what a water engineer is doing in a transportation course in the Netherlands…honestly, I happened across the opportunity when trying to find a summer elective but it couldn’t have been a better coincidence! I read about Dr. Watkins’ trip in 2016 when my boyfriend Matt (who is actually a transportation engineer) and I had recently returned from spending 10 days in the Netherlands bicycle-backpacking between Amsterdam, Haarlem, Lisse, Leiden, Den Haag, Gouda, Utrecht and back to Amsterdam, staying in Airbnbs along the way. Again this spring, we returned to Holland for the tulip festival, this time allowing train travel but taking our rental bikes with us everywhere. Needless to say, we are both taken with the Dutch way of life, especially their transportation. Also- the Netherlands is a fascinating country for water engineering
I am a Midtown Atlanta native. I have always loved Atlanta, but grew up with my 30+ minute interstate commute to school and taking I-85 another half hour to church on weekends. While not the Virginia Highlands of today, my neighborhood was walkable, but that was the extent of sustainable transportation in my life…until I went to college. I did my undergraduate degree in Pittsburgh, PA at Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh had a great bus transportation system. Sure, on weekends you’d wait 30 minutes for the highly desired bus to the Southside with it to only show up full, but this was a system that got people on their buses. CMU, the other universities, and most downtown businesses included bus passes in tuition and as job benefits, causing true bus rush hours, packed full of working professionals and students. It was truly unbelievable to someone who grew up with Marta in the 1990s-2000s.
I still visit Midtown often to enjoy the Beltline, Ponce City, and Krog Street and think it is great what the City has accomplished. While I think the Beltline is wonderful, it is currently more of a destination and not a mode of everyday, active transportation. It would take a more robust and safe network along our roads to provide daily commute options. I already treasure the Dutch infrastructure design methods and understand there are many differences and challenges with implementation back home. I hope that this course will provide a better understanding of how integrated transportation systems can be implemented in US cities like Atlanta.