Step by step to safe sidewalks in Atlanta

Set priorities, fund repairs and report on progress

In July the City of Atlanta approved an ordinance addressing sidewalk maintenance that takes positive steps forward but falls far short of needs. To bring sufficient funding and transparency, much work remains.

Establish sidewalk maintenance priorities

The ordinance requires Public Works to implement repairs “upon a prioritized basis.” It doesn’t, however, define what factors Public Works should use to set priorities.

The current first-come, first-served system must be replaced by one that considers multiple factors.

  • HoBroken sidewalk w bad is the problem? Is the sidewalk located where it’s especially dangerous to walk in the road?
  • How important is the sidewalk to people who walk? Is it near a school, park or on a transit route?
  • And what about demographics? Do many seniors, children, people who don’t own cars or have disabilities want to walk here?

Researchers at Georgia Tech have gathered data that answers these questions. The next step: helping Public Works incorporate their findings into an equitable prioritization system.

Show us the money

The new ordinance authorizes Public Works to use public funds to pay for repairs, if funding is available.

Yet toMan carrying bag of money our dismay, the ordinance maintains Public Works’ authority to bill property owners for repairs to sidewalks adjacent to their property. Public Works is unlikely to exercise this authority, so we don’t expect it to prompt sidewalk repairs. Instead, continuing to authorize Public Works to bill property owners may keep city officials comfortable approving budgets that grossly underfund sidewalk repairs.

The ordinance doesn’t set a minimum that the city must allocate to sidewalk repairs each year.  Given that, we’ll continue to push for a fair share of funding for sidewalk repairs.

Make spending, needs and activities transparent

The ordinance also requires Public Works to make quarterly reports on how much it spent on sidewalk repairs — and where.

This a good step forward, but far more is needed.

Person looking through magnifying glass

  • We also need current data on the cost of repairs Public Works lacks funding to address.
  • How many letters did it send asking property owners to pay for repairs to adjacent sidewalks?
  • And what did Public Works do if the property owner was unwilling to pay to repair the sidewalk?FIX

By calculating and reporting this information, Public Works will enable taxpayers and city officials to know how well the curent system works. What share of the estimated need is the city actually addressing?

With your continued support, we’ll inspire Atlanta officials to answer these questions.