The Ancient City of Florence Could Fit Inside an Atlanta Interchange

This is the city of Florence, Italy, and an Atlanta interchange at the same scale. Image: Steve Mouzon via Treehugger

This is Florence and an Atlanta interchange at the same scale. Image: Steve Mouzon via Treehugger

It’s incredible how much we’ve given up in the United States all so we can travel slightly faster by car. The above graphic, revived by Lloyd Alter at Network blog Treehugger this week from an old blog post by author Steve Mouzon, really makes you stop and think.

On the left is Florence, Italy — a global treasure. On the right, a nameless interchange in metro Atlanta, just about the same size. Alter says:

Florence, Italy is perhaps the most wonderful place to walk that I have ever been in. In a discussion I had recently about the city, I remembered a post architect and writer Steve Mouzon did a few years ago on the true cost of sprawl. Steve wondered why cities give up so much land that supports no retail, no residential, pays no taxes, just to move people out of town on highways. He showed this extraordinary coupling of two photographs at the same scale: one of Florence, Italy, and one of an interchange in Atlanta, Georgia.

Steve notes that the entire Duomo cathedral could fit in one of the loops of the interchange. You could spend days walking the streets of Florence (I have) and find three hundred and fifty thousand residents shopping, eating, selling wonderful leather goods, going to fabulous galleries and palaces and museums. It even has a a grade separated elevated pedestrian skywalk.

Because of the need for speed, Atlanta has a great big expensive hole the size of Florence that does very little beside getting “a small fraction of Atlanta workers to their jobs a bit sooner, barring any accidents.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Miles Grant of the Green Miles blog says a motorist who injured a pedestrian in New Bedford, Massachusetts, will face no penalty for what should be considered criminal negligence. ATL Urbanist ponders the link between political ideology and people’s desire to live in urban or rural locations. And Greater Greater Washington writes that Montgomery County doesn’t need to stop growing — it needs to make sure growth happens in places that are best equipped to accommodate it.