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In metro Atlanta, 84% of commuters drive alone to and from work on a maxed out road network. We’re chided as the most expensive city for commuters in the entire nation as we stew in traffic for an average of 72 minutes a day roundtrip. There’s no question we need more infrastructure, transit, sustainable funding sources and focused leadership to meet the mobility needs of a growing region. But even with new funding, it will take a decade or more to bring new projects out of the ground. What we need NOW is to make the best use of the existing options we have.

That got us thinking, “what if we could show the impact that taking cars off the road can have on traffic?” We know that on bank holidays, it’s much easier to get to work, despite the fact that only a small percentage of cars are not on the roads. If more commuters chose not to drive alone, what could that do to traffic congestion? The Clean Air Campaign and our partners came up with a neat way to express that idea visually.

We created a series of simulated traffic photos. Check them out here. Here’s how we did it: Last fall, a photographer scaled a fence on the 10th Street overpass straddling the Downtown Connector during morning rush hour to shoot a picture of typical Atlanta traffic (she nearly got arrested trying to get the perfect shot). A week later, our staff and partners met in an empty parking lot in Buckhead and set up a bunch of folding chairs:

We arranged them on the blacktop in configurations that accurately portray the number of seats in a typical carpool, vanpool and commuter bus. We sat in the chairs and modeled for the camera as the photographer snapped photos from atop a scissor lift. Then, the images were painstakingly cleaned up in PhotoShop and merged into the original traffic photo of the Downtown Connector.

The concept has become a mainstay in The Clean Air Campaign’s presentations to employers and commuters. In just a few images, we can explain what we’re trying to accomplish. The best part is that many of our colleagues and partners sat in those chairs and helped make the project possible. How much longer until the concept of these photos becomes more of a reality? That’s up to you.

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