There was an interesting article that came out of the New Geography website recently. In his article titled “Is it Game Over for Atlanta?” author Aaron Renn questions the Atlanta Region’s staying power.
Atlanta was only recently one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, but has experienced a major population slowdown in the past couple years of the recession. Renn’s article points to trends that have contributed to this slowdown, such as a battered housing market and an unemployment rate above the national average of 9.7%.
But according to Renn’s article (and most of you would probably agree), the metro area’s biggest Achilles heel is found in its infrastructure woes. Apart from the fact that the region is currently restricted from using what has been its principal water source supply, which is a huge issue in and of itself, the region has failed to adequately fund and invest in its transportation network for years. The region’s population has grown by over 1 million people in the past eight years alone, but the amount of funding for both MARTA and GDOT is currently less than it was in 2000. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this equals serious problems for the existing transportation infrastructure and those residents trying to utilize it.
Most Atlanta residents would agree that the region’s infrastructure is severely overburdened and failing to adequately meet the needs of the metro area’s population. And with Charlotte, NC just next door and overly eager to point out the fact that they, unlike the Atlanta region of the past decades, are fully committed to building and investing in new transit infrastructure, Renn warns that Atlanta’s leaders should be worried.
Put in layman’s terms, Atlanta’s traffic burden threatens the quality of life of Atlanta’s communities and their residents. In turn, companies and people alike think twice before making the move to the City. The extent that Atlanta should feel threatened by the Charlotte and Nashville’s of the South is debatable. But regardless of your opinion, it is a fact that Atlanta is no longer the only growing metropolitan area in the South. Therefore, the Region’s leaders have to start making important decisions as if Atlanta is in direct competition for the #1 spot and its life depends on it.
While this is an extremely oversimplification of the issues the region faces, Renn points to a version of these arguments as a possible reason why some urbanites think Atlanta’s booming period may be over.
Renn’s article does not try to convince the reader that Atlanta’s life span is over. In fact, he seems to have a soft spot for our great city, and an understanding of what makes it special that only those who have lived here or spent significant time here would know. His article is thoughtful and worth reading, regardless of whether you agree with what he says.
Because while Atlanta’s magnitude of recent growth has no doubt generated significant economic activity for the region, there is no denying that is has also resulted in numerous challenges related to sustaining the economic, environmental and social health of the region in the long-term. Meeting the needs of a changing population does not fall to social and education systems alone, but also to a built environment and supportive infrastructure that allows these individuals to be independent and active.
Read Renn’s article here: http://www.newgeography.com/content/001574-is-it-game-over-atlanta