New Olympic mo­ment

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - ATLANTA FORWARD - By Christopher B. Lein­berger

As a fond and knowl­edge­able out­side ob­server of At­lanta for 30 years, I have been pleased to watch the “city too busy to hate” and your host­ing the 1996 Olympics. But I am fear­ful for your fu­ture. As I’ve men­tioned in re­cent speeches and ar­ti­cles, Hotlanta is no longer hot.

Metro At­lanta has had a lost eco­nomic decade. You have fewer jobs to­day than in 2001, but a higher pop­u­la­tion. Your houses have lost 29 per­cent of their value in in­fla­tion-ad­justed terms over the past 10 years. Brook­ings’ Global MetroMon­i­tor ranks your eco­nomic prospects as 189th out of the top 200 met­ros in the world. And you still have some of the worst traf­fic con­ges­tion in the coun­try.

How have you got­ten your­self in this sit­u­a­tion?

You have for­got­ten why At­lanta was founded in the first place: trans­porta­tion.

There is a rea­son an early name for At­lanta was Ter­mi­nus. There is no rea­son for the re­gion to be where it is phys­i­cally ex­cept for the en­light­ened in­vest­ment of past civic and pri­vate lead­ers in the trans­porta­tion that has pro­pelled your growth. First it was freight rail, then high­ways and then air­planes.

At­lanta has al­ways led the way — un­til now.

To­day’s knowl­edge econ­omy de­mands a dif­fer­ent way of build­ing your re­gion and get­ting peo­ple around. The pentup de­mand is for walk­a­ble ur­ban places. This is why the only metro neigh­bor­hoods to gain in real dol­lar value over the past decade were Grant Perime­ter. Na­tional re­search shows that a ma­jor­ity of walk­a­ble ur­ban de­vel­op­ment will be built in the sub­urbs — much of it out­side the Perime­ter.

That is why the July 31 trans­porta­tion bal­lot mea­sure is the early 21st cen­tury Olympic mo­ment for At­lanta. If you do not pass it, At­lanta will be out of po­si­tion for the next gen­er­a­tion. If you don’t build rail tran­sit and walk­a­ble ur­ban places, eco­nomic growth will go else­where.

As a long­time friend of At­lanta, I would love to see Hotlanta be­come hot again.

BOB AN­DRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

At­lanta rou­tinely has some of the worst traf­fic con­ges­tion in the world and des­per­ately needs to build the walk­a­ble ur­ban places the econ­omy is de­mand­ing, a Washington scholar says.

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