The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
New Olympic moment
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.