By John Schaffner
About 75 interested north Atlanta residents participated Dec. 3 in the first of six district outreach meetings in the first phase of public input into the new “Connect Atlanta Plan,” the first comprehensive citywide transportation plan to be developed for Atlanta.
The evening meeting, which was held in the auditorium of E. Rivers Elementary School, on Peachtree Battle Avenue in Buckhead, drew neighborhood activists and Neighborhood Planning Unit officers, as well as two members of the Atlanta City Council and just interested residents, mainly from the Buckhead and northwest Atlanta areas of the city.
In the following 10 days, representatives of the city of Atlanta’s Planning Department, which is heading up the study, and its consultants hired to work on the year-long study, held six more such meetings covering all quadrants of the city.
The program began with a Connect Atlanta vision presentation by Paul Moore and a facilitated group discussion of the program goals led by John Funny before broke into small table discussions of the goals: To provide balanced transportation choices, orchestrate regional strategies, prepare for growth, maintain fiscal viability, strive for environmental sustainability and preserve single-family neighborhoods while creating desirable places.
Moore pointed out that transportation accounts for 19 percent of spending by the average household in America—as much as for food and health care combined.
In describing the need to prepare for growth, he told the audience the projected population for the city in 2030 is 780,000, or an increase of 60 percent. He said jobs are projected to increase to 700,000 at the same time.
Atlanta being the central city in one of the largest and fastest growing regions in the country, the key challenge of the study will be to develop a balanced transportation network that will expand choice of movement in Atlanta, fuels growth and creates a more livable city Moore outlined.
Moore pointed out that the Connect Atlanta Plan is designed to guide the next 25 years of transportation policy and investment in ways that will advance Atlanta’s larger vision of creating a more modern, vibrant and sustainable city.
He said that since 1952—when the city executed a major annexation including Buckhead—to now, the city’s population has grown by 13 percent, while the metro Atlanta region’s population has grown by 425 percent. Jobs in the city have seen a 120 percent growth, while in the region jobs have grown by over 500 percent.
“Is this a pattern we want to duplicate?” Moore asked rhetorically. “Is this a pattern we can duplicate?”
“Jobs follow place,” Moore said, and “creating place attracts growth.” He urged those attending to “think about what we want.”
In the development of the plan, the planning team will examine land use, urban design and economic development issues in addition to carrying out an in-depth analysis of Atlanta’s transportation system. Among the data that will be analyzed will be the previously completed transportation studies in the city.
During the group discussion period, members of the audience offered many suggestions relating to the originally outlined study goals.
Several people suggested more thought needed to be given to senior citizens—maybe creating senior zones—disabled individuals and how health relates to transportation. Another related sentiment was not to push restricted and low-income people out of the city.
Gordon Certain, president of the North Buckhead Civic Association, suggested maybe the tern “mobility” was better suited than “transportation for the plan.
Northwest Atlanta neighborhood leader Eva Nason, suggested the plan should address “manage growth” rather than “prepare for growth.” She asked just how much growth can the city handle.
After the visioning part of the study is completed in January, the team will move into the assessment and analysis phase from February to May before working on recommendations and documentation, from June through September.
The study team urges the public to get involved by taking an online transportation survey at www.connectatlantaplan.com or calling their helpline at 404-330-6800. The team is actively recruiting community individuals to serve on a stakeholder advisory committee.