plan update 2020

 These ‘Drivers of Change’ are Likely to Impact the Future Growth of the Atlanta Region

What do you think metro Atlanta will be like three decades from now, and what will drive change over this time? These questions are far from academic. Local leaders and regional planners must look decades ahead in order to make decisions today that will help bring about a better, brighter tomorrow.

The Atlanta Regional Commission brought together a group of national experts to peer into the future and come up with a list of issues – or disruptors – most likely to drive change in the years to come. This process is central to the development of the Atlanta Region’s Plan, the long-range blueprint that details the investments needed to secure our region’s future.

Explore the drivers of change below, and you can learn more about the Atlanta Region’s Plan and discover ways to provide input and help shape metro Atlanta’s future.

Ride-hailing and carsharing both have the capacity to improve mobility and complement public transit service. Ride-hailing consists of users requesting on-demand rides, usually via an app (i.e. Uber or Lyft).

As of September 2018, about one-third of adult Americans had used a ride-hailing app (Pew Research Center), but the percentage is likely higher in the Atlanta region as users of those services tend to concentrate in urban areas.

Carsharing refers to the model of car rental memberships (i.e. Zipcar) designed for short and close trips in town. As of January 2014, there were 1.2 million car-sharing program members and 17,000 vehicles in the United States.

While autonomous vehicles are far from commonplace, a number of companies (including Tesla, Uber, Ford, and Google) are currently testing “self-driving” vehicle technology. Several accidents involving autonomous vehicles have been reported; however, innovative companies continue to increasingly make steady technological advancements.

The U.S. median age is projected to rise to 42 by 2065 due to lower birthrates and increased longevity. While Atlanta is projected to remain one of the youngest metro areas in the Southeast and the nation, the rising proportion of the Atlanta region’s residents over 65 (20% by 2040) will still have wide-ranging implications.

In recent years, every state in the country has experienced warmer weather than the 20th century average, and sea levels are expected to continue to rise due to increasing global temperature, thermal expansion and the resulting melting glaciers.

Severe weather events are becoming more commonplace. Pollutants generated by automobiles, power plants and other sources are contributing to climate instability. In the U.S., the burning of fossil fuels for transportation contributes approximately 26 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Across the U.S., 1 in 4 Black and 1 in 6 Hispanic Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared to just 1 in 13 of their white counterparts. While the number of people living in “concentrated” poverty nearly doubled from 2000 to 2013, the Atlanta region has seen a 3.1% decline in concentrated poverty in metro Atlanta since 2000.

Poverty in the Atlanta region is increasingly suburban; the suburban poor population grew 159% from 2000 to 2012, surpassing the number of residents below the poverty line in the urban core.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is facing growing shortfalls due to a decline in tax revenue resulting from increased fuel efficiency. As spending continues to outpace revenue, transportation providers are looking to alternative financing options to fund infrastructure.

The use of variably priced tolling on separated lanes is an increasingly popular option, and some states are beginning to implement congestion charges through full-roadway variable tools, specific charges for congested areas, or per-miles charges on all roadways.

In addition, partnerships (PPP) in transportation financing are an increasingly viable option; GDOT is utilizing a variety of PPP models to expand the express lane network in metro Atlanta.

Even though Savannah beaches are more than four hours away, its port is the second-largest in the country and is expected to accommodate bigger ships soon, which means more trucks and trains moving freight around the region. How can we accommodate this progress and our growing population safely?

Savannah is the 4th largest US container port by total throughput and the second largest on the East Coast. Annually, about 13.27 million tons of containerized goods are exported through the port, and the number is continuing to increase.

As one of metro Atlanta’s most important trading partners, the Port of Savannah serves as the primary international gateway for the region. In addition, the Panama Canal was deepened in 2016, doubling the Canal’s capacity and allowing the transit of larger ships.

The deepening is expected to benefit Savannah and thereby Atlanta’s truck and rail tonnage. In addition, in response to the deepening of the Panama Canal, the Port of Savannah is responding in kind.

In 2014, nearly 6% of workers in the Atlanta region telecommuted to work at least one day a week, and nearly 77% of the participants in a recent ARC survey want to telework at least 2 days a week.

The automobile market is diversifying. By 2022, it is projected that sales of electric and alternative fuel vehicles will reach nearly 12.4 million annually.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) — including ramp meters, changeable message signs, and cameras — deployment is trending upwards within the Atlanta region.

While the Metro Water District is responsible for one of the most comprehensive regional water management plans in the country that mandates a number of conservation initiatives, droughts continue to threaten the region’s water supply.

For more than two decades, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida have been in various disputes concerning the use of two shared river basins–the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT). These river systems are used to meet multiple needs, including drinking water, power generation, agriculture, aquaculture, navigation, and recreation.

The “Tri-State Water Wars” litigation began in 1990 when Alabama sued the Corps to prevent it from providing additional water to metro Atlanta from Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona. It evolved and changed over time, with various parties filing lawsuits to challenge the Corps’ plans for managing the ACF and ACT Basins. Disputes are ongoing (ARC).