We've heard from the experts—and city hall. What do the rest of us have to say about the city's outlook? Here is the view from 250 Atlanta magazine readers who took our online survey in June 2012.
Traffic is issue No. 1
More respondents (52 percent) ranked "traffic" as the top challenge facing Atlanta than any other program. The second-most cited concern, at 19%, was “Jobs.”
Defining “Quality of Life”
We asked readers to weigh in on factors that they consider to be important to living well in Atlanta. The top five: strong local public schools; access to healthcare; parks and other public spaces; access to transit; and arts and entertainment options.
You're bullish on the BeltLine
45 percent of survey respondents predict the BeltLine will be completed in the next twenty-five years.
Not so much on the Connector
70 percent of survey respondents think the most likely scenario for the Downtown Connector is that “volumes and commuting times will increase—because Atlantans won’t carpool and there won’t be money to expand roads.” Only 11 percent thought traffic congestion and commute times would decrease because of more carpooling and transit use. And in the out-there category: just 2 percent considered it likely traffic would improve thanks to a jetpack developed at Georgia Tech.
Half full or half empty?
42 percent of survey respondents said they felt “optimistic” about Atlanta’s near-term outlook compared to 20 percent who felt “pessimistic.” Feelings about the area’s long-term future were more positive, with 52 percent of respondents feeling “optimistic” compared to 12 percent feeling pessimistic.
Are you here for the long haul?
Asked if they would still be living in Atlanta 10 years from now, 41 percent said "yes," and 48 percent said "maybe." The 25-year outlook was less certain; 17 percent say they’ll be here then, 58 percent put that possibility in the "maybe" column.
From the suggestion box
In response to an open-ended question about what one thing they’d change about Atlanta if they could, a not-surprising majority wanted to see reduced traffic and more public transit options. “Improve transit system, specifically trains, to run further into suburbs,” commented one respondent. “In my opinion commuters do not want to be forced to use two or more forms of transit to get to their workplace.” On a more whimsical note, a number of readers longed to figure out a way to create a waterfront (“OMG I need a beach,” wrote one.)
A few other (more plausible) suggestions from readers:
“Build a casino ON TOP of the transit station in The Gulch. Just go to Mississippi, or Cherokee or any of these places and count the Georgia tags on the cars . . . and the money and tax revenue that leaves our state DAILY!”
“If I could change anything, I would initiate a massive educational campaign to help our suburban neighbors understand that they cannot thrive if Atlanta doesn’t, and that as a region they need to come together to ensure we can take the steps necessary to attract more young, educated, productive people to our region. Those people are the answer to the future of our city, and they appreciate things that aging suburbanites may not find very important, but would if they could fully understand the chain of decline that will start if we neglect to attract new talent.”
“Stop the fighting. Team up.”
“Teach outsiders how to drive properly.”
“I would add more residents Downtown. The historic core of the city shouldn’t be as empty as it is. An increase in residents would provide support for better businesses Downtown and would also provide a base of people who care enough about the area to make sure it’s well-kept and livable.”
“Force people who moved here (because it’s awesome) to cheer for Atlanta teams, not their previous hateful teams.”
What do you like about Atlanta?
In response to this open-ended question, tops on the list was the weather. (Yes, really.) Also winning thumbs-up from survey takers are Atlanta’s diversity (“Even though this is the Bible belt, most people seem tolerant. I also love that there is so much art and creativity,” noted one respondent) and access to a wide range of arts, sports, and restaurants.
A selection of reader comments:
“We are Southern, but we are also a community that fosters creativity, diversity, and allows for change. We can have heritage and tradition, yet still grow.”
“I call it a ‘Goldilocks’ city—there’s always something fun I want to do, without making me feel overwhelmed with too many options. It’s a big city, without being too big. There’s so much diversity and exciting things going on, but we’re still humble and not arrogant about how cool we are; because we aren’t. And most importantly, things are happening here. We’re on the cusp of something.”
“I have always loved the vibe of Atlanta, the optimism and boundless capitalism that reminds me of the bustle Margaret Mitchell described. But alas, the Atlanta of the last three years is in decay. I have never seen the misery index this high.”
“I love that we are a big city and still Southern. There is art, food, culture, music, big corporations, the ability to travel ANYWHERE from our airport, and people will still say ‘Hey ya’ll’ on the street. Culture and Southern hospitality? You do not get much better than that. Oh, and the spring and fall weather are perfect!”
“The young, modern attitude that’s rare in many Southern cities.”
“I love the history of the intown neighborhoods and seeing that there is a resurgence in embracing and restoring that history and culture.”