Extended Interview: Kenneth Thorpe

August 2012 “View From the Brain Trust” feature

1. Metro Atlanta’s population is projected to top 7 million by 2030. What do you think is the single most important thing that should be done to prevent that growth in population from making our traffic congestion even worse that it already is?

Atlanta needs a comprehensive transportation plan that leverages federal dollars. This includes expanding MARTA rail and bus lines as well as taking a very close look at options for redesigning the 400 and I-85 North corridors.

2. Demographers predict that Atlanta—which has a high proportion of Gen X and Gen Y residents—will experience an “age bubble” in the coming decades. How will this cohort influence the future of Atlanta? Do Gen X and Y look for different things than their Baby Boomer predecessors, and if so, how will this affect growth, development, and/or culture in Atlanta?

Atlanta will always be attractive to new college graduates. It is a vibrant city with substantial diversity, which makes it a destination city. With outstanding universities as well, it will continue to be a good option for new and existing businesses.

3. Georgia has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the country. What do you think is the single most effective thing we can do to reduce this epidemic (and thus the associated health concerns and costs)?

Education. We need to re-examine physical activity and nutrition education in our schools. This will include not only working with children, but families as well. We also need to provide nutritious options for school lunches. The combination of nutrition education targeting families, enhanced (and fun) physical activity in school, and good meal options is a good place to start.

4. Projections show that metro Atlanta will soon be a majority-minority region, and in the coming decades our demographics will shift even more, with a growing proportion of Hispanic and Asian residents changing the region’s historically black-white biracial composition. How do you think this new multiracial and multiethnic mix will affect culture and politics in the region?

I think it already has. The diversity is one of the key selling points that has attracted migration of middle and upper-income minorities to Atlanta over the past couple of decades.

5. When you think about Atlanta’s future, what worries you most?

Transportation and traffic. I’m also worried about the area being overbuilt. The area has an excess supply of housing and foreclosures that continues to place downward pressure on property values.

6. When you think about Atlanta’s future, what are you most optimistic about?

I’m optimistic about the continued enhancement of our cultural attractions, and continued improvements to the downtown area that will continue to attract tourists.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to add?