Metro Atlanta Speaks survey shows strong support for public transit

By Maria Saporta

Metro Atlanta residents believe the economy (24.4 percent) is the region’s most pressing problem followed by traffic (21.4 percent), according to a new survey released Friday by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The public opinion survey was conducted by the A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service and Research at Kennesaw State University. More than 2.100 voting-age residents in the 10-county Atlanta region participated in the statistically-significant “Metro Atlanta Speaks” survey.

One of the most striking results of the survey was the strong support for public transportation.

More than 71 percent of respondents replied that improved public transportation was “very important” for the Atlanta region’s future.

When asked what was the best way to fix traffic challenges in the region, 41 percent cited improvements in public transportation and 30 percent said the solution was for better roads and highways.

Nearly 22 percent (21.9 percent) said the solution was developing communities where people lived close to where they worked.

The study, that was to be presented at the ARC’s annual “State of the Region” breakfast, also stated that “metro Atlanta is regaining its sizzle.”

After five years of sluggish growth, the Atlanta region added more than 78,000 new residents between 2010 and 2011, according to Census estimates. That was the seventh highest population gain in the nation among metro areas.

Metro Atlanta, after leading in job losses during the recession, was showing signs of rebounding. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, metro Atlanta added more than 72,000 jobs during the past year (June 2012 to June 2013), and it enjoyed the fifth largest gain in new jobs in the nation among the 25 metros.

Overall, metro Atlanta has more than 2.4 million jobs, making it the ninth largest employment center in the country.

The housing market also began to regain traction with rising prices, increased building activity and declining foreclosures.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, metro Atlanta added more than 72,000 jobs during the past year (June 2012 to June 2013), the fifth largest gain in new jobs in the nation.

Although this doesn’t match the job growth seen during the 1990s and early 2000s, it is still a good sign that metro Atlanta is recovering from the Great Recession. Overall, metro Atlanta has more than 2.4 million jobs, making it the ninth largest employment base in the nation.

Metro Atlanta also has a relatively young population. With more than 20 percent of its population ages 14 and younger, metro Atlanta is one of the youngest places in the nation – ranking fifth out of the 25 most populous metro areas.

The housing market in metro Atlanta also is regaining traction as the economy improves. Housing prices are rising, thee is increased building activity and declining foreclosures.

Despite improvements in the region’s economy, metro residents still are not confident about the future.

While nearly 40 percent of respondents replied that they think living conditions in the region will be “about the same” in three to four years, a higher percentage (31 percent) said that it would be worse than said it would be better (28 percent).

And while respondents might feel uncertain about the region’s future, the vast majority like living in metro Atlanta. More than 67 percent of respondents rated the Atlanta region as an “excellent” or “good” place to live. Only 32 percent of respondents rated the Atlanta region as a “fair” or “poor” place to live.

Residents, however, are less positive about job opportunities. Only 36 percent of respondents rated job opportunities in the Atlanta region as “excellent” or “good,” compared to almost 57 percent who rated job opportunities as “fair” or “poor.”

Further, only 7 percent rated job opportunities as “excellent,” while nearly three times as many respondents rated them as “poor” (20 percent).

The survey also showed that metro Atlanta residents are shifting away from sprawling suburban developments in favor of more urban, walkable communities. where there’s existing infrastructure.

Nearly 76 percent of the survey’s respondents said they preferred to “redevelop older areas: as the best way to accommodate growth compared to 18 percent that preferred to “build new suburbs.”

The margin of error of the survey is 2.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The ARC and other community partners plan to repeat the “Metro Atlanta Speaks” survey every year.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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