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ARC goes high tech to reach public to devise plan for 2050

ARC is crafting a regional plan to help accommodate a forecast 36 percent increase in population by 2040. The region had a broad footprint at a height of 240 miles in this photo by an Expedition 34 crew members aboard the International Space Station in 2013. Credit: nasa.gov

By David Pendered

Think of ARC’s long-range, regional planning blueprint done with 3-D animation. It would feel more alive, more real-time representational of the region it aims to serve. And the conversation has already started about the future the blueprint aims to inform.

ARC is crafting a regional plan to help accommodate a forecast 36 percent increase in population by 2040. The region had a broad footprint in 2013 when viewed at a height of 240 miles, as in this photo by an Expedition 34 crew member aboard the International Space Station. Credit: nasa.gov

At dinner on Wednesday, for instance, seven folks have reserved a seat at a restaurant table in Sweet Auburn. A host is to lead a conversation and collect comments about a theme ARC describes as “issues that matter.” Seats at upcoming Future Focus: ATL dinners are available in an ongoing series of get-togethers.

Right now, gamers can play Future Focus, which ends at one of four alternate scenarios for a lifestyle in metro Atlanta in 2050. Each player’s final scenario is based on responses to questions, and the answers will inform ARC’s planners as they devise the blueprint.

At date yet to be scheduled, Dad’s Garage Theater is to host a troupe of teens performing a comedy improv about life in metro Atlanta in 2050. In its description of the event, ARC reminds of time’s winged feet by noting the show, “dares to envision metro Atlanta in 2050, when these teens will squarely be in middle age.” [Emphasis added].

All this is part of ARC’s planning process that is the most interactive the agency has yet attempted, in part because of the very technology the ARC’s plan will seek to represent.

All this, and more, will likely be required to accommodate the tsunami of population growth – 44 percent by 2040, some 2.5 million souls – that ARC forecasts the region to have absorbed a decade before the end of the planning cycle, in 2050.

All this during an epoch when technology is advancing so quickly that a mobility plan created for Downtown Atlanta in May 2018 was hobbled in part because it didn’t account for the explosion in electric scooters and ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft. Just this summer the proliferation of scooters prompted Atlanta to take steps to police them.

Chamblee, retail

ARC’s long-range plan is to contemplate development denser than in the past, such as this retail and residential project in Chamblee. Potential mobility enhancements also are part of the plan. File/Credit: David Pendered

All this is building to a finale in early 2020.

The board that oversees the Atlanta Regional Commission is slated to adopt the blueprint with the official name of The Atlanta Region’s Plan, possibly in February. The 30-year plan covers the metro area served by ARC, the region’s federally mandated metropolitan planning organization, and includes the region’s fiscally constrained transportation improvement program.

The plan intends to provide details of the universe of ARC’s planning responsibilities, which it defines as, “transportation, community development, natural resources, workforce development, and aging and health services.” The stated goal is – “improving quality of life in metro Atlanta by providing world-class infrastructure; fostering healthy, livable communities; and building a competitive economy.”

ARC has identified eight concepts its calls “drivers of change” that the region can expect to accommodate over time. The drivers are: “Ride hailing/car sharing; transportation finance structure; port traffic; autonomous vehicles; intelligent infrastructure; water supply; spatial, racial, and economic equity; aging of the population; and climate change regulations.”

The outreach itself is possible because of technological advances – an online game that captures responses while engaging the gamer; dinners with sign-up sheets that inform while limiting participants; and What’s Next ATL blog posts and podcasts hosted by self-avowed “former public radio nerd” Kate Sweeney.

Here’s how Doug Hooker describes the planning process that is to lead to a top-quality long-range plan. Hooker serves as ARC’s executive director:

Doug Hooker

Doug Hooker

  • “Great communities and regions don’t happen by accident. Careful planning is needed to ensure that metro Atlanta remains a dynamic, thriving region.
  • “Public input is critical to this process. We need to hear from a diverse cross-section of our community to develop a plan that improves quality of life and builds the kind of future we all want.”

All of this furthers the work in the existing blueprint from 2016, The Atlanta Region’s Plan. A segment of this plan, the Regional Agenda, represents the implementation plan and begins with this observation of the region:

  • “ACC or SEC; White, Black, Hispanic or Asian; Boomer or Millennial; the residents who call metro Atlanta home have a strong interest in creating a stronger, more vibrant region while protecting the features that have made the region a magnet for people and businesses from across the country and the world.
  • “To build a stronger economy and improve quality of life, the Atlanta region needs world class infrastructure, which includes a secure water supply and a transportation system for the 21st century; an competitive economy that is recognized as a global hub of technology with a competitive workforce; and healthy livable communities that have art and recreation and provide housing options for all ages and abilities.
  • “With a population projected to grow to 8.1 million people by 2040, The Atlanta Region’s Plan sets the framework for a stronger region to win in the future while continuing to sustain and improve the region’s quality of life.”




David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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