A recent Atlantic Cities post, How and Why American Cities Are Coming Back, contains a quote that I thought was particularly relevant to the current discussions about transportation funding and sprawl in the Atlanta region.
Alan Ehrenhalt, author of The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, had this to say about the power in metropolitan areas shifting away from suburbs and back to the cities, specifically in Atlanta:
"In Atlanta, virtually no newcomers from foreign countries settle within the city limits anymore; they all go to suburbs like Gwinnett and Cobb counties. Meanwhile, neighborhoods in the center are gaining population and becoming more expensive to live in. I believe that the problem for central cities in the coming years won’t be creating a demand to live there; it will be creating a supply of housing adequate to meet the demand."
The transit lines on the Atlanta region’s TSPLOST project list, while very useful for the urban ‘haves’, are going to be of little use to suburban ‘have nots’ who can’t afford to own a car. particularly if intown home values continue creeping ever more out of reach of middle and lower income families.
Ehrenhalt also says this:
"…we are living at a moment in which the massive outward migration that characterized the second half of the twentieth century is coming to an end…we need to adjust our perceptions of cities, suburbs, and urban mobility as a result."
The old Atlanta model of low-income people in the city center and middle/upper income people in the suburbs has become muddled and more complex and will likely continue to do so.
For this reason (and more), leaders should focus on a retrofit of the suburban environment to make it more walkable and thus more accommodating to non-car transportation choices. And also maintain and build affordable housing choices intown near existing and future metro Atlanta transit lines.