3 Ways to Imagine ATL in 2050 – and Help Shape the Region’s Long-range Plan

A graphic depicting what the future of metro Atlanta may look like, with self-driving, smart cars and green energy features.

Imagine the year 2050. What do you think metro Atlanta will be like three decades from now?

Will advanced technology (self-driving cars and other gizmos yet to be invented) bring solutions to age-old problems? Or will today’s challenges only grow as the years pass, leaving us in crisis?

These questions are far from academic, late-night dorm room fodder. Local leaders and planners must look decades ahead in order make smart decisions and investments today.

Now, you can add your voice to the discussion and help shape the latest update to the Atlanta Region’s Plan. That’s the name of the long-range plan developed by the Atlanta Regional Commission that details the investments needed to make our region a better place to live in the decades to come – things like an improved transportation network, walkable communities, services for older adults, and programs to help people find better jobs.

ARC has put together an innovative outreach program that features several ways to get involved in the Atlanta Region’s Plan update, and none of them involve tarot cards or Ouija boards:

  • Play ‘Future Focus,’ an interactive online game where you’ll explore nine big trends that a panel of national experts convened by ARC say will impact our future – things like environmental change and “smart” infrastructure – and make choices about where you think our region is headed. Based on your answers, you’ll navigate to one of four alternate 2050 scenarios, kind of like those Choose Your Own Adventure books you may have read as a kid.
  • Host or attend a Future Focus-themed Civic Dinner, and dig into a structured discussion about our region’s future with 6-10 people over a meal. Raise a glass to the future, whatever may come. Salud!
  • Laugh along with the Dad’s Garage teen improv group, which will perform a show that dares to envision metro Atlanta in 2050, when these fresh-faced teens will squarely be in middle age. Hijinks are sure to ensue. Date and details to come.

So, why does this matter?

The feedback will be compiled to help regional leaders and planners understand the kind of future that residents think we’ll face, as well as their biggest concerns – input that’s critical as they work to finalize the latest long-range plan update by early next year.

In September and October, ARC will hold “pop-up” open houses throughout the region, where residents can review and provide feedback on the Atlanta Region’s Plan update, including a list of proposed transportation projects.

‘Future Focus’ game

ARC convened a group of national experts across disciplines to peer into the future and come up with a list of the trends and issues most likely to drive change. Here’s what they came up with:

  • Ride hailing/car sharing
  • Transportation finance structure
  • Port traffic
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Intelligent infrastructure
  • Water supply
  • Spatial, racial, and economic equity
  • Aging of the population
  • Climate change regulations

Future Focus envisions four very different possible future scenarios. These are extreme potential outcomes, and the reality may include a little bit of each. But planners say it helps to look at extremes when planning. OK, let’s peer into the crystal ball:

  • Green Growth – The world has gone green in a big way. The development vs. environment debate has been settled, with sustainability rising the forefront of public consciousness.
  • Fierce Headwinds – Political alliances have broken apart, causing wild swings in world financial markets. Violent clashes over scarce resources have erupted across the globe. Many countries are mired in a prolonged recession.
  • Technology Reigns – Once known for its sweet Southern charm, metro Atlanta has changed. Gone are the days of personal customer service as robots now take orders at the Varsity and other fast-food restaurants. That’s right, no more “Whaddya-have? Whaddya-have?”
  • Full Steam Ahead – Metro Atlanta has continued to exhibit strong, steady growth. With a population of 9.2 million, the region has overtaken San Francisco, Washington and Houston to become the sixth-largest metro area in the country. Trends that were present in the first two decades of the 21st century have continued, though at a moderately accelerated rate.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.