As we close the books on 2019, we at What’s Next ATL thought it’d be a good time to take a look back at some of the top regional issues and trends that faced metro Atlanta in the past year.

Metro ATL’s population popping

Metro Atlanta is growing, and that growth isn’t stopping any time soon.

The 10-county region added 72,500 residents in 2019, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s latest estimate. And a deep dive into the numbers showed a continued “inside-outside” pattern with strong growth in the city of Atlanta and outer suburbs likes Cherokee and Henry counties.

And the region is expected to keep booming. By 2050, metro Atlanta is forecast to add 2.9 million new residents to the region, for a whopping total of 8.6 million, according to ARC. That’s like all of metro Denver moving here.

Planning, investing, and visioning for the future

Accommodating this growth, of course, requires careful planning.

In 2019, regional planners worked with local governments and transportation agencies to develop the Atlanta Region’s Plan, which details a range of transportation projects and programs – about $173 billion through 2050. The plan, set to be adopted in early 2020, includes more transit options, better roads and highways, and an expanded network of multi-use trails.

Also in 2019, transportation planners and officials came together to update a vision for the region’s long-term transportation future, known as Concept 3. In all, 50 potential transit projects from across the region were in the most recent update.

And in December, the new regional transit authority, the ATL, adopted its Regional Transit Plan, which, according to the authority, “serves as a critical first step for transit investment in the region” that is also the primary source for transit projects to be considered by ARC for inclusion in the federal required short-range and long-range transportation plans.

A new strategy to address the region’s housing challenges

Anyone who’s recently looked for housing in metro Atlanta knows how hard it can be to find anything that’s affordable.

To help guide the way and offer potential solutions, a diverse group of regional leaders collaborated to create the Metro Atlanta Housing Strategy. The goal: fostering a greater mix of housing options in the region, reflective of each community’s specific housing needs.

An interactive website enables users to explore the housing in their community and the kinds of steps that may help improve things.

Along the same lines, empowerline hosted a forum highlighting local strategies to increase affordable housing and transportation options for all ages, abilities, and incomes — key in a region where one in four of us will be 60 or older by 2030. This policy briefing provides more facts on the issue from an aging perspective.

Region’s economy remains strong … but it’s not working for everyone

Metro Atlanta’s economy has a lot going for it: near-record employment, and strong job growth that ranks No. 6 among the nation’s 12 largest metro areas.

But according to an ARC report on the state of the region’s economy, not everyone has benefited from Atlanta’s growth. The largest loss of job shares between 2007 and 2018 have been in low- and middle-income occupations. And the data shows that income mobility is poor compared to other regions.

Also this year, the region’s workforce agencies came together to launch, a website designed to provide a streamlined and seamless way for job-seekers and employers to navigate all of the resources available. This includes job-readiness workshops, career training opportunities, and job application assistance.

A River of Potential

The Chattahoochee River is one of the region’s natural wonders. But in many parts of metro Atlanta, access to the river is limited. ARC, The Trust for Public Land, City of Atlanta and Cobb County have commissioned a $1.5 million study of 100 miles of the river corridor to create a new vision for the Chattahoochee.

Over the summer, public forums were held to gather input on the plan, which is now in its development phase. A final study is expected in the first half of 2020. Learn more at

Leadership Lessons from the Steel Belt

Every year, the LINK™ program takes the region’s most influential leaders to another metropolitan area in North America to learn about new ideas and approaches for dealing with the issues and challenges facing metro Atlanta. The 2019 delegation converged in Pittsburgh, bringing home lessons in collaboration and equity.

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.