Kasim Reed on the Atlanta of 2050

The Wall Street Journal celebrated its 125th birthday today with a massive, web-based look back, and large series of articles focused on the future.

Taylor Swift waxed eloquent on the prospects of the music industry. In part:

"It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is."

But it was left up to Mayor Kasim Reed to sketch out the future of urbanism – specifically, the Atlanta of 2050. Think high-speed rail and a city constantly trying to balance public safety with privacy. In its entirety:

I often say that cities are where hope meets the street, and that will be increasingly true between now and 2050.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, left. AJC file

Cities, in short, are ascendant. National governments—in the U.S. and overseas—are all but broken and hold little promise for mending themselves in the future. As such, people and businesses will turn to cities for leadership, bold thinking, effective services and, yes, hope.

What will these cities look like and how will they work? Public safety is the most fundamental responsibility of city government; thus, cities in the future will have a focused, well-managed approach to lowering crime rates.

Atlanta, for instance, is already using PredPol, predictive technology that helps forecast criminal activity. The result: crime rates that, in many instances, are falling below the 40-year lows we have already seen. In the future, police will perfect the use of predictive analytics to thwart crimes before they occur. We will also see expanded use of video technology, giving public-safety officials a view of every street corner, 24 hours a day.

In the end, our efforts to reduce crime will depend on how much privacy we are willing to sacrifice. Accordingly, we will need thoughtful public discussions about how to balance privacy with the desire for safety.

As cities attract more of our most talented young people, new relationships, ideas and jobs will emerge from new innovation hubs. We will see a greater focus on personal mobility—involving walking, biking, light rail, autonomous vehicle and car-sharing programs—along with healthier lifestyles and improved mortality rates among our residents.

Air and water will be cleaner, and energy use will be cut by 20% to 40% in our leading cities because of these changes.

High-speed rail will allow over six million residents in the Atlanta region to travel to the coast of Savannah in less than an hour. In those rare instances when we must travel by car, we will climb into an electric, self-driven vehicle—one that will travel along a networked traffic system. In all, our roads will be safer and less congested.

In 2050, I also believe that our lives will be more efficient. Gains in technology will make interactions with government and business more convenient.

Residents will be able to access services from municipalities at the touch of a button, or even the wave of a hand through the air. From the convenience of a laptop or smartphone, I believe that residents will be able to receive a visual route of where they want to go—whether driving, biking or walking—to any destination in a city and how long it will take them to get there.

The cities of the future will continue to be engines of economic prosperity. It will be cities that will offer transformational solutions to the global problems of crime, inadequate education and income inequality. If we are able to unleash the full potential of cities around the world, we will see a 50% increase in the annual U.S. GDP growth rate, from the sluggish 2% today to the 3%-plus we need in the future.

This city-fueled growth will help make the world a stronger, healthier and more prosperous place than it is today.