Atlanta disputes travel magazine’s ‘dirtiest’ ranking

Sure Atlanta is big and vibrant, but it’s also dirty and unsafe, according to a national magazine’s survey of travelers.

So dirty is the city, Travel & Leisure ranks Atlanta as the fifth filthiest among 35 major metro areas, following New York (1), New Orleans (2), Baltimore (3) and Los Angeles (4).

Travel & Leisure’s 2012 America’s Favorite Cities report said Atlanta “moved up a full four spots” in the ranking of dirtiest cities from the previous year, partly because of its nightlife. The magazine said big cities that bustle with nightclubs attract plenty of young partiers who may not care much about the trash they leave behind.

“Studies have consistently found that youths and young adults are the most prone, or willing, to litter,” Steve Spacek, author of the “American State Litter Scorecard,” told the magazine. The group ranked Georgia as the seventh most littering state, tied with Illinois and Oklahoma.

A city spokeswoman took issue with the article.

“We are disappointed that some visitors to our great city have left with a negative impression with regard to cleanliness,” Sonji Jacobs, spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

Jacobs said the city is committed to becoming “cleaner and greener” and provided a rundown of daily cleanup efforts, including street sweeps, nightly trash pickups in the downtown area, placement of trash receptacles in city parks and making public toilets available. The city also launched a curbside recycling program this week with the goal of diverting 90 percent of municipal waste by 2020, Jacobs said.

One ordinance should help clear public areas of cigarette butts. City Council recently passed a ban on smoking in city recreational areas. Supporters of the ban said a gallon of cigarette butts littered Woodruff Park alone every day.

Atlanta remains a top destination for tourism and business. According to the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city attracted 39.7 million business and leisure travelers last year, a 6 percent increase from 2010.

The city ranked 17th on’s 2012 list of Top 25 U.S. destinations, getting kudos for everything from “world-class restaurants and a myriad of cultural attractions to a hip nightlife and sporting events galore.” The city ranked No. 7 for most-visited U.S. cities for business travel, according to Concur Technologies Inc., a travel management services company.

For its America’s Favorite Cities report, Travel & Leisure said it focused on culture, dining, shopping, safety and several other areas.

Atlanta ranked as the second least-safe city, exceeded only by Baltimore.

Jacobs, the mayor’s spokeswoman, called that finding “dubious.”

“According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, major crimes in the city are down to lows not seen since 1969,” Jacobs told the AJC. “We are on pace to experience fewer than 100 homicides for the fourth year in a row.”

Jacobs also said major felonies are down 5 percent so far this year, and 16 percent since this same time in 2009.

“We will not rest in our mission to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the city,” the spokeswoman said.

For its nightlife, Atlanta No. 29 out of the 35 metro areas Travel & Leisure listed. As a cultural getaway, the city ranked No. 30; for dining, No. 31, and for shopping, No. 32.

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