Regional conversation a necessity for metro Atlanta’s future

Since 1947, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has collected, analyzed and presented its findings on all sorts of data regarding the Atlanta region. As the regional planning agency for a major U.S. metropolis, we must know the facts and trends about our region.

But, while numbers and data tell a story, they don’t necessarily tell us the whole story – for instance, how residents feel about this place we call home. And, as smart businesses know, it’s vital to hear from your customers about what they need or want in a product. In this case, the product is the Atlanta region.

To hear from our customers, ARC recently undertook one of the largest regional public opinion surveys ever undertaken in this area. It’s aptly called “Metro Atlanta Speaks,” and was conducted by the A. L. Burruss Institute at Kennesaw State University. The robust sample size of 2,180 in our 10-county region ensures a very low (plus or minus 2.1 percent) margin of error, at a 95 percent confidence level.

The idea for this regional poll came during ARC’s LINK (Learning, Information, Networking and Knowledge) city visits program to Houston in May, where we heard about the Kinder Houston Area Survey. The Kinder Institute at Rice University has conducted this important public opinion poll for more than 32 years, and over time, the survey has measured Houstonians’ responses to economic, social and public policy changes.

So, what did we learn from our own regional survey, “Metro Atlanta Speaks”? The survey tells us that a majority of metro Atlanta residents consider the region to be a good place to live. While they are happy with their neighborhoods and local schools, many residents are concerned about the regional economy and quality of education, region-wide. Traffic congestion was deemed as a major challenge, with more than 71 percent saying that improved public transportation is very important to the region’s future. Some 75 percent said redeveloping older areas is the best way to accommodate new growth, as opposed to building new suburbs.

While the results of this first survey are interesting and informative, and maybe even a bit surprising, the greater value of “Metro Atlanta Speaks” will come in future years as we track the region’s attitudes and opinions through shifting trends and changing economic conditions.

ARC believes it is essential to continually hear from our constituents and learn how we can make the region a better place to live, work and play. And, this regional survey is just part of our effort to ramp up engagement with regional residents. Every day, we reach out through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The planning agency is also having conversations with groups of Millennials to better understand what they think and how we might best engage with them to create a stronger, healthier Atlanta region.

ARC’s tagline, “Regional Impact, Local Relevance” is more than a slogan. It is our commitment to reflect the current and future desires of those who live in all parts of metro Atlanta in our regional plans and programs. Only through continued conversation and collaboration will we be able to help lead this region on a path of continuous positive change.

For more information on Metro Atlanta Speaks, please visit