Background Information

Atlanta is both the capital and largest city in Georgia, with a population of 472,000. The 10-county metropolitan area—the ninth largest metropolitan area in the U.S.—is home to nearly six million residents who are served by the Atlanta Regional Commission, a regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency.

Metro Atlanta’s diversified economy—with its high concentration of Fortune 500 companies and global headquarters for many major corporations, including the Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, and UPS—exerts considerable influence on both the national and global economies. Along with a highly educated workforce, a major factor in Atlanta’s economic prominence is its central role in transportation and logistics. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest, both in terms of passenger traffic and aircraft operations. However, this success has also put substantial pressure on the region’s highway system, which is plagued by heavy congestion. The region’s dependence on automobile transportation and its history of aggressive highway construction—often at the expense of public transit—has contributed to sprawl, weakened social cohesion, and reduced air quality. The lack of affordable, efficient transportation options has contributed to growing inequality and worsened the region’s vulnerability to highway system disruptions during emergencies.

In light of these challenges, the Atlanta metropolitan region is embarking on an ambitious plan to transform its communities and its transportation system. In partnership with the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge, the region is planning to build additional rail and bus capacity under the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, as well as an extensive network of parks, multi-use trails, and transit along the 22-mile Atlanta BeltLine. Both projects have set goals for increasing affordable housing in these areas.

Team Summary

The City of Atlanta recently became one of the 100 Resilient Cities and is on a fast track to complete its resilience plan. The team is working to broaden its collective understanding of resilience planning models and best practices and chart a course for resilience planning throughout the Atlanta metropolitan region. The upcoming update of the Atlanta Region’s Plan ( may present an opportunity to build the plan around resilience.

Promising Practices

  • The Transformation Alliance—a partnership of 17 government agencies, businesses, and nonprofits—was one of six communities awarded a Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) grant. Part of the SPARCC funds will go toward a resilience plan that focuses on equity, health, and environmental outcomes for the Lee Street Corridor, which sits in a disadvantaged part of Atlanta threatened by gentrification.
  • The Atlanta Regional Commission’s research and analytics team built the Neighborhood Nexus tool, a community intelligence system that employs bundled state-of-the-art visualization tools to help users understand and analyze over 5,000 data variables from a variety of sources. Neighborhood Nexus aims to support a network of community leaders and residents, governments, businesses, advocates, and service providers with the information, tools, and expertise to make data-­driven decisions, leverage assets, and create new opportunities for policy intervention in community problems. Partners have used the tool to examine past and current socioeconomic and demographic patterns; assess correlations between the equity, health, and climate of communities; identify and develop benchmarking metrics; and ultimately make better community decisions.

Key Challenges

  • Determining the best starting point for resilience planning, whether that be taking resilience planning to more local governments or incorporating resilience into future regional planning efforts, or some combination of the two.
  • Coordinating at the regional scale and seeing the bigger picture. The many different entities working on resilience are generally focused on their own piece of the puzzle.