Atlanta, A Sustainable City

Atlanta was a city built for cars. But policymakers are increasingly including sustainable practices into their development plans by retrofitting and reconfiguring the auto-dependent metropolitan area to make it more walkable and livable.

Catherine L. Ross, executive director of the statewide Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, weighs in on what's been done to improve sustainability in cities like Atlanta, and what's planned for the future. In an article entitled "The Drive To Make Cities Greener" from The Wall Street Journal, Ross cites environmental challenges that many cities pose.

"Cities and the regions surrounding them occupy only about 3% of the Earth's surface, but their residents consume more than 75% of the world's natural resources. In the U.S., over-reliance on the automobile contributed to urban sprawl, pollution and crippling congestion. Cities and their suburbs began taking in vast amounts of nonrenewable resources and putting out large quantities of waste."

Since the late '90s, Ross' mission has been to expand transportation options, improve air quality and enhance land use. According to Ross, in four years, the authority created a regional express bus service in 11 of 13 metro counties, which reduced congestion and emissions by removing large numbers of drivers from the road. It also adopted requirements for air-quality measuring and reporting and promoted urban infill projects such as Atlantic Station, a $2 billion "brownfield" development on a once-polluted steel-mill site in the heart of Atlanta.

"The improvements made in Atlanta were part of a broader idea, known as the sustainable city, that spread widely in the 1990s. Characterized by a mix of land uses, compact building design, walkable neighborhoods, open space and a variety of transportation and housing choices, sustainable cities are designed to preserve resources and enhance quality of life by, among other things, creating a more supportive environment for transit, cycling and walking."

To read more about Atlanta and its sustainability efforts go here.