Look Out Chattanooga, Charlotte, And Raleigh, Atlanta Will Consume You

A new report by researchers at NC State says population growth up I-75 and I-85 will continue and by 2060, there will be essentially one giant city from Atlanta, through Chattanooga, TN. and up to Charlotte and Raleigh, NC.

The researchers used not only population projections, but also calculations for “urban extent,” i.e. new development. Don’t conflate this use of “urban” with the notion of walkable urbanism; most of this will, in the words of the researchers, be “business as usual,” auto-centric, low-density building and infrastructure. What will this mean for us? “A new, completely connected megalopolis … extending from Raleigh, to Atlanta.” Economists and demographers have talked about a regional pairing of “Char-lanta” for a while. Evidently, we will literally be connected one day.

The report struck fear in the hearts of the folks at Atlanta Magazine:

Of course, we all can guess that as sprawling metropolises converge with each other, it will turn our terrible traffic into something apocalyptic. It’s also likely to create an environmental mess. Note the researchers: “Not only will habitats and corridors for wildlife be eliminated, but the continuous urban corridor will have a warmer climate than surrounding rural areas.”

So what of this? Are the projections correct? And will this bring about the doom feared by Atlanta Magazine?


  1. benevolus says:

    I hope there is not one big city encompassing Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Charlotte. There is a very large National Forest in between. It would suck to lose that.

    • Charlie says:

      Just think of that as Central Park….

      I keep going back to the fact that this is a numbers game. If we grow at the SLOWEST growth rate we’ve had in the last 40 years (over any decade), we’ll add 4 Million Georgians in the next 25 years.

      Where are we going to put them is the next question?

      I think you can get a million ITP. That’s why building up the transit infrastructure matters. The Beltline isn’t about easing traffic congestion. It’s about setting up the infrastructure that will be required for the massive amount of infill housing that is coming…somewhere.

      My uber-conservative/libertarian friends like to call this “rent seeking”. I tend to think there is a role for urban planning at this level. We need to start thinking about where the people are going to be that move here, and start making the infrastructure available that anticipates it, rather than constantly trying to be in react mode.

      As for the other 3 Million? Maybe 250-500K scattered along the coast. Most of the remaining will be North of I-285, and largely long the freeway corridors (where the infrastructure already exists). And that, really, is what this report appears to be saying.

      • Max Power says:

        There’s only two reasons all 4 million couldn’t go ITP:
        1. Fear of density.
        2. Water.

      • Progressive Dem says:

        How enlightened. “I tend to think there is a role for urban planning at this level. We need to start thinking about where the people are going to be that move here, and start making the infrastructure available that anticipates it, rather than constantly trying to be in react mode.”

        if you want to see a better model of urban and transportation planning look at DC. 100 miles of rail, 700,000 riders per day plus 400K on buses. Most riders with college degrees and owning 1 or 2 cars. Populations of city and regions are comparable. DC and Atl started their systems at the same time. We’re stuck in the mud. In DC you have options.

        • Charlie says:

          We don’t quite have the natural draw of a Government Industrial Complex at our center, with a majority of the workforce going to generally the same place (and for different subsidiaries of the same employer). There’s some lessons that can be learned from DC. But not enough to presume that we’re going to anchor everyone around a downtown “just because”.

          • Progressive Dem says:

            The busiest stations are not around government facilities, but rather are surrounded by private investment – offices, condos, hotels, Verizon Center and retail. These private investments followed the construction of the stations. Business and workers prefer the predictability, convenience and reliability of transit, good land use policy and urban design. Another big job announcement by Deloite today is focused around transit in Atl.

  2. ryanhawk says:

    Sounds about right to me. The reported death of the suburbs has been greatly exaggerated.

  3. Raleigh says:

    HA! I knew Atlanta was going after the Tennessee River for the water. Rather than go to war just annex it!

  4. Engineer says:

    Considering the fairly close proximity to Atlanta and Chattanooga, I would have expected Birmingham to be in that mix. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised.

    • Charlie says:

      The growth up I-75 is well North of Cobb, and continues to accelerate.

      The growth out toward Douglasville…..meh.

      I’m sure it will happen, as it will to some extent in the Southern exerbs. But Atlanta’s center of gravity is on the north side, and seems to keep shifting up as much as it does out.

  5. MattMD says:

    I can see the Atlanta and Chattanooga MSA’s getting closer together (which is obvious) but not so much with Charlotte and Raleigh. The idea that it will be just “one big city/suburb” is just utterly asinine. I’d even give them 2160 and this won’t happen.

    We’re talking about something two times the length (to say nothing of area) of the D.C./Baltimore/Philly/NYC corridor and that area already has a much, much larger population (likely on an order of magnitude).

    • griftdrift says:

      It’s absurd on the face, but…..

      If you think of the Greenville MSA (or better yet the Greenville Spartanburg CSA) as a bridge to Charlotte, it pulls back from the edge of absurdity.

      And there’s only one county separating the Atlanta MSA and the Chattanooga MSA.

      • TheEiger says:

        “And there’s only one county separating the Atlanta MSA and the Chattanooga MSA.”

        Is that Gordon County? If so, when the economy gets back into gear and manufacturing is up Gordon County could see a lot of growth that could make it easier for the lines between the two MSA’s to get blurred together.

        • griftdrift says:

          It is Gordon County. And it has been that way for about ten years. Not sure what prevented the eventual closure between the borders but maybe after the 2020 census they’ll finally touch.

  6. saltycracker says:

    The 4 million more folks would be slow and unlikely, we should expect much higher numbers.
    We should not plan to deviate from who we are – we love, right or wrong, our do your own thing, token land use/zoning property rights, our strip malls,convenience stores and stand alone big boxes every few miles and dreams of selling out to commercial growth. This means roads, limited access highways, four lane roads, boulevards……. as a first priority of transportation dollars. This is not to give up on the progress potential of sound land use planning and mass transportation but just to acknowledge it will be slower than our needs in the next 25 years.

  7. bruhsam says:

    This report doesn’t give any nods to Golden Age science fiction. If it did, it would acknowledge we should have a New York-Philadelphia-DC super city by now.

  8. gt7348b says:

    This is really nothing new – it is probably just a continuation of the research into Megaregions of which Piedmont – Atlantic megaregion stretches from Raleigh to Birmingham. You can see a video overview from 2010 here by Dr. Catherine Ross at Georgia Tech to the Atlanta Regional Commission:

    For those of you who think we are going to continue to grow the way we have – you’re missing two indicators – the fall of VMT per capita over the past ten years (http://www.ssti.us/2013/09/factors-affecting-the-decline-in-vmt-a-new-ssti-report/) and market signals of employers. Three specific examples are here in Atlanta – State Farms’ consolidation in Dunwoody, consolidation of Coke workers from Cumberland to Downtown and continued consolidation of AT&T workers at the Midtown and Lindbergh campuses. I know examples aren’t proof, but they are indicators that suggest, with the combination of declining VMT, housing demand is going to be in existing locations through redevelopment of our existing developed areas (including suburbs) rather than the preponderance of new greenfield development we have seen.

  9. saltycracker says:

    The coasts of Florida are a long string of run together development but no one looks at Miami-Ft Lauderdale-West Palm and all the jurisdictions in between as one metro engulfing another. But the way we define boundaries in some of our so called GA cities we might have to drive further to our assigned city service than to another city’s.

Comments are closed.