Living in Atlanta is a wonderful experience for many people. With the caveat that it’s not for everyone (it’s impossible to please every persons “tastes”, and some will never enjoy city life as much as country life), I’d like to present three reasons why it’s a great idea to move to Atlanta, GA. I feel qualified to discuss this topic as I’ve lived right in the heart of the city, in a variety of neighborhoods, for more than seven years. I’ve seen what this town has to offer – good and bad – and I’d still like to make a case for moving to Atlanta. By that, I mean Atlanta in its truest sense – the downtown area. Many people might be unaware of this, but the area which most people think of as “Atlanta” (the circular patch defined by the I-285 perimeter highway loop) is actually a complex mixture of Atlanta plus small towns such as Decatur and so forth. The trend has been for workers in the city to move to the affluent, northern suburbs – beyond I-285 – and then commute into the city M-F to work. I, personally, think this is crazy, and here is my list of three reasons why this behavior is silly.
First of all, Atlanta has one of the worst traffic problems in the United States. With the exception of Washington, D.C., it’s certainly the worst traffic that I’ve ever witnessed in the Southeastern United States. One primary reason is that mass transit is a joke. Unlike cities with a more developed subway / train system that snake their way over the entire town, Atlanta’s train system only travels in the four cardinal directions – north/south, with a junction at the center to then go east/west. Unless you are extremely – and I mean very – lucky, you won’t be able to catch a train into work each day, simply because your work will be too far from one of the train stations and you’ll end up spending a fortune on taxis. Trying to commute into town each day requires not only an infinite amount of patience but also a supply of blood pressure medications. Atlanta traffic jams are legendary. It’s not uncommon for Interstate traffic to require well over an hour to go 30 miles. Everyone is trying to go into the city in the morning (hoping to find parking, by the way) and then leaving the city, going north, in the evening. It’s absolute bedlam. If you live inside the city, 2-3 miles from your place of work, you shave hours a day off your commute time. How much is your time worth? $25 an hour? $50 an hour? Say you could save two hours a day just by having a shorter commute. That’s $100 a day, or an extra $36,000 a year, just by living in the city. That doesn’t include tolls to enter the city from the north, by the way (GA-400 is infamous for this).
Secondly, it’s more expensive to live outside the city. I’m not just talking about rental properties or house prices, I’m talking about basic, nuts and bolts cost of living. Food is more expensive. Gasoline is more expensive. The malls on the outskirts of Atlanta have pricier, “trendier” shops and outlets which are more expensive. Sometimes you want that sort of thing, and I can understand. However, if that is your closest and most convenient source of consumer goods, chances are you are going to utilize that source even if you’re not looking for something a little more high-end. It prevents a dreaded commute into the city. So, add onto that $36k a year saved in driving, the money that you save on property taxes, rent / mortgage payments, utilities, food, and clothing.
Thirdly, the amount you spend on entertainment living in Atlanta versus one of the northern towns / suburbs (Marietta, Tucker, Roswell, etc) is much less. People going out at night in Atlanta to a local bar or restaurant or community theater are true “locals”. While big shows or well-rated restaurants will draw out-of-city residents back into the city at night, I would estimate that 75% of the entertainment in Atlanta proper is designed for the residents of Atlanta. The price reflects this. Local dinner theaters where a couple can eat and be entertained for less than the price of one ticket to a more trendy theater; free dog shows at one of the local dog parks; poetry readings and book appreciation clubs at one of the local small business bookstores…the list goes on, and on, and is detailed each week in the free magazine “Creative Loafing”. There is a lot to do in Atlanta for either minimal cost, or no cost; compare that to the cost of doing “business” (pleasure) in the richer, more distant northern suburbs where everyone chooses to live.
I can see some of the opposite sides rationale. Atlanta is a big city and as such it has crime. There are some very bad parts of downtown Atlanta where you don’t want to be during the daytime, let alone at night, especially alone. However, the extra cost associated with this higher crime rate – the real monetary cost to myself in terms of paying for damage / vandalism, replacing stolen property, etc – has come to approximately $2000 over the seven years I’ve been living here. I’ve not once been the victim of a violent crime, and I currently live in one of the worst sections of Atlanta. Meanwhile, I’m saving tens of thousands of dollars each year in commute costs, housing costs, and entertainment costs.
Atlanta is a wonderful city in which to live, and I certainly hope that more people decide to make their homes here.