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Appendix: Case Study Profiles

2. Atlanta, Georgia - Livable Centers Initiative

Funding Sources and Amounts: L230 Surface Transportation Program-Urban (STPU) and funding from Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). ARC has reserved $1 million annually from 2000 to 2012 for LCI grants for studies. An additional $500 million has been allocated for transportation projects that result from Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) studies.

Years: 1999–present

Agencies/Organizations Involved: ARC

Geographic Area: Atlanta region

Problem to Be Addressed

Atlanta is dealing with a problem that many other metropolitan regional areas face: population growth and traffic congestion. Atlantans, on average, drive almost 35 miles a day. This is more than most other regions of the Nation. This longer-than-average distance grows steadily as counties get farther from the urban core.1

In addition, ARC's latest population and employment forecasts anticipate large population growth in the next 20 years. By 2030, Atlanta's 20-county region will be home to nearly 7 million people and will provide almost 4.9 million jobs.2 The Atlanta region is making decisions about how to develop and grow in a sustainable way that will allow for livable communities.

Objectives of Project

LCI was designed to encourage jurisdictions to more closely link transportation and land use decisions when determining development strategies. LCI offers grants to local jurisdictions to study ways to implement strategies that support sustainable growth.

Summary of Project

LCI was established by ARC in 1999 to encourage local communities to promote livable and sustainable transportation and land use practices. The program awards grants on a competitive basis and promotes local long-term transportation improvements and community enhancements.3 The primary goals of the LCI program are to:

ARC approves about $1 million in study funds annually and has approved allocation of $350 million for priority funding of transportation projects resulting from LCI studies. In addition, $150 million was approved in the 2030 Regional TransportationPlan for transportation projects resulting from LCI studies.

Type of Funding Used for Project/ Plan

Population Served and Modes Served

Atlanta-area residents; all travel modes including transit, roadways, biking, and walking.

Project Details

Atlanta Livable Centers Initiative Background

Although Atlanta is currently one of the least densely populated metropolitan areas in the United States, ARC's latest population and employment forecasts anticipate large population growth in the next 20 years. By 2030, Atlanta's 20-county region will be home to nearly 7 million people and will provide almost 4.9 million jobs. Therefore, it is imperative to start thinking about more sustainable and efficient growth and development. Such growth will support a larger population without straining resources, the economy, or the environment. Sustainable development encourages compact growth and more use of bikes and public transportation, allowing people to work closer to home and local businesses to thrive.5


Since the beginning of the program, LCI has promised more than $500 million to local governments and nonprofit organizations. LCI has allocated $10 million over 10 years to the study portion of the program. The remaining amount will be priority funding for transportation projects resulting from the LCI studies. Of the $500 million promised, about $129 million has been programmed and more than $140 million in planning and transportation funds have already been allocated to 96 distinct areas in the Atlanta region.6

Funds attributed to the program come from the L230 STPU Federal transportation dollars, which are allocated to MPOs with populations of more than 200,000. The additional funds may enable recipients to leverage funding from other sources to further increase regional improvements. While LCI program funds are considerable, the ability to leverage funds from other areas has been enormously helpful in achieving LCI goals. Some of the other funds received are through tax allocation districts, CIDs, special-purpose-local-option sales tax, the Quality of Life Bond Program, Homestead Option sales tax, and impact fees. Altogether, these additional sources of funding make up 69% of the funds supporting LCI plan implementation.7

Eligible applicants include government jurisdictions (often counties and cities) as well as nonprofits in the 18-county Atlanta metropolitan region. Study entities must meet one of the following criteria: town center, activity center, corridor, or emerging regional center or corridor.8 "Of these study areas, priority consideration is given to those that incorporate brownfields, greyfields, and transit nodes; those that increase connectivity to existing LCI areas, transit station areas and other major centers; those with relatively underutilized infrastructure; and finally, those that have or could have the density to support alternative transportation modes and mixed land uses."9

Use of Indicators

A unique aspect of the project is its use of indicators to analyze the success of its program in meeting livability standards. ARC conducted the LCI Indicators and Benefits Study to determine current effects and success of the program. The commission selected 10 representative areas from the 96 completed LCI studies based on regional location, availability of GIS data, land use recommendations in the study, and LCI study type. LCI study type consists of three different possibilities:

These 10 regions were then evaluated using INDEX, a program that analyzes different land use and transportation scenarios using geographic information system. The program incorporates local land use inputs, the local transportation network, and local travel behaviors, and then applies variables related to density, diversity of jobs to housing, and design factors including street density, sidewalk completeness, and route directness. After taking all the variables into account, the program produces an indicator as a measure of change from the current or previous scenario.

Using the INDEX program and its various indicators, the LCI scenarios support the idea that per-capita vehicle miles-traveled (VMT) can be reduced while simultaneously supporting growth and increased employment, housing, and population. All but one LCI region examined showed reduced VMT and increased population and employment. This is possible due to more efficient land use models and multimodal transportation networks, as well as more compact growth allowing for shorter commutes and a more balanced jobs-to-housing ratio.10

Survey of Grant Recipients

In 2008, ARC also conducted a survey, including members of 80 of the LCI communities that already had studies completed in their communities, to measure progress based on improved facilities and personal attitudes toward the projects. Below are some of the results:

Since the program began in 1999:

The survey also found that:


  • Sometimes, solutions instigate other problems. For example, the INDEX analysis program suggested that the best results are achieved when jobs and people are close together, but that the concentration of growth leads to localized congestion due to lack of local infrastructure to handle increased demand on the local system.*
  • How to prioritize housing and transportation forseniors and special needs residents?
  • How to promote travel mode shifts to reduce congestion?


  • The grants funded studies that improved the link between jobs, housing, and transportation in the Atlanta metro region.
  • Grant recipient communities surveyed by ARCadopted the LCI studies into their comprehensive plans, designated special LCI zoning districts, and developed policies focused on senior and special needs housing.
  • Grant recipient communities surveyed by ARC reported that they believe their communities are more livable since the LCI studies, there are more opportunities to walk or bike, and there is more community involvement in planning related events.**

* (LCI 2009 Indicators Benefits - "Results")
** (From LCI 2009 Implementation - "Executive Summary")

Livability Principles Promoted by Project

Promotion Livability Principles
P Increase transportation choices
P Promote affordable housing
P Enhance economic competitiveness
F Support existing communities
F Coordinate Federal policies and leverage investment
F Value communities and neighborhoods

P: Partly Supports
F: Fully Supports

Perspectives on Implementing the Project and Its Impacts

Project Status

As of early 2010, 102 communities have been designated as LCI areas. Some $8.5 million of study funds has been allocated to LCI areas for studies; $1.9 million has been used to fund 40 supplemental LCI studies; and $129 million has gone toward funding local transportation projects in LCI communities. ARC continues to fund studies that will support planning and implementation of livable communities.

Applicability of Lessons Learned to Other Projects or Challenges

Study grants like those offered by LCI have provento be innovative ways to generate private investment to develop creative solutions to linking land use and transportation.

Federal transportation funds can be allocated to promote only those projects that strongly support proactive strategies linked to land use development.

Roles of MPOs / DOTs and Policy / Plan Outcomes

ARC, the regional planning agency and MPO that coordinates regional land use and transportation planning, developed and leads the LCI program. ARC is committed, through policy such as the LCI program, to transportation planning that supports a positive quality of life in the region's centers and high-activity corridors and seeks to better link transportation and land use planning.

For More Information

Sources and Other Resources:

1 Smartraq Report

2 LCI 2009 Implementation - "Development Inventory"

3 LCI 2009 Indicators Benefits - "Executive Summary"

4 Paragraph cited from LCI 2009 Indicators Benefits - "Background of the Livable Centers Initiative Program"

5 Paragraph cited from LCI 2009 Implementation - "Development Inventory"

6 Paragraph cited from (LCI 2009 Implementation - "Executive Summary" and "How LCI Works")

7 Paragraph cited from (LCI 2009 Implementation - "Executive Summary" and "How LCI Works")

8 (LCI 2009 Indicators Benefits - "LCI Indicators and Benefits Study")

9, LCI 2007 Implementation Report Appendix - "LCI Study Recipients")

10 Section cited from LCI 2009 Indicators Benefits - "LCI Indicators and Benefits Study"

11 Section cited from LCI 2009 Implementation—"Executive Summary"

HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership | DOT Livability | FTA Livable & Sustainable Communities
Updated: 12/8/2015
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