Transportation

‘Raise our expectations:’ Four takeaways from Charlotte City Council’s retreat

Storm drain lowering Blue Line construction Charlotte faces a wide range of needs, from affordable housing to more police, bigger parks and better transit, but they all share a similar root cause: growth.  That was one of the main themes at City Council’s annual planning retreat, held this week over four days in Durham at the Washington Duke Inn. There was little anxiety about when the city’s boom might end. Instead, the focus was on ways to manage, change and deal with the side effects of a booming city.  “We’re growing faster than we’re putting in that critical infrastructure around it, and people are feeling the pain,,” said council member Tariq Bokhari. 

Should Charlotte make its transit system free?

Charlotte Area Transit System uptown bus center There’s been a lot of planning lately for Charlotte’s growing transit system, with new rail lines, improved bus service and the first inter-county transit links in the works — as well as questions about how to pay for that growth But one Charlotte City Council member raised a different idea this week at the group’s annual retreat: How about getting rid of fares altogether?

What’s on our city’s wish list? See some gifts for Charlotte

Artist's rendering of the pedestrian bridge across Interstate 277 in Charlotte It’s hard shopping for the city that has it all: Gleaming office towers, a new-ish light rail line, a booming population and one of the world’s busiest airports. But that doesn’t mean Charlotte couldn't still use a few gifts this holiday season. After all, despite the city’s obvious and explosive growth, there are still plenty of challenges: Housing that’s too expensive for many, a rising violent crime and murder rate, increasing traffic and low economic mobility for those born into poverty.  So, what would you get Charlotte this year, if you could gift the city anything? I took a (very informal, totally unscientific) poll on Twitter, and received more than 100 replies and suggestions. 

Book review: Can we fix our struggling bus systems?

CATS buses in uptown Charlotte There’s been a lot of discussion lately within transit planning circles about how to attract customers to ailing regional bus networks that connect core cities, nearby towns, and far-flung suburbs — including the Charlotte Area Transit System. A handful of bus systems have actually grown, such as Austin, Houston and especially Seattle. But overall, the prognosis for bus ridership is grim.

Should Charlotte make one of its major streets pedestrian-only?

A pedestrian-only plaza in Chester City, UK. Photo by Rachel Bradshaw on Unsplash Charlotte has a reputation as a car city, but many of its leaders badly want to promote more biking, walking and transit use. That’s one reason an intriguing idea kept surfacing at this week’s City Council Transportation & Planning Committee meeting: Why not take all the cars off a major street in uptown or South End, creating a pedestrian-only space?

2020: Four plans coming together next year will guide growth for a generation

Participants left sticky notes with their desires for Charlotte's center city neighborhoods at a recent event. Responses included a transit hub, more affordable housing and more parks. Photo: Ely Portillo Next year’s news cycle is already looking pretty crowded, between big-ticket events like the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, the summer Olympics in Tokyo and, of course, the 2020 presidential, gubernatorial and congressional elections.  But if there weren’t so much else going on, 2020 might be known as something else in Charlotte: The Year of the Plan.

(Almost) everything you ever wanted to know about TOD but were afraid to ask

Light rail and TOD development make their mark in University City. From this intersection to Uptown by rail takes about 20 minutes. Photo by Nancy Pierce. Since City Council approved TOD Article 15 - the new Transit-Oriented Development ordinance - last April, land use consultants, architects, real estate attorneys and other insiders have had ample opportunity to sort out these new rules. As for laypersons, gleaning what they need to know from TOD’s eighty-one page assemblage of definitions, rules, standards, charts and graphics can be a real challenge, despite efforts by staff planners to make the document as jargon-free and user-friendly as possible. 

Why isn’t Charlotte built on the water?

The I-77 bridge (foreground) over the Catawba River, south of Charlotte. Photo: Nancy Pierce After visiting a city with a waterfront, maybe stopping for a drink and a bite to eat along whichever river or ocean it’s built along, I’m usually left with one overriding thought: “Wow, Charlotte could really use some of this.” Water plays a prominent role in the design and history of most cities, whether it be a river, bay or ocean. And Charlotte’s skyline and downtown sit tantalizingly close-but-yet-so-far from a major river and lake system. So, the question looms: Why isn’t Charlotte built on the water?  It’s a straightforward question I realized I had never actually asked, despite a decade living in Charlotte. So I called up an expert. 

Want to know why developers are embracing walkable urbanism? Follow the money.

A Charlotte City Walk in the Belmont Neighborhood. Three structure demonstrate the changes in Belmont: From left: new affordable housing apartments, historic neighborhood music venue now a private residence, a new large house. These are on Harrill Street. Photo: Nancy Pierce. Charlotte’s suburbs are starting to look more like urban areas, and a new study is pointing to the value to be gained from promoting walkable, transit-connected, urban-style growth. Real estate experts have said they’re responding to market pressure: Businesses, workers and residents want to get from home to work to dinner without spending big chunks of their day in a car, and suburban-style developments that cater exclusively to drivers no longer cut it.