13 April 2010

Charlotte Livability and Rail

April 5, 2010 New York Times
A Southern Success Story for Public Transportation Offers Lessons in Livability

The 9.6-mile line linking the city's suburban South End with its downtown financial district -- known here as "Uptown" -- came on line in the fall of 2007 with its planners expecting solid but ordinary ridership. What they got, however, was ballooning interest that reached 16,000 daily weekday trips in its first year, nearly twice the federal projections and roughly 15 years ahead of schedule.
DOT is in the early stages of what it has dubbed its "livability" initiative, a comprehensive rewrite of the nation's transportation strategy that includes an overhaul of how road and transit projects are picked to receive federal funding.

In January, DOT took its first major step toward turning the livability concept into practice. It announced that it was rescinding a budget restriction put in place during the George W. Bush administration that focused transit selection primarily on how much a project was expected to shorten commute times relative to its overall cost.
Home to the new NASCAR stock car racing hall of fame, Charlotte is not the first place most people think of when they hear about Obama's push for more "livable" cities. But when the president speaks of using a city's transit systems to shape its land use and economy, the picture he paints looks a lot like what Charlotte's planners have in mind for their city.

In year four of a 25-year plan, the city is laying the tracks for an intermodal passenger system with a full menu of mass-transit options, complete with light-rail trains dropping off passengers in Uptown and at a central high-speed rail station, and streetcars running from center city to the international airport.
"... the success in Charlotte, along with other Sunbelt cities -- like Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix -- have shown that there is pent-up demand for walkable, urban development all across the country, and rail transit is prerequisite for that. It is the most important infrastructure investment that urban areas can make. If you're not building it today, it's akin to not building freeways in the 1960s."

The ridership numbers for the city's first light rail line help to make the case: More than 70 percent of the system's riders had previously never been regular passengers on Charlotte's bus service, according to the city.

...Charlotte's planners say the city is expecting $1.8 billion worth of investments to be made along the first line by 2011.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Lived in Charlotte while they were constructing the rail line, and for about a year after its completion. WE LOVED IT. On top of the incredible convenience and fun factor for kids, the train was one place where de-facto-segregated Charlotte came together: you'd see bankers and construction workers and tattooed teen-agers and moms with strollers (that would have been me), all races and income levels, all happily riding together, at all hours. And it was amazing to see the speedy development (residential and commercial, well integrated) along the line. It's one of the things I miss most about living there.