Friday, May 22, 2009

Transit lovers, and Portland haters (an update)

Friday, May 22, 12:21 PM update:
If you like reading about Portland, check out this piece from the Oregonian's Anna Griffin, whom some of you will remember as a former Charlotte Observer writer (who covered the growth beat here in the QC before moving to our Raleigh bureau.)

Today, a little something for transit-lovers and then for transit- and Portland-haters.

First, here's a newsy dispatch from Mary Hopper at University City Partners:

"The most recent cost estimate for building the LYNX Blue Line Extension from Center City to University City now exceeds $1.1 billion. That's a lot of money, to be sure. But is it too much money? A study paid for by University City Partners suggests that every dollar spent on transit construction will come back three-fold in additional development and increased property value and tax base within our municipal service district through 2035." Here's a link to the study she refers to.

Hopper, executive director for UCP, also points to a proposed high-rise office building from Bank of America:
"University City's proposed transit line is already spurring plans for intense transit-friendly development on North Tryon Street. Bank of America has requested a zoning change to allow up to 1 million square feet of offices in buildings up to 16 stories tall, just south of Mallard Creek Church Road. The wooded 24-acre site lies within a quarter mile of a proposed light-rail station on Mallard Creek Church Road. The Charlotte City Council will consider the request at its June 15 zoning hearings." Read more. And here's a link to the rezoning petition.

Finally, for those who like to read opposing opinions, here's some red meat for you anti-transit, anti-planning, anti-density readers: George Will on "Why Ray LaHood Is Wrong and Portland Stinks." [My title, not his.]

2:15 PM – A friend shares with me this riposte to George Will. Link here.
3:28 PM – A TV station in Portland is running an online poll on who would win if George Will debated U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat who's an avid supporter of transit, bicycling, pedestrians and planned growth. Link here.


Anonymous said...

I'm a bit of a hypocrite. I like living in a close-in neighborhood with lots of mature trees, Barclay Downs, but I recognize that 50 years ago this was the Ardrey Kell of its day. So in 50 years Ardrey Kell will probably be close-in, too. You shoould know that I have lived some 20 years of my life in very dense urban settings-New Jersey, San Francisco, Los Angeles-and I had enough of that. I like trees and some comparative peace and quiet.

This could all be rather easily solved if people would quit having so many babies. [duck]

Anonymous said...

Isn't the message of increased tax base getting old? I mean, here we are with how ever many millions of square feet of EMPTY housing, coupled with how ever many millions of square feet of EMPTY office space - coupled with a city budget that has had a goliath size bite taken out it.....all of which comes on the heels of the largest spawn of development in Charlotte history. Where's all THAT increased tax base revenue? There simply has to be a better motive. Maybe if we focus on the quality of life around here instead of shoving "increased tax base" down everyone's throats, we'd organically create a more desirable place to live?!

Anonymous said...

George Will sounds like every other Republican in recent memory.

"Democrats want the government to control everything ... They are socialists". "WE, on the other hand want the government to be much smaller and to let you live your life by your own decisions".

"Incidentally, we want to amend the Constitution to force everyone to respect the flag, and we want to amend the Constitution to control who you can marry and we want OUR idea of a diety to be taught in schools". & then there is the USAPatriot act and the Department of Homeland Security.

"But watch out for those BIG Brother Big government Democrats".

What a bunch of hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

WOW Transit Creates Sprawl….Do you think Mary Hopper will fight this suburban sky scarper in peoples back yards just like she fought the Arlington Sky Scraper in her backyard???

Jumper said...

1.1 billion sounds horrifying. At about six miles, that's $183 million per mile. Or about $35,000 per foot of track and right of way. Is that right? If so, forget it. It's literally robbery.

Anonymous said...

Democrats and Republicans are both Socialists. They are one and the same party. We need a revolution before we enter serfdom.

Rick said...

Last October, I went to a CATS presentation in UCity about the upcoming budget.

I asked a question to the CATS rep, David Carroll I think, about whether or not CATS would lobby for raising taxes to actually pay for this line. This meeting was held right after the estimate for this transit line ballooned from $750m to $900m.

UCity rail-line plan gets costlierAfter much squirming and twisting trying to say that CATS certainly wouldn't be lobbying for higher taxes because they were a government agency and that would be illegal, he handed it off to a non-CATS speaker who said that discussions were being held and groups were being formed to look at this possibility.

In retrospect it's obvious that was a reference to the current increase in transit tax being sought by our local politicians. At the time, I thought they were just trying to go after the 1/4 cent Mecklenburg already has permission to implement.

Now Ms Hopper is using our tax money to fund a study which inevitably will be used to support just such a recommendation.

Oh, and the non-CATS speaker mentioned above was a recognizable female figure from the UCity area. Wonder who that could have been?

Anonymous said...

Nobody's gonna join your revolution. America is over.

Anonymous said...

"Incidentally, we want to amend the Constitution to force everyone to respect the flag, and we want to amend the Constitution to control who you can marry and we want OUR idea of a diety to be taught in schools".

The constitution should not dictate personal choices. That is up to the states and local municipalities. It is Big Brother Obama who wants to have the federal goernment force laws on smaller entities who should be free to make choices on their own. I don't know where you get your information, but most conservatives are federalists. Meaning, they want a decentralized government. Most liberals want a centralized government so their ideas can be forced down peoples' throats.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather Charlotte be more like Portland than say Arkansas or Mississippi. I also find it hysterical that those who thump about 'states rights' and 'local rights' cry foul when places like Portland, or Massachusetts, or Vermont, etc. do just that. the same goes for when they want the government to impose their narrow fundamentalist views of the world. Charlotte is better off acting less southern, and more American and global, just like they are right now by planning a more comprehensive transit system. If people here don't like it, they can move to the sticks.

Anonymous said...

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them" Thomas Jefferson

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:26 Excellent point.

Mia said...

The section of Charlotte between uptown and University City is blighted and would benefit tremendously from the increased development running up and down the rail corridor. The area is already fairly dense and would benefit tremendously with this service, plus traffic along 85 would be lessened by people having to commute this route. I have lived in major cities around the U.S. (some with great transportation systems) and this is great city planning and a fantastic investment in Charlotte's future. Get over it Charlotte, you are growing up and need to act accordingly. If you want peace and quiet, move to the mountains.

Anonymous said...

Wait until the price of gas skyrockets again. Light rail and public transit will be hip again.

It's all about the pain. When it becomes too painful to drive, whether in the wallet, in time spent behind the wheel listening to Bob and Sheri, or just high blood-pressure from the traffic, people will gladly hop on the train or bus. Just like they did last summer.

And when the pain is sustained and becomes a way of life, then you'll see more residences and businesses fall in line - for the same reason real estate close to the city center is worth more than real estate in Pineville.

Coller... said...

What Mia said.

Anonymous said...

Mia I don't care what other places you have lived. You get over it. If you want improvements so bad why don't you invest your own capital.

Anonymous said...

What Becky said.

Anonymous said...


Trenchard Gordon said...

It is interesting that the boosters for the trains cite increased tax base as a reason to built it. I thought it was about saving the planet from ourselves!

If I remember the south line came in at double the cost advertised. That plus the sales tax increase that everyone pays for. Over time this is a wash for the outlay of the line. That on top of the deficit to operate the thing and there is an enormous net loss over time.

I would support the rail if the costs of the people that ride it paid for it over time but what they pay in fares is a fraction of the cost to build and maintain. So welcome to modern America. The 95% of people who don't ride the trains will subsidize the 5% who do. Atleast this isn't as bad as the income tax system where 40% pay nothing and the upper 5% pay half of all, but its getting there!

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with rail as long as it operates via a market economy. The private sector can do a much better job of running a rail line than any government.

Anonymous said...

"Democrats and Republicans are both Socialists. They are one and the same party."

The truest statement I've read all day...

Anonymous said...

What a joke every tax dollar will come back three fold? That is impossible to determine. What about the money if kept in the taxpayer's hands? This is a pathetic attempt to confiscate more money from hard working individuals.

Jay Heikes said...

To make sure everyone is clear: CATS is a department of the city of Charlotte, NOT a quazi public agency. Keith Parker is directly responsible to the City Manager just like every other head of a city department. Unlike San Antonio which has a public works Agency VIA which is not directly responsible to the city government. If you have questions read the article about the person who is filling Keith's job for the time being.

Anonymous said...

Mary, See you at Speedstreet!

Jay Heikes said...

Back in 1994 Charlotte city planners adopted a growth model that became known as the Centers, Corridors and Wedges Plan. Under this model the majority of new growth is placed in our Urban Centers (such as Uptown, University City and South Par) and along 5 high mobility corridors. The remaining growth is paced the areas between the centers and corridors known as wedges. In Laymen’s Terms this model allows for high rise developments and the like in the Centers (mainly uptown) mid-level density along the corridors and mostly residential and low density developments in the wedges.

To date, this plan has only been loosely used because we have only just completed one of the transit lines in the high mobility corridors. This plan allows for Charlotte to continue growing, but in a way that has the least amount of impact on our resources and infrastructure. Without the transit corridors, this plan will not work, and without this plan Charlotte will eventually succumb to its sprawl.

Cities like Portland and Denver have made similar decisions to restrict sprawl and allow smarter development. Even though their transit plans are not even halfway finished, they are already recognized as 2 of the greenest and most livable cities in the US. Other cities like Atlanta and Dallas have come to the realization that sprawl is choking their regions. Just last year, Atlanta’s politicians came to the relation that it would physically improbable and fiscally impossible to widen or build any new highways inside the Perimeter (their outer belt). Now they are stuck between a rock and a hard place because Atlanta has no growth model and their rail system, MARTA, is not even halfway built to their 1970’s plan. Now Atlanta local planers and Transit officials are looking at spending 50 Billion over the next 20 years to address this problem.

Lets not be like Atlanta and wait until it is too late to curtail sprawl. In Atlanta, the majority of population (roughly 4.8 Million out of 5 Million) has no access to any other mode of transportation than driving, Lets at least give people in Charlotte access to something other than their cars. WE need to give people a choice, 20 years from now, we will be glad we did.

Anonymous said...

Mary, How about you and I debate.

First question, to Mary:


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Until Charlote and you Mary address the road issues around here, the constant drum beat of light rail that handles only a fraction of daily commutes will by met with considerable blow back. We are the most under funded city of this size in this country for roads and yet we continue to drool over the "blue eyed beauty". Please

Rick said...

There's one little flaw in the whole plan being based on creating growth and revitalization in run down corridors.

It's called gentrification.

As Mia pointed out the North Tryon area is a bit run down. So, when the nice shiny train comes through it will fix all that. Right?

Question for Mia and those who think like her, where do all the people who can only afford to live in a run down area move when they can no longer afford to live along North Tryon?

But then again, that's not your problem is it?

The train won't fix the blight. It will just shuffle it around a bit. Where it lands is someone else's issue.

Anonymous said...

Transit in Charlotte is white collar welfare. ment to run poor people out of transit zones and give the land to developers(white collars). Property values go up in transit zones and at the same time go down in Mt Island area. Thanks to smart social enginnering.Move over cows here comes some new neighbors from N. Tryon.

Anonymous said...

Becky at 03:26 pm:

The Constitution (the one with the Capital C) emphasizes individual rights. That is what made it so different from the centuries-old practice of church-state despotism. Our nation’s founders made it the highest law of the land, and added built-in checks and balances like the Supreme Court.

The 50 little constitutions and state and local government perpetuate the old system. They are usually all about “The Majority Rules”, which is a great tool for deciding elections and budget bills, but doesn’t do anything to protect minority rights.

Before 1970, a woman wanting an early-term abortion of a fetus she and another human being conceived, and which she carries, was out of luck thanks to “The Majority Rules” and the majority’s unproven view of what God is, and what God wants. Thanks to a Solomonic Supreme Court decision, if you don’t want an abortion, no one’s forcing you, and if you do, you can with certain limitations. It’s your fetus, not your neighbor’s or God’s. It’s win-win and not the old win-lose concept of The Majority Rules constitutions or Church-State tag teams. So Becky, who is, or was, “forcing ideas down peoples’ throats”?

Ditto for the little state constitutions outlawing same-sex marriage. The high court has been content to let states sort things out for now, in hopes that citizens truly appreciate and respect individual rights and will do the right thing. But you can bet that if someone pushes the point, the Court is going to base their decision on the Constitution’s tradition of individual rights, not on how you, I, the mayor, the governor or God feel is best for the majority.

Conservatives want a decentralized and weakened federal government, because then their “Majority Rules” practices may succeed. Liberals want to protect individual rights. Look how much government expanded under good ol’ Conservative George W. Bush. You need to turn off Rush Limbaugh and put on your thinking cap.

Anonymous said...

Liberals want to protect ndividual rights.

You have to be kidding me?

Look up the Kelo decision genius, the taking of THE FOUNDATION of the Country PRIVATE PROPERTY by big Govt that you knee pad over every single minute of your day.

Your fantasy world is bizzare.

We live in a world that has denied personhood to the unborn. We live in a nation where those that proclaim the right to life of the unborn are viewed as "anti-progressive" and "anti-women's rights."

However, the small organization, Roe No More Ministry, with only one full time staff member, strives to counter this anti-life rhetoric. In fact, Roe No More Ministry proclaims the unique and unpopular message of one woman. This woman was the "poster-child for choice" and fought for the legalization of abortion; in fact, she was the plaintiff in the now infamous Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. She is Ms. Norma McCorvey, the former Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade.

Anonymous said...

Yeah and libs need to keep reading Maureen Dowd, plagerizer. And Dan Rather, and Chris "tingle up my leg" Matthews, and all of the other slobering liberal media. Because they have don such a great job of reporting the other side. Yep, put your thinking caps on alright. Beam up me up Scotty with my tin foil hat. I have a date with George Soros and Media Matters, the smart people.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how anybody can be against subsidizing transit and FOR subsidizing roads. Why not have drivers pay the full cost of roads through tolls instead of wasting state money? It is because autophiles think only of themselves.

The price of the transit lines seems expensive, until you consider that the DOT shorfall alone this year would be enough to fund the entire 2030 plan.

If you're against transportation options now, you revoke your right to whine when gas hits $10, $20, or becomes unavailable at all in the post-oil era we're entering.

One day our grandchildren will ask "Grandpa, is it true you could breath outdoors without the gas masks when you were young?"

Anonymous said...

If you're against transportation options now, you revoke your right to whine when gas hits $10, $20, or becomes unavailable at all in the post-oil era we're entering.

We are truely screwed. We have enough oil for the next 200 years but refuse to drill for it, genius.

Anonymous said...

Aren't Republicans the ones who are supposed to be all about national security and be very pro-"Amurrica"? How is giving BILLIONS nad BILLIONS of our dollars to countries that do not like us (Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia) a good idea? You can deny global warming and make fun of the hippies all you wan't , but how can you fail to see that this is a national security issue?

What do we do when gas gets to $5, $10 or above? We are screwed. Our entire economy relies on oil. Even the countries that have the oil know that it won't last forever. The U.A.E, Qatar, and Kuwait are all very small countries. Yet, each one of them is spending more money on trains than the entire US combined!! They can see the future and they are the ones making the money now. We are throwing money down the drain, and refuse to face the fact that we have to plan for a post-oil world.

Rick said...

The whole argument about $5 and $10gas being the justification for rail makes little sense.

Sure, when gas spikes now it is painful. But isn't that the point of increased efficiency? As CAFE standards increase, the impact of gas prices decreases.

Let's say we build our current rail plan. It will be a good 10 years before it's built even without additional delays. By then the bulk of the in-use fleet of vehicles will be well on the way to replacement with higher efficiency cars and trucks. Plug-in hybrids and full-electric automobiles will be the norm rather than the exception for new vehicles, and it will only get better.

What will you jokers use then to justify the massive debt you've put us under by building out rail?

Anonymous said...

Increasing the fuel efficiency will only postpone the inevitable. In fact, it might make people drive more b/c they will justify it by saying "I'm getting 30mpg now instead of 15, so it doesn't cost me as much as it used to."

The way I see it there are 4 main reasons to build trains:

1) National Security--we are literally handing billions of dollars over to our enemies for their oil.

2) Cost of gas--China and India still have billions of people. When the econonmy recovers, they will start buying cars again. Gas could easily skyrocket. No one really knows. But isn't that the whole point--why to we continue to subject ourselves to the ups and down of the global economy and the whims of OPEC instead of being proactive and moving away from oil.

3)Traffic--traffic already has an enormous cost on our economy. The number of hrs an average American wastes sitting in traffic is ridiculous. Even if everyone is driving an electric car, the standard of living starts to dramatically decrease when 30 minute commutes turn into 1.5hr+. When need to build an efficient transportation systems that includes all forms of transportation that gives people choices.

4) Global warming--say what you want about this one

Any one of these reasons by itself should lead to us build trains. The fact that all four are threats to our economic productivity pretty much makes this a no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

I am a big time conservative, but I do think that those born into poverty with nohting but bad examples around them should have a hand in working themselves out of their situation....

Transit should be focused on serving those most in need.. those in poverty without cars cannot GET to the "transit centers" along the rail line (lets face it, that is really for the yuppies or gen y and xers and their self absorbed ideals).

Those in poverty need more buses in a redesigned system that gets rid of the spoke and wheel format we currently have that was designed in the 50s when all the jobs were downtown.

If you live on West Blvd and want to work at Southpark or Carolina Place while you get your GED or college degree, you face a two hour commute to get downtown, then get another bus out to the suburbs (got kids to get to daycare first? forget it).

I would rather my tax money be spent on the most efficient form of transportation out there already- buses, and the roads which carry them.. which benefit autos too.

Does this make sense to anyone else out there???

PS- I think the real solution for helping those in poverty is individuals helping mentor, inspire, commune with and help financially those in poverty one on one... for my fellow Christians... that means me and you.. Jesus did not say it was the government's roll to' feed my sheep' and 'help the least of these'... he meant us personally with our time and our money.... Its like giving someone a fish or teaching them to fish... government can't teach someone how to live a moral life that improves their odds of success exponentially.. that is God's (and our) work..

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:15: I agree that transit should be focused on the less advantaged, however, if it is solely a poor person's system, it will have no impetus to be efficient or customer-friendly. I think Charlotte has actually done a decent job connecting some of the major employment and shopping hubs to other areas. It doesn't take anywhere near two hours to get downtown from anywhere on the bus line. For instance, from West Boulevard to South Park, It takes about 45 minutes. The bus system also serves the light rail lines from several neighborhoods nearby. I would say a good 1/2 of the riders are of low-to-lower-middle class socioeconomically.

I think a well built out system with spoke-and-wheel train service with crosstown bus service at reasonable 15-minute, synchronizes intervals down other major throughfares will eventually make getting from any point in the city to any other point within 1 hour feasible.

I think having five rail lines criscrossing the city would be the best option for getting us away from the spoke-and-wheel system. Once the UCity line is built, it will actually be crosstown service one end of 485 to the other (I hope Cabarrus County gets in on the action and extends it to the speedway and even concord mills). If only they could get it

I think that having rail, which can avoid traffic, is going to be crucial in recruiting suburbanites to take transit. Not to mention the economic development that can occur along the lines. Bottom line, if yuppies use the system, it won't fall into disarray because yuppies won't stand for it.

I'm not sure what self-absorbed ideals us gen x and yers have? Is it our desire to lessen our impact on the environment by getting out of our cars? That kind of rhetoric is hollow and self-serving.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who think that only the Yuppies use light rail, some morning go sit in McDonalds at Carolina Pavilion for couple of hours and watch.

The people who work in city center get on. The train pulls out. The returning train pulls in, and a lot more people than you would think get off. Some of them walk across the street to Carolina Pavilion to work and shop and others walk down the stairs and get on the bus which goes to Carolina Place Mall.

Anonymous said...


Rick said...

Anon10:13pm says...

Any one of these reasons by itself should lead to us build trains. The fact that all four are threats to our economic productivity pretty much makes this a no-brainer.Huh? Fuel efficiency addresses each of your reasons much more directly than building a handful of trians.

1) National Security - Since the vast bulk of all trips in cities, suburbs and rural areas always will be by a mode other than trains, fuel efficiency has an exponentially greater impact in this area over trains. Remember, buses carry more people than trains in most cities. Those mass transit riders count towads the fuel efficiency side, not the train side. Train riders will have a miniscule affect on this.

2) Cost of gas - Again, fuel efficiency addresses this issue more directly for many more people than trains. A dispersed, fuel efficient bus system provides access to many more people that static train lines. As last summer's price spike showed, once gas gets high enough, riders who normally wouldn't ride "lowly" buses get over those hangups and ride in droves, so the "rich won't ride buses" argument holds no water when prices rise and isn't a valid argument for building trains under high gas prices, which you also say is guaranteed to happen.

3)Traffic - Maybe I could give you this one. Except, trains - particularly street cars - don't really solve this problem either, and they certainly don't solve it any better than express buses combined with HOV/HOT lanes. Take the North Corridor plan for instance. Extending the current HOV lane up to Mooresville or even just to Exit 30 would create instant massive demand for those express routes and do it at a fraction of the cost of building the North Corridor. So right there, you should admit that at least the Streetcar and North Corridor aren't the best options if traffic is one of your reasons.

4) Global warming - Ditto the same answer as #1. Though, I would argue that fuel efficiency is the only way to effectively address the issue of when 2.5 billion Indians and Chinese start to drive. That's a "when" not an "if" situation and no amount of trains will stop that.

Anonymous said...

Blah Blah Global Warming. Fear sells. It's the end of the world. Quick get on the train before we all die.

Jumper said...

At present, train tracks exist from Uptown Charlotte to within feet of UNC Charlotte. This track is built on tested subgrade and has carried heavy freight for a long time. Normal train scheduling systems are in wide use elsewhere such that trains from different routings are not on the same tracks at the same time. What's more, much of the land adjacent to this route is developeable. $100,000,000 would buy a LOT of electrical power infrastructure (power line, transformers, the basic system for the electrical powered rail), and track access from the owners. It would also prevent the massive burning of diesel which accompanied the S. Blvd. corridor, and also prevent a massive cash outflow to contractors.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness Jumper provided insight. A day without Jumper insight is a like day that never was....

Anonymous said...

Why would fuel efficiency and more trains be mutually exclusive. Fuel efficiency will lessen the impact of higher fuel prices (to some extent) but giving an ever-growing population no choice for transportation other than cars or buses is short-sighted. Buses are a start, but they still require continually expanding road capacity, which is only a band-aid.

China is planning ahead building railway lines, airports AND freeways because of their massive population, if everyone drove, gridlock would be unbearable.

The train beats traffic every day; the bus does not. More people will ride the train than the bus that sits in traffic.

No one is going to take your car away from you. We just want people to have options to get to work, shopping, errands without getting in the car. I for one would much rather not waste the mileage and repairs on my car just getting to work and the store. I'd rather save it for trips, excursions and emergencies.

Rick said...

Huh, I must be seeing things when my bus in the HOV lane passes all those cars sitting in traffic on 77 south every morning on my ride into work.

Anonymous said...

No. In that instance, HOT lanes help speed the bus along, but by the time that lane ends, it heads right back into traffic. Also, the buses on local roads will get caught in traffic and slow other traffic down. HOT lanes are good, but too impermanent for creating a true transit infrastructure which people can help stunt sprawl by making areas near the lines more dense.

Rick said...

...and the HOT lane would parallel the proposed North Corridor train and ends right near downtown with stops all along Trade street and not just at the Gateway station. It has the added bonus of being used by buses and cars and would cost much less to build than the North Corridor.

That was exactly the point. In that case, the train is not the best solution.

A similar argument can be made against the Center City Sreetcar because it will sit in exactly the same trafic as everybody else and slow everybody else as well.

And to the point as to why shouldn't trains and efficiency take place at the same time. The answer is that it would be nice if we had unlimited resources, but we don't. The resources we have should be focused on the areas that actually make a real difference.

Trains don't meet that criteria in the vast majority of cases.