Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Megaregions: Next big thing? Or just nutty?

Alan Ehrenhalt, respected editor of Governing magazine, has weighed in on the issue of "megaregions," wherein he questions this decades-old theory that metro regions (e.g. CharLanta( need to be treated as one entity. Hence the term, CharLanta.

I don't intend to be on a Richard Florida kick (See my posting about "The Ruse of the Creative Class") but Ehrenhalt does quote Florida as hopping on the au courant megaregions trend. But he goes on to note that transportation is one area in which planning regionally, or more to the point, megaregionally, makes sense.

Megaregionally? Charlotte can't even come up with transportation planning that recognizes that Cabarrus, Iredell and York counties have anything to do with traffic in Mecklenburg! As a certain editorial writer on the Observer's editorial board who is also a blogger opined Jan. 3 (you folks in the Charlotte region probably slept late and missed this):

Plan Transportation Regionally

It sounds like a bizarre camaraderie of dwarfs: MUMPO, GUAMPO, CRMPO, GHMPO and RFATS (in the Disney version he'd be the chubby, clumsy one). Let us not forget LNRPO and RRRPO (the small but snarling pirate dwarf?).
As if the names aren't funny enough, here's a thigh-slapper: All seven are transportation planning agencies for greater Charlotte.
Even if you toss out GHMPO (Greater Hickory Metropolitan Planning Organization) you still have an insane number of separate agencies ostensibly planning transportation in one metro region. And if you don't think transportation planning in Rock Hill-Fort Mill (RFATS) and LNRPO (Lake Norman Rural Planning Organization) doesn't affect transportation throughout the greater Charlotte region, well, you haven't traveled on Interstate 77.
Ask most planners and they'll tell you - off the record of course, so as not to tick off politicians - that sane transportation planning is mere fantasy until all six or seven MPOs and RPOs merge into one true metropolitan planning organization.
MPOs are federally mandated to plan "regionally." Indeed, Title 23 of the U.S. Code says an MPO should cover a whole metro area. However, smaller cities such as Gastonia or Concord have little interest in joining with the Mecklenburg behemoth, fearing their share of state and federal transportation money would shrink.
If the region's governments won't do the right thing, the state should force it. At least two men in Raleigh get it. N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti is savvy about transportation policy, politics and about true regional planning. So is Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a Charlotte Democrat whose seniority and smarts have given him significant clout in Raleigh.
And both states must figure out how an MPO can cross state lines, so York County, S.C., can join the region's transportation planning. Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., all have multi-state MPOs. It can't be rocket science.


To read all six of the editorial board's Agenda 2010 items, visit this link.

4 comments:

Cedar Posts said...

Meckburbia, that place between uptown Charlotte and rural North Carolina.

2whls3spds said...

Moot point, when peak oil is fully realized mega anything is going to be passe.

J said...

In the nearly 22 years I have lived here, I have rarely seen any true future planning. It's called future planning as you plan to build a road that will only hold today's traffic load.

I remember when the concept of I-485 became a reality in 1989. My roommate and I, 19-year-old college kids, asked each other why was this "outer loop" completely contained in Mecklenburg county? If you want to see a real outerbelt, go to Cincinnati. The city is still where it was 50 years ago, and the loop goes into Kentucky and Indiana, several miles away from the city itself, and there aren't massive shopping centers and office parks every 2 miles along the loop.

Of course, my roomie and I eventually figured out the reason why the loop was so close to Charlotte city limits is because the area is so bereft of leaders that have any real capability of seeing needs more than 10 minutes into the future.

Cedar Posts said...

J The reason the beltway is so close is because a) NC had the Fed Money to build it and SC did not and b) the good ole' boys system.

Harris family and Peter Pappas all with connections and/or seats on the NC DOT Board.