Friday, February 12, 2010

Envisioning streetcar stops

What should the stops look like for the city's proposed streetcar project? You can weigh in next Thursday, Feb. 18, 6-8 p.m., at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Room 267.

A press release from the city and from the Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS) quotes John Mryzgod, civil engineer with the city: “It is important we understand what the public would like to see because it gives us the tools to not only design a streetcar stop, but to design a stop that ties in with the fabric of the community.”

(Background: The CATS plan for transit for 2030 includes a streetcar. The city of Charlotte doesn't want to wait that long so it is going to try to build the streetcar without CATS funding. So far, it is working on planning and engineering but doesn't have construction money. It is, though, applying for a federal grant to build a 1.5-mile segment of the proposed 10-mile project.)

I will add my two-cents' worth here, instead of at the hearing:

• Why does a streetcar line need "stops" that must be "designed"? On other streetcar systems I've seen – most recently Toronto, but including Rome and New Orleans – you just got onto the streetcar in the street, as you would a bus. Obviously, thought must go into things such as where it stops, how to sell the tickets (or maybe just use machines that take money, as buses do?) and which stops will be busy enough so benches and shelter might be offered. Other than that, don't spend money on anything more than an easily spotted sign and the same amenities you'd offer at a bus stop.

The stations on the Lynx Line were way, way over-designed, IMHO, and more reminiscent of subway (aka "heavy rail") stops or commuter rail stations. Maybe CATS figured that in a city of transit newbies we'd need something prettier and more noticeable than just a spot to buy tickets and some shelter while we wait.

• That said, shade, shelter from the rain and a spot to sit would be welcome at the busier streetcar stops. So, too, would be system maps plus route and schedule information about the streetcar. The maps should show what major attractions are at each stop – the arena, the county courthouse, police station, Central Piedmont Community College, Presbyterian Hospital, Johnson C. Smith University, etc.

• And I will take this opportunity to lodge a gripe about something that's bugged me for years about CATS bus stops, although to be fair I'll note bus stops are much improved in recent years. But why not a shelter with a roof that shades you from the sun? Bus shelter roofs should be opaque, not tinted plastic. This is the South, for crying out loud. It gets mighty hot here. Shade is vital.
To learn more about the Charlotte Streetcar Project, please visit or try this link.


Anonymous said...

They should look like they do now, NONE!!!!

Winn Maddrey said...

What about street, embedded in the sidewalk?, level stops that merely indicate the stop. Could they be history or heritage markers that would offer the opportunity to walk/take the streetcar to learn more about Charlotte? Could it be a local artist program? Could touch panels like outside of Reid's be used on the buildings along the stop as markers? or chalk outlines (think crime scene) of famous Charlotteans be illustrated on ground as stops with their bio and impact on Charlotte written in the body space?

Anonymous said...

how about the observer stops making the street car seem like a good thing. How about they write real stories that people will give a darn about so they dont go out of business. And how about they report without a extremely left leaning skew????????????????????????????????

Anonymous said...

What about wheelchair users? A small ramped platform at every stop makes boarding quick and easy for them. Without that, you have to have a ramp extend from the streetcar, and boarding is a lot slower.

Anonymous said...

OK, it's Friday and I have to agree with 3 points you made, Mary:

1) no need for designed stops.
2) Lynx stops were over designed
( do I need to even say that we didn't need the enlarged clay discs? )
3) why don't bus stops have adequate shelters?
I pass many on my way to work and none have any shelter. At least something to block the wind and rain. When I used to ride the bus, I never understood why there weren't any. One particularly cold morning, several of us huddled together, facing each other to ease the biting wind.

So, 3 points of agreement. Now, I have to ask...and this is in all sincerity, not sarcasm: Why do we need a streetcar? I know they're cool looking and a good tourist novelty but that would really only work downtown? Why this route instead of better bus service? The bus is great!

consultant said...

I agree.

Stops should have a similar design, but simple. Offer protection from rain/sun at busy stops, and a safe, noticeable landing at all others.

Other than that, your point about over design is a good one. A streetcar stop is a enter/exit point, not a destination.

For an example, look at any of the MARTA rail stations in Atlanta, they are huge. Chicago's CTA station's are small by comparison. They're easier to navigate and move far more passengers efficiently.

consultant said...


"How about they write real stories that people will give a darn about so they dont go out of business."

Maybe the Observer can do a 1,000 part series on how working-class Republicans vote for Republicons who create policies that destroy their way of life.

Dig in 1:18pm. That series is going to make War & Peace look like a short story. I'm sure you'll like it. Maybe the paper can send a reporter over to interview, you know, in between your listening to Glenn Beck and Rush.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

WOW so charlotte really is going through with this stupid street car. I cant belive she gets paid to report on "what the stops should look like" geez charlotte needs get a life. Its always about what it looks like in charlotte. Not to mention we dont even need this stupid street car. WOW

Anonymous said...

Or a 1,000 stories on how the Democrats can't govern?

consultant said...
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consultant said...


Democrats can govern. But have you ever tried to herd cats? What about 30 elementary age children at your son's birthday picnic?

That's what it's like trying to govern Republicants. They don't want to be governed. They want ALL the amenities of civilization, but they don't want to pay for them. Did I mention they are selfish to the core? Comes from bad parenting. But that's a different blog.

Hang out with Republicants for too long and you most of the Democrats in Congress.

What can we do with our poor, misguided Republicons?

Anonymous said...

being able to govern means rising above obstructions and adversity.
If the Dems canb't handle it, move out of the way.
You had a super majority in both houses and the Presidency and still couldn't get anything done.

herd your own Demcats.

JAT said...

Mary, maybe you caught it but I didn't see where the city detailed in its federal streetcar app how it would pay the $1.5m. annual operating cost.

As you know, CATS last month said it will not fund that, yet all the supporting docs that the app references pre-date the 2008 decision to jump the 10-mile $500m. streetcar over to the city from CATS.

consultant said...

1:37pm and 1:50pm,

I'm hoping the two of you will have the honor to be among the first people to ride on the streetcar.

Anonymous said...

this is 1:22pm/1:50pm anon:

I would ride a streetcar if it was going in the direction I needed to go; even if it was just for fun.
I'm not against streetcars, I just don't know why one is needed on this route when a bus is good enough. Just to get some fed money?

Or does no bus take you there?

Anonymous said...

I was in New Orleans in August '08 and rode their streetcar. Charlotte could learn from them. They didn't pour huge pots of money into it (like you said, no pretentious "stations"). And there were no commuters on the streetcar, just us tourists. That's who will use ours.

And this is a point our leaders don't seem to get: Charlotte is not, and likely never will be, a tourist destination. Charlotte was built on business (manufacturing, and later banking), not on tourism. I don't understand why they want to spend so much money on something that will only be used during the CIAA tournament or the next time the NRA holds its convention here.

So no, there isn't a need for fancy "stations."

And to the point on the bus shelters - yes, the tinted plastic is asinine. It actually makes the shelter even hotter, since the slightly darker tint absorbs heat rather than reflecting it. And the shelters are too narrow; during rain with a 5 mph wind, they offer no protection whatsoever. They need to be much deeper.

Consultant - you have missed the point again my friend. Republicans do not want no government (the English language calls those folks "anarchists"). We want limited government, as the Constitution was written to design. There are a number of legitimate government functions - protective services (police, fire, national defense), staffing the judicial branch. Whether roads and transportation are legitimate government functions is up for debate. What Republicans can't stand are the intrusions of government into areas the Constitution makes no provision whatsoever for the government to control - education of the citizens and paying for their lives in retirement come immediately to mind. For the legitimate functions, taxes on consumption, rather than income, make a lot more sense.

consultant said...


Don't be selfish. Although I know that's a trait you're trying to overcome. Let 1:37pm get on the streetcar first.

We can't do urban design if we have large groups of people who don't want to live together. Again class, civilization is about learning to live with one another. Oh, and pay your taxes.

Anonymous said...

As long as 1:37pm is in front of me in the line, they can get on 1st. Or, if he/she is of advanced age.

I think we all live together here pretty well. I pay my taxes just like anyone which also means I have the right, through representation, to change something I don't like. That doesn't mean it will change or I might like it but I have the right to try.

We are quite civilized here. When was the last time you saw someone hung at Trade & Tryon for being an enemy of God?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Stop with the Streetcar now! It is not too late! This city must..MUST address the transportation issues and future with a more long-term approach. This streetcar does NOTHING to improve traffic, provide alternatives to a larger segment of car users, etc. Use this allocated money along with other options to get the North line or University line. It will pay greater rewards than this. It makes no sense as we are at a time requiring only "must have's" and not "like to have's". When things are much better and we have the success of regional light rail or heavy rail line, then come back and complete this. What kind of dumba's do we have at the city council and mayoral level.

Anonymous said...

Funny how a lot of the people who ride the lightrail were also the ones complaining about it when it was first proposed. Then they realized they could no longer afford to fill up their gas guzzlers. Geez, can this city get anything right for their citizens? Every time someone suggests a new plan for improvement then people start crying and complaining. How about we just get rid of our NBA team, minor league baseball team, NFL team, our new African American Cultural Center, our museums, White Water Park, and the Lynx. Would this make everyone happy? Forget about fun, culture and art. Let's just spend our free time watching tv so our brains can turn into mush. What is it that you people what for this city? You are never satisfied.

consultant said...

J and 2:11pm;

Grasshoppers, have a seat and listen closely:

here's what you need to do:

-actually read the Constitution (for an old legal document, it's language is remarkably fresh. You should be able to get the gist of it)
-finish college
-read a wide variety of books
-write something, anything, everyday. Start short, then expand your thoughts over time
-get to know someone who doesn't look-like-you
-travel overseas. If you can't do that, visit neighborhoods that are different from your usual travel. Get to know your city. You'd be surprised how many people don't.
-quit watching Beck and listening to Rush. In fact, limit your tv to 1 hour a day
-pay your taxes (I think we covered that)
-Livin' in Charlotte, here's a short list of areas for your consumption: slavery in America, the history of North Carolina (especially its role in the Revolution, the years leading up to the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement), the history of Charlotte, peak oil, anything on urban development and the history of transportation in your state and the nation.

Do all of that and you're on your way to becoming a citizen (not a consumer).

consultant said...

I forgot to add:

-ditch the PC and get a Mac!

Anonymous said...

this is 2:11,
you are bordering on being insultant.
Why do you presume I haven't accomplished those things you list?
( with the exception of reading the history of transportation ).

What do you do for a living?

consultant said...

"Why do you presume I haven't accomplished those things you list?"

I presume this because you haven't shown us anything. You haven't bought the Mac, stop listening to Rush, or apologized profusely for voting for Bush-twice.

You haven't, have you?

Anonymous said...

you need to get a grip.
PC vs. Mac? C'mon. It's a tool. Anyone worth their skill on a computer can work both. I seamlessly transition between the two.
I did not vote for Bush; I don't listen to Rush and don't watch Glenn Beck.

Nice try but you're ringing mighty hollow today.

What do you do? Consult for the city of Atlanta? Are you a consultant?

Anonymous said...

"Geez, can this city get anything right for their citizens? Every time someone suggests a new plan for improvement then people start crying and complaining. "

Because everytime they come up with these so called improvements I have to hold onto my wallett in one form or the other. If the NBA left again, who cares. I was a Hornets ticket holder the whole time they were here and have yet to see the Bobcats. Let 'em leave if they want. The Whitewater Center was a wate of money. No way they could ever generate enough income to pay operating costs, much less pay off their construction loans. Wish I could have got the deal they got for my business loans. But who cares, the costs will be passed on to the other customers of the lenders who are forgiving their loans.

I am not against mass transit or light rail. I just think that it needs to be part of an overall transportation plan, which includes new roads. I don't see it as one or the other as most commenters here seem to believe. Even if every mass transit project on the books are built, they will not be able to move the number of people moving to the area in the coming years.

Anonymous said...

I think the stops should be covered to keep the riders out of the weather. Having restrooms facilities would be good and perhaps a snack bar. Each stop should be heated and air conditioned. I know some will find this to be skimpy and some overkill, please add your opinions.

WashuOtaku said...

Mary has opened Pandora's box again with this post. O_O

Anonymous said...

The problem with covered stops with restrooms, heat/air, snack bar, etc. is people won't want get on the trolley. This sounds too confortable.

Anonymous said...

Bridges, the the trolly travels over, should be covered, it would look so charming. Like New England!

James said...

You people are not serious!!! The problem with fixed rail transportation is you can't change it. If ridership changes then your stuck with it. Put rubber tires on the trolley, then they can change their routes. Make the stops movable!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Consultant - I obviously disagree with you most of the time, but I do my best not to insult you. Too bad you haven't extended me the sam courtesy. I did vote for Bush twice, not as much because I loved him but the alternatives were no better. I hate all the drunken-sailor spending that happened on his watch.

I don't listen to Rush or watch Beck. The only thing I watch on TV is sporting events (and the occasional M*A*S*H rerun). Get to know someone who doesn't look like me? Being a white man married to a black woman, I think I have that one covered. I've lived in most areas of Charlotte in my 22 years here. I haven't traveled internationally, but have been to Minneapolis, New Orleans, Reno, several cities in Florida, and even the woods of South Georgia in the past 10 years. I pay taxes, and have the documents to prove it. The IRS accepted them a couple weeks ago. I have read the Constitution a number of times. I don't see how any liberal can read it and remain a liberal, but that's only me. If you can, that's OK for you.

Now back to the post. KILL THE STREETCAR!

Anonymous said...

yes to light rail. no to streetbuscar and its stops.

Anonymous said...

To follow on with J @ 2:04's argument....

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution expressly gives Congress the power "to establish Post Offices and post Roads." The intent of the latter is that it is a means to complement the former: to build roads to transport the mail between two post offices, which are two federal destinations.

Now there are two ways to interpret "roads," given that modern transportation systems, such as the railroad or the airplane, did not exist in 1789. The first way is that "roads" means "transportation conveyance" for purposes of transporting the mail, so railroads and runways would also qualify. Thus, if the Fathers had known of these advanced technologies, they would have included them. The second interpretation of "roads" is the literal interpretation, which is supported by what is NOT mentioned, namely seaports. Even in 1789 the Founding Fathers had heard of ships and seaports, so if the purpose of the post road is to transport the mail overland, why was Congress prohibited (by the 10th Amendment) from funding seaports to transport the mail by ship?

Which interpretation is correct? I don't know. I'm not a constitutional law expert, and I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Anonymous said...

this is anon. 3:47,

Anon. 5:01,

Good point. I've got a book of the notes James Madison took during the Constitutional Convention. That distinction may be addressed.

Rick said...

Stop the Streetcar you say?

Please do...!/group.php?gid=273473243753&ref=share

Anonymous said...

Streetcar? At an ultimate cost of $500 mil? Will carry less than 1% of commuters? Government budgets are running huge deficits?

Are we in Charlotte or DisneyWorld?

Sam McNeil

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Sam, More like Fantasy land.

Anonymous said...

Another big waste of taxpayer money.

Anonymous said...

President Obama again demonstrated his poor understanding of the fundamental problems that confront our nation. By following the advice of the same people who helped guide our economy to the precipice of total collapse, Obama now threatens to push it over the edge.

Anonymous said...

I feel everyone should pay their fair share but this is starting to look more like a police state ,read history hitler ,stalin and ect,ect... this is how it started ,they campaigned on hope and change and blame of past rulers then when they got power they slowly took control (big government) a czar here a czar there ,let us help feed you ,doctor you,educate you ,spread the wealth I.E. tax the living crap out of anybody that dares to be wealthy.. next it will be you don't need to watch that news channel our is so much better or read that book ,newspaper and you don't need that pesky gun you might get hurt .. then the Constitution need to be rewritten its to old .. ... I'm so glad odumbo studied marx's.

consultant said...

Just returned from a great dinner at the Herbfarm, north of Seattle. When your up this way, check it out.

What is happening TNC'ers?

Folks. This stuff is easy.

Peak oil + an economy destroyed by Republicans + weak Democrats in love with NAFTA + a collapse of leadership in most fields + way too much debt + a lousy educational system + 320 million people + half of them with arsenals = .....a bad dream.

But it's the reality folks. So get your head back in the game.

Charlotte's about the right size to get its act together. Despite all the hollerin' out there, it's actually worse in a lot of other places.

Anonymous said...

The party is over. The government's efforts to "ease the pain" with economic stimulus packages and bailouts will only make things worse in the long run and could result in hyperinflation if the government continues to replace legitimate savings with a printing press.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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consultant said...
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Cato said...


And you can go here to find out what you're supposed to think. You seem to embody a lot of these cliche's anyway - may as well get the owner's manual:

Anonymous said...

If you knuckle draggers actually went out and did some of that foreign travel, you would learn just how many of the street cars around the world are AMERICAN MADE. We got rid of ours, and other countries bought them for a song, and 50 years later the damned things are still running fine.

Anonymous said...

Rather than tightening the reins on the reckless monetary policy that undermined our savings, diminished our industrial output, inflated asset bubbles and led to reckless speculation on Wall Street and excess consumption on Main Street, we are loosing them further. Rather than repealing regulations that distort markets and create moral hazards, we are adding new ones that do more of the same.

Cato said...

@2/13 10:41

Thanks to you providing that information, foreign travel is now unnecessary, at least in order to learn that. Which is doubly nice because your point is completely irrelveant as to whether Charlotte's streetcar plans make fiscal sense.

Anonymous said...

So, kind sir, tell me, what makes more sense: roadways that have to be resurfaced every 5 years because heavy vehicles (i.e. buses) run on them, with buses that die within 10 years, or... streetcar tracks that are cheap and fast to maintain, and that will not need maintenance for 20 years, with streetcars that can last 50 years without much maintenance?

Do the math. And add in $5/gallon diesel fuel, in case that happens (which it will).

Did you catch this week's Amazing Race episode in Chile? Those old streetcars you saw in the background ins some takes are PCC cars. The same models that were tossed out in the 1950s.
And the Chileans are still using them.

Anonymous said...

According to a web search, the Chileans bought those streetcars around the late 1960's from Californian streetcar companies. They still run fine. We were incredibly stupid to lose those systems.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

i don't know much about architecture, but yes, how about some functional, Fountainhead-esque designs? There is beauty in purpose. The debate on what is purposeful is another issue altogether, as it has been so artfully discussed in the comments of this blog :)

Anonymous said...

Simple is best.
But it doesn't matter anyway. We will all have to take a streecar, or some form thereof, in the future.

Check out Reason Magazine online by Jonather Adler. Its their way to start forcing people out of cars.

Anonymous said...

The EPA's Carbon Footprint by Jonathan Adler.

Anonymous said...

I still say the Charlotte plan for a street car is asinine and nonsensical, and that includes the whole notion of "stations."

Everybody run for cover, I'm about to open a brand-new can of worms.

The reason we have the pretentious "stations" on the LYNX, and the desire to have them for the streetcar to nowhere, is to have an excuse to put "art" on display. CATS really emphasizes "art in transit." The "artists" can't sell their stuff on the open market, so they want the government to buy it. And the government happily obliges, adding millions into the cost of each mass transit project. I can't remember which one, but some city councl rep said during the LYNX design phase (and I'm paraphrasing here), "We're all better because of art." That's never made any sense to me. How am I a better person because I board a train next to some gigantic orange disc? Or better yet, if I think the station is just fine with no big disc, how does that make me a worse person?

So, let's concentrate our limited resources on building true mass transit lines (say, from the airport to Matthews) instead of fragmented lines and a huge emphasis on "art."

Anonymous said...


I agree that art is one of the symptoms in this as Charlotte's "visionaries" suffer from "whiz-bang-itis."

Stops are not the same as stations.

But further, why is a streetcar necessary when a #7 and #9 bus does the same thing?
Is it because the "growth" along that streetcar line will help the neighborhoods?
Is it because tourists will use it and the cost will be reclaimed?

With other parts of this city needing attention, why a streetcar?

B. Walters said...

Mary seems to be talking out of both sides of her mouth in this blog: Is it that she wants NO shelters at stops... or DOES want shelter from sun and rain? Or is she being satirical?

Most significant about Thursday night's gathering is that it is designed for what so many say they want: More citizen input! The designers have the savvy to realize that people who know their neighborhood will have supberb input, will know how the stops will be used, will know what the foot traffic is like, will even know better than trained traffic engineers where the very best place for a stop will be. Or will someone suggest sort of temporary stops that can be moved as neighborhood patterns change? And yes, part of the role of the stops will be to make the cars accessible to people with any problem climbing up from the street, which will include more and more of us -- so how best to do that?

Why should we not not have the street cars just stop whenever someone wants on? Well, consider what that would do to traffic -- and what you would have to say if you were a driver blocked by a street car that was flagged down three times in a block!

Thursday night is the city and other professional designers saying, "Talk to us!" (Not about whether there should or should not be a streetcar; that's outside their perview,) They want to hear ideas, needs, hopes, wants -- and creativity (like Winn Maddrey's above) that is the best asset we have for coming up with good community plans!

I'm really stunned that Mary would have any problem with that at all.

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