Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Walmart goes urban? Mayors rule? And buses return

While I was eating Thanksgiving turkey and then fighting (and losing) a cold/cough, the interesting links have stacked up in my inbox as thick as shoppers at the Apple store last weekend.

1. Here's a piece about Walmart's plans to – hold onto your reindeer antler-hat – build an urban-style store in Washington. It'll have five floors, with small-format retail lining the H Street sidewalk, Walmart behind, parking underground, and 315 apartments on the upper floors. The behemoth retailer plans several other DC stores, none as urban as that one.

I'll pause here to let SouthEnders brag about the Lowe's on South Boulevard, which wraps the back end of the big-box in condos, has small-scale retail on the street, and has rooftop parking. But that project, though hailed nationally, still has some weirdness, such as that very odd, one-story building at Iverson Way and South Boulevard. It appears to be empty. Is it a store? If so, for whom? And the big ole surface parking lot is still a big-ole surface parking lot, though a bit smaller than it would be without the rooftop parking. But even with those quibbles it's about a zillion times more urban than anything Walmart has done here.

2. Here's a look, pegged to the climate talks now under way in Cancun, at the role mayors expect to play in the fight against global climate change: "But as nations dither, hundreds of cities are pledging to rein in emissions, slash energy usage, and turn to renewable energy sources. Mayors say they see greater urgency than national leaders do." Which only makes sense. Mayors are the ones who have to deal most directly with so many problems that have little to do with partisan politics: how to fill potholes, cope with traffic, build/maintain parklands, etc. (And if you're among the declining number of climate-change deniers, you might ask yourself why you're choosing to disbelieve the vast majority of the world's climate scientists and instead prefer to believe partisan politicians, right-wing pundits and think-tanks underwritten by fossil-fuel companies. I mean, you're free to believe those sources. But, um, why?)

3. While most eyes have been focusing on either road-building, high-speed rail plans or urban mass transit proposals, the N.C. Department of Transportation has quietly expanded intercity bus service. In October it began running daily two routes connecting Charlotte (the uptown Greyhound station on West Trade) with Boone and with Fayetteville. The Mountaineer North/South leaves Appalachian State University at 9:15 a.m. daily, arrives in Charlotte at 12:50 p.m., stopping in Lenoir, Hickory, Lincolnton and Gastonia. The return bus leaves Charlotte at 6 p.m. The Fayetteville route (Queen City Connector) stops in Laurinburg, Rockingham, Wadesboro and Monroe. The return leaves Charlotte at 6 p.m.

Coach America operates the buses with NCDOT funds. Tickets are $8 to $20, depending. And yes, the buses have WiFi, NCDOT tells us. For ticket information, click here.

Buses aren't as beloved as trains, but they serve an important role in transportation. Just ask a college kid who's counting pennies, or an elderly grandparent who wants to come to Charlotte but doesn't want to drive in the big-city traffic.


Anonymous said...

Walmart has(had?) an urban store in Hamburg, Germany. Believe it or not, there was no parking lot at the front door (not sure where anyone parked because I stumbled upon it while walking. I assume Walmart built this because they had to, not because they wanted to...imagine that...a locality that doesn't bend over backward for a buck.

Anonymous said...

Great, living above a WalMart. What's the motif, single-wide or double-wide?

Anonymous said...

Mary ..... never mind you would not get it.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to hear about the Boone to Charlotte bus. My daughter attends ASU and we'll definitely be utilizing it. Was this publicized in any other way?

Anonymous said...

LOL "big city traffic"!!

Anonymous said...

Walmart has a totally underground store in Dalian, China which is part of an underground shopping center.

The top of the shopping center is a public park, called Olympic Square, with soccer fields.

It's been there for around a decade or so.

Anonymous said...

Walmarts should be required to build affordable housing on their roofs.

Donald Belk said...

Your "And buses return" commentary was nostalgic – remembering 50 years back to the station on West Trade Street… joyous and sometimes tearful reunions with beloved relatives from Florida, New York, (and Durham and Salisbury and Monroe) and other locales that seemed exotic to this youngster in 1962. With wi-fi now standard on intercity bus travel, maybe more of my Boomer generation will drop our snobbish pretentions and give 'ridin' the bus' a second look for medium-distance trips, especially to places like the Queen City, where light rail and [excellent] intracity bus service provide even greater personal mobility. Besides, it could be offer a teachable moment for the grandkids (civics, public infrastructure, life beyond the screen, etc.) Coach America suddenly looks like a growing concern. Keep up the great work, Mary.