Monday, September 12, 2011

Bike-sharing in Charlotte - soon?

A Charlotte City Council committee today takes up the question of what should happen next if Charlotte is to have (or not) a bike-sharing program. It also takes up an even more hot-potato topic: How to pay for the city's road needs.

For those unfamiliar with the term bike-sharing, those programs have sprung up in cities all over the country, as well as in other countries. For a small fee – typically paid online – you can become a member or pay for a temporary membership. That gives you the ability to take a bicycle from a bike station, ride it for a certain number of hours and return it to another bike station

In its August meeting, the committee heard a presentation from Alta Bicycle Share, a consultant group that manages the Washington bike-sharing program known as Capital Bikeshare. (Photo courtesy of Capital Bikeshare, taken from the City of Charlotte's website.) 

If you click on the link in the first sentence of this item, you'll see that the committee agenda also holds a discussion on the sure-to-be-controversial topic of what revenue sources (read: tax or fee increase)
might be available to provide money for the Charlotte region's huge transportation needs. The agenda says "provide detailed information on a variety of potential transportation revenue sources."

The presentation will be a reprise of the recommendations from the Committee of 21, led by developer Ned Curran, which met in 2009 to look at the city's "road needs." It did not look at transit needs.  It did not look at "street" needs. None of which is to say that the city doesn't need some work on its roads. It does. But in Mary's Perfect World, we'd talk more about streets, which is what you have in a city, and less about "roads," which are what you have between cities. And we'd mostly talk about "transportation" needs, which means looking at driving, transit, bicycling and walking, i.e., the Big Picture. We need to serve all those transportation forms.

The Committee of 21 looked at a gigantic list of possible funding, including such  Big City ideas as charging a fee for driving into uptown. It rejected most of those. For instance, congestion pricing (the downtown fee) can work well where residents have plenty of good options for transportation other than driving. Charlotte is not one of those places.

Why is the Committee of 21 presenting a reprise? I asked committee chair David Howard that very thing when I chanced to run into him Saturday at the UNC Charlotte Student Union. (I was walking around campus for exercise; he was waiting for his daughter to finish an educational program on campus.) He said he asked for it to be put on the agenda, because it's a conversation the community needs to have.

The committee meets at 3:30 p.m. today in Room 280 of the Government Center.  


Anonymous said...

I think something like this is a great idea - especially for a city like Charlotte, where the weather is decent most of the year. I live in the suburbs, and drive to work in the city, but for running errands during the day, I have a folding bike - it saves so much time and money on parking. I know not everyone is going to go out and buy a folding bike, but I think a bike share could get more people to realize the benefits of cycling in the city, and maybe the funding would follow?

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