Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tell them where you really go

Where do you really travel, and how do you get there, and how long does it take? The collection of transportation planning groups in the Charlotte metro area (a group I like to call the Seven Dwarfs), is undertaking a survey to learn more.

I learned this tidbit in reading the Oct. 28 memo to Charlotte City Council from City Manager Curt Walton. (This is why the world needs journalists; someone has to read these things and sort the chaff from the wheat. Whether this survey is chaff or wheat remains to be discovered.)

The memo reports:

Over the next few months, a sample of residents of Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union, Cabarrus, Iredell, Rowan, Cleveland, Lincoln, and Stanly counties in North Carolina and residents of York and Lancaster counties in South Carolina will be contacted by phone to participate in the regional household travel survey.  ETC Institute, the firm conducting the random survey on behalf of the planning agencies, will be recruiting 4,000 households to participate based on geographic location, household income, and household size. 

Households participating in the survey will have each household member keep a travel diary for one day.  They will be asked to record the destination address, travel time, travel mode, and vehicle occupancy for their trips throughout the day.  The travel diary results will be used to understand travel patterns, and specifically, how, when, and where people travel.  All information collected is confidential and individual responses will not be released.

Wondering about the reference to Seven Dwarfs?

The memo goes on to list the multiple transportation planning agencies in the Charlotte region, saying, "This study was programmed by Mecklenburg-Union MPO (MUMPO), Cabarrus-Rowan MPO (CRMPO), Gaston Urban Area MPO (GUAMPO), Rock Hill-Fort Mill Transportation Study (RFATS), NCDOT, SCDOT, Rocky River RPO (RRRPO), and Lake Norman RPO (LNRPO)."  Where's the seventh dwarf? That would be the Hickory-area MPO, also known as GHMPO.

Getting better information about how and where people travel is sound planning. If you worry that it's sort of Big Brotherish you don't have to take part in the survey. Plus, your cellphone is keeping a record of everywhere you go, anyway, courtesy of AT&T or Verizon or whoever.

But the larger point about transportation planning is this: How in the world can the Charlotte region think it is doing anything that is even in the same hemisphere as "sane transportation planning" while it is split among seven different planning groups, each jealously guarding its own projects and only one of them (MUMPO) shouldering the very real need for regional mass transit?  Merge them all. Even consider gasp! merging  transportation planning and the Charlotte regional land-planning agency, the Centralina Council of Governments. Many, many large and successful metro areas did that years ago. It's not a cure-all. But it's a smart start. 


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