Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Congestion worsening, so buy more asphalt?

A new report from a Washington think tank and transportation research group says 44 percent of Charlotte’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and increasing congestion is costing local drivers a work-week’s worth of delay. Read more at Eric Frazier's article here. And here's a link to the press release about the report.

The group is TRIP. But before you read it, check who's on the board of directors: construction companies, asphalt and cement executives, road builder associations, etc. Its website says the group "is sponsored by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and construction, labor unions, and organizations concerned with an efficient and safe surface transportation network that promotes economic development and quality of life."

There is no denying that in many areas, especially high-growth suburban spots, traffic congestion is worsening. And no question that many roads and bridges need repairs, as do many city streets. This winter's cold-warm-cold spells has certainly not helped.

But to assess congestion and to think road-building is the only solution is simplistic, even for places that unlike

Monday, March 24, 2014

Another N.C. city eyes a downtown streetcar

It's not just Charlotte wanting a streetcar. Winston-Salem's city council is looking seriously at planning a streetcar to run from its downtown to the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The proposed route would pass the city's baseball park, also known as BB&T Ballpark, as well as the convention center and Winston-Salem State University, and it would go near Salem Academy and College. The council is to vote today (March 24) on whether to adopt that route.

How to pay for it? The city is looking a a menu of potential federal sources, including Small Starts and TIGER grants and TIFIA loans. (Transit fans will know what those are). The article does not mention any potential local source of funds, and it notes that city council member Dan Besse said the state government these days offers little political support for rail systems.

Read more, and see a map, at this link.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Readers, this ball is in your court

Readers, engage! Two PlanCharlotte.org articles last week deserve wider play.

Honor the places you love

One is a way for everyone, not just planners, to honor the places they love in North Carolina.  Once again, the N.C. chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-NC) is sponsoring a Great Places in North Carolina contest. Find more information here.

APA members can nominate places in a variety of categories, such as Great Places in the Making (downtown Gastonia won that one recently). Non-APA members this year can nominate a spot for the Great Public Place award, or the Great Main Street award. Then online voting taps the Peoples Choice Award for each of those categories.

As it happens, I've been asked to be on the panel of judges - as a non-planner - so please, give me a great group of nominations from which to choose. And don't forget, a street is part of the public realm and so it should qualify for Great Public Place. Queens Road West, anyone? Or Camden Road, outside of Price's Chicken Coop? 

Consider different growth scenarios

The second way for readers in the Charlotte region to get involved is a series of workshops scheduled for March by the CONNECT Our Future initiative, a 14-county, three-year planning effort being led by the Centralina Council of Governments. Read more about it here.

The workshops begin March 6 (Thursday) in Statesville. Charlotte's is March 7 (Friday) at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.  It's north of I-85, on Beatties Ford Road. (As you head that way, consider whether Beatties Ford Road has any spots eligible for Great Public Place. What about Five Points?)

Participants will hear about four different scenarios of the region's future, and the possible social, economic and environmental effects of each scenario. The four are: 1) continued suburban-form growth, 2) following current plans, 3) development of city centers and downtowns, and 4) regional transportation options.