Friday, July 26, 2013

One-way to higher traffic accidents?

I don't want this bit of city-traffic-related news to get lost in the recent deluge of news about Charlotte's airport. The numbers raise a question, in my mind at least, about the safety of one-way streets uptown.

Earlier this month Charlotte's Department of Transportation released its annual list of High Accident Locations. To see it, download it here. (Be sure to notice what it does and doesn't measure; for instance it doesn't measure traffic accidents on interstate highways.) The report drew a news article in  The Charlotte Observer, "Report: Charlotte traffic collisions down; fatalities up."

Here's what I noticed: Among the Top 10 high accident locations, seven were either uptown or nearby. Of those seven, all but one involved one-way streets. The only one of those seven that did not was East Seventh Street and Hawthorne Lane, in the Elizabeth neighborhood.

The city's top high accident location was Cambridge Commons Drive and Harrisburg Road (average daily traffic of 15,000), in east Charlotte near I-485, with a three-year total of 49 accidents and a crash rate (a formula taking into account the traffic volume - to know more download the report) of 2.98.

Other in-town streets:
2. North College Street and East Eighth Street.
3. North College Street and East Ninth Street.
5. Third-fourth Connector Street and East Fourth Street at Kings Drive.
7. East Seventh Street and Hawthorne Lane.
8. South Church Street and West Hill Street and the ramp to West Belk Freeway.
9. East Seventh and North College Street.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Protest petitions going the way of buggy whips

If you've paid attention to Charlotte planning and zoning matters you know the powerful role that protest petitions have played in stopping rezonings that neighbors oppose. The N.C. legislature is moving rapidly toward eliminating protest petitions.

It's part of a larger bill that would remove a number of local environmental regulations that are stronger than state regulations. The bill passed the N.C. House on Thursday. ("Bill eliminates protest-petition rights in zoning cases") It now goes back to the N.C. Senate, which passed it without the protest petition section.

Here's a synopsis of the action, from the blog of Charlotte's Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition. It notes how many local legislators in both parties voted for the bill, which would, among other things, scrap a key local storm-water pollution ordinance. "House passes landmark regulatory reform package."

The protest petition is a 90-year-old section of state law that has let adjoining property owners file official protests against proposed rezonings. If enough of these protests are deemed valid, then that rezoning can't pass without a three-quarters vote from the elected body which in Charlotte is the City Council. In development-happy Charlotte, the provision occasionally means the defeat of rezonings that would otherwise pass, although the council OKs the overwhelming majority of proposed rezonings.

Here's an editorial from the Greensboro News & Record about the bill:

The editorial says: "... There was no chance for compromise, just a wholesale repeal with little warning.

"In principle, the action contradicts what the Republican legislature has done in regard to involuntary annexations. It has empowered affected residents to call for a referendum. This measure takes power from residents.

"But some developers don’t like protest petitions because it’s harder for them to advance projects that neighbors don’t want. They’re “costly and hinder development,” Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, said Thursday."

It's part of a bill that state planners are calling the "Billboards Forever" bill. Read this report from The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill: