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Opinion – Mass Transit Matters

Now that the new school year has started, most of you have undoubtedly encountered more traffic and congestion. Not only does this wreak havoc on people’s daily commutes, but it also results in more air pollution, as there are additional vehicles on the roads for longer periods of time. And Charlotte USA’s traffic woes are expected to only get worse as the region’s growth continues to outpace its transportation infrastructure.

Charlotte already ranks as the 25th most congested urban area in the country, according to the 2012 Urban Mobility Report, with the average traveler encountering more than 40 hours of annual delay. It all adds up to a big inconvenient headache that’s bad for business and the region’s quality of life, which is why mass transit is such an important issue for this region.

Currently, about 30 percent of the region’s workers cross county lines to get to their jobs. This includes nearly 190,000 people who commute into Mecklenburg County, and 40,000 Mecklenburg residents who travel outside the county for work, according to according to American Community Survey. Moreover, nearly 80 percent of workers in the Charlotte MSA drive alone to work, while only two percent use public transportation, such as light rail or buses. That dynamic has to change.

The LYNX Blue Line, which opened in 2007, has already illustrated the value of mass transit. The sleek light-rail train system helped dramatically transform the SouthEnd neighborhood to one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, with a dynamic mix of apartments, shops and restaurants. Moreover, the 9.6-mile route, which has 15 stops, eased the commute between south Charlotte and uptown, with about 16,000 trips on the average weekday.

So we’re off to a good start, but more needs to be done. Thankfully, we’re heading in the right direction with the Blue Line Extension, which will run for 9.3 miles from Ninth Street in uptown through the North Davidson (NoDa) and University areas, terminating on the UNC Charlotte campus. Scheduled to open in 2017, The Blue Line Extension is already helping spur new development in NoDa.

While many balked about the new CityLynx Gold Line streetcar, saying the current 1.5-mile system was too expensive, impractical and a poor use of tax money, it’s important to look at the big picture. As detailed in the 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan, the Gold Line is designed to be a 10-mile streetcar system that will be built in phases and ultimately connect key central business sectors and attract new growth and jobs to the area. With an average of 1,507 passenger weekday trips in July, the streetcar has already exceeded ridership projections.

Also on the horizon are projects like the Charlotte Gateway Station (CGS). This planned multimodal transportation hub will serve as the southern terminus for the proposed North Corridor Commuter Rail (Red Line), which would extend approximately 25 miles from uptown Charlotte to the Mount Mourne area south of Mooresville in Iredell County. There’s also the proposed LYNX Silver Line, which would run through the southeast corridor approximately 13.5 miles from Charlotte’s Center City to the border of Mecklenburg and Union Counties.

While a lot of logistical and financial details have to be addressed before these projects can move forward, they represent crucial components of an overall regional transportation plan. These mass transit systems will provide a more efficient and cleaner alternative to commuting, and also spur dense, pedestrian-friendly developments that rely less on automobiles. I hope both local, regional and state leaders make these projects a priority, as they will help position Charlotte USA as a more vibrant, attractive and progressive place to live and do business.

Top News

Albemarle Corporation will relocate its corporate headquarters to Charlotte in 2016, creating 120 jobs and investing $12.9 million in capital. Currently headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Albemarle Corporation is a premier, global specialty chemicals company that celebrated its 20th anniversary as a publicly traded company last year. The Partnership helped secure this project, and worked collaboratively with a number of other organizations, including the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, and the NC Department of Commerce.

TTI Floor Care North America will open a Center of Excellence for Marketing and Innovation in Charlotte, creating 200 jobs over the next two years and an investment of up to $5 million. TTI Floor Care N.A.—the marketer and manufacturer of the iconic Hoover, Dirt Devil and Oreck brands—is a global leader in consumer and commercial floor care appliances including upright vacuum cleaners, carpet washers, hard floor cleaners and handheld vacuums.

International Express Trucking, Inc. has purchased the former Wagner Knitting Building, a 77,000-square-foot facility in Gaston County’s Lowell. International Express Trucking, Inc. specializes in the movement, warehousing and distribution of international and domestic cargo. Estab-lished in 2001, International Express offers warehouse services, along with local cartage. Serving as an AMS/ACE accessible warehouse for US customs, International Express is also a container freight station offering airport to airport line haul, break-bulk services, shipment consolidation services, and they are a certified cargo screening facility.

Top Events

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition is hosting a special luncheon Aug. 31 featuringCongressman Thom Tillis and General James Conway, 34th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.). The Charlotte Chamber, the World Affairs Council, International House, Charlotte Regional Partnership, the NC Technology Association, FHI360, Samaritan’s Feet and MOAA are partnering with USGLC on this program. TheU.S. Global Leadership Coalition is an influential network of more than 400 businesses and NGOs; national security and foreign policy experts; and business, faith-based, and military leaders working in Washington, D.C. and across the country to ensure robust funding for U.S. programs in diplomacy and international development. The event is at the Hilton Charlotte Center City Aug. 31. Registration opens at 11 a.m. Discussion begins at noon. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. You may register HERE or RSVP to Jeremy Tolbert at jtolbert@usglc.orgor 864.419.2166.

CCNG is hosting a Customer Experience and Engagement event at Charlotte’s Steritech Contact Center Thursday, Sept. 17 from 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The event will feature group dialogues, networking sessions, and discussions touching on such topics as turning customer challenges into business opportunities. Only people who work in a contact center should attend this special event. For additional details, go towww.ccng.com, or contact Ginger Graberat ggraber@ccng.com.

The annual F.U.E.D. Charlotte Regional Partnership Golf Tournament is scheduled for Sept. 23 at The Golf Club at Ballantyne. The annual tournament raises funds for scholarships that are awarded to professionals in our partnering counties to offset the costs of attending economic development classes. This year, for the first time, we will be offering hole-in-one contests with at $10,000 grand prize. We’d like to recognize Elliott Davis Decosimo, an accounting, tax and consulting services firm, as the event’s premier sponsor. For details, contact Laura Foor at 704-347-6580 orlfoor@charlotteusa.com/. Click HERE to purchase tickets.

The NC Sustainable Energy Association‘s 7th Annual Making Energy Work Conference is scheduled for Oct. 6-7 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The conference is part of ongoing collaborative efforts to move the clean energy economy forward. Participants in this endeavor include clean energy providers, consumers, businesses, utilities, decision makers, and advocates. Making Energy Work provides opportunities to inform, build relationships and identify solutions that lead to the continued flourishing of North Carolina’s clean energy economy. Visit www.makingenergywork.org for more details and to register. 

Investor Profile

Our investors’ commitment to regionalism allows us to continue and enhance our mission-critical efforts to generate qualified projects, create awareness of the many assets our region offers businesses, and assist communities in responding to projects requests. This week we highlight Bojangles’. When you see a member of the company, please thank them for their support of Charlotte USA.

Discussion

2 Responses to “Opinion – Mass Transit Matters”

  1. Mass transit does absolutely nothing for businesses in the Lake Norman region. Unless you work directly in downtown Charlotte, the so-called Red Line would not help you. I’m tired of people in Charlotte thinking that Lake Norman is all about people driving to Charlotte. That assumption is absolutely false and is a slap in the face of the Lake Norman business community.

    Mass transit does nothing for freight either. You can’t move cargo on light rail. Trains are in no way a substitute for widening I-77. Maybe a small, very expensive compliment at some point, but in no way a substitute.

    By the way, whose opinion is this anyway? No author listed. Judging from the propaganda attempting to make the Gold and Red Lines sound like they’re not total disasters, plus all of the development/marketing speak and the reference to Charlotte USA, maybe the Charlotte Chamber or Charlotte Regional Partnership?

    Remind me how much we’re subsidizing ridership on the Blue Line? My guess is that the author does’t want to answer that question. I remember reading somewhere that it would be cheaper just to buy every rider their own Toyota Prius.

    C’mon, we’re not THAT gullible. Just go ahead and widen I-77 already.

    Posted by Greg | September 11, 2015, 12:41 am
  2. What you left out, these transportation systems will never be self sufficient. They will be taxpayer subsidized their entire lives. Total cost of ownership is a staggering boondoggle for the taxpayer and benefits very few people who may or may not even pay due to the “honor” system currently implemented.

    Posted by Barry Carter | September 11, 2015, 1:02 am

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