The journey’s half the fun

Transit: it’s just a way to get there. Many transportation projects become infrastructure driven, building rail for its own sake. In Charlotte, though, the leaders recognize that transit is only half the equation. What’s really needed is a different way of living, one that transit is an integral part of — and viewing transit as an isolated solution won’t get you there.

Debra Campbell, planning director for the city of Charlotte, interviewed by Zach Patton in Governing magazine:

Transit is a means; it’s not the end. The end is high-quality development and a way for us to promote better development to make sure we’re better stewards of our community and the environment.

It’s also about giving lifestyle choices. Charlotte had gotten to the point where there was really only one lifestyle: suburban half-acre lots. We will never ever do away with our suburban cul-de-sac communities. They’ll always be a choice for our residents…

We never, ever, ever said transit was going to be a panacea. It’s just about providing a choice. A big part of that was bringing in the transit folks, the engineers, the planners and the developers to talk to the public, so it wasn’t just seen as a transit project.

That monoculture of suburban half-acre lots will ultimately drive many more people away from Sunbelt cities — I’m certainly not the only one.

One thought on “The journey’s half the fun

  1. The point is echoed by Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson:

    Two weeks ago, on the night that voters chose to keep the transit tax, I talked to Bob Morgan, the president of the Charlotte Chamber and one of the biggest boosters of light rail.

    He talked about how Bank of America, Wachovia and Charlotte’s other big corporations recruit employees from New York and D.C. and Chicago — cities where rail is a common way to get around.

    His fear was toppling dominoes: recruits who don’t want to come here because Charlotte isn’t urban enough, followed by big companies leaving because they can’t land recruits.

    I tend to doubt that the lack of light rail would cause Charlotte’s key industries to take off. But Chamber folks are paid to be scared of just such things.

    And there’s no doubt that light rail will create a new Charlotte lifestyle. Cities with outerbelts run the danger of turning into a reverse doughnut — lots of action in the center and on the outer edge, empty in between. Development along the light-rail lines can preserve the in-between places.

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