Monday, June 28, 2010

Q.C. gets props for light rail

Posted By on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Light rail really is one of Charlotte's best ideas.

Charlotte is car-loving NASCAR country, a vast suburbia of cul-de-sacs and strip malls. Yet its new light rail line is a national model for success, outstripping ridership projections and inspiring millions of dollars in high-density development. How did sensible transportation planning come to sprawlburbia? Not by appealing for "sustainability," that's for sure. In the end, the winning pitch that sold voters on light rail was none other than Charlotte's love of growth. The development it lured -- several thousand condos and apartments, dozens of new restaurants and stores, and roughly half a billion dollars in private investment -- showed skeptics that light rail is more than just transportation. The city created transit-oriented zoning districts and station area plans, allowing for increased density along the rail line.

Other players in this success story included a mayor who took leadership, a restored vintage streetcar, and plain old lucky timing: A decade-long real estate bubble fed the transit-related development, not bursting until after the Lynx light rail debuted in November 2007, followed quickly by 2008's record-breaking high gas prices.

Today, with the North Carolina textile industry long dead and Charlotte's famed banks weakened, the city's leaders look to position it as an emerging "green" metropolis. Its transit triumph makes for compelling evidence.

Read the rest of this Grist.org article, by Mary Newsom, here.

Never taken Lynx? Here's a guided video tour from Steve Sharon and Monroe Scoop.com:

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