Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Council member: Forget the streetcar, build east-west light rail line

After reading my recent story about the cautionary note Atlanta's recent snowstorm mess sounds for Charlotte's future growth, City Council member Claire Fallon called to say she's more determined than ever to push for an east-west light rail line. She says she can't see redevelopment coming to east Charlotte without it.

"I'd take it from Sunset (Road in northwest Charlotte) to Monroe (Road in southeast Charlotte) with a spur to the airport," she told me. "I don't think it's practical to even consider not doing it. This is getting to be a big city with a lot of people coming to it. You're going to have to find" ways to move them.

What about the much-debated east-west streetcar line, the first leg of which is already under construction? Not the long-term answer, Fallon says. She believes it's going to take light rail to reshape development patterns on the east and west sides. She supported the City Council's recent move to spend $12 million for engineering work on the 2.5-mile streetcar section running through the center city, but she's not sounding like she's on board with the long-term plan to extend the line from Beatties Ford Road in the west to the old Eastland Mall in the east. She says if she could have her way, she'd tie the current streetcar plan into an east-west light rail system.

To call it a longshot would be putting it mildly. Such a project would be eye-poppingly costly. And the city's already struggling to find money for the much less-expensive streetcar project. But she's scheduled meetings with CATS officials to talk about how to make an east-west light rail line happen. "I think they think I'm nuts," she adds, chuckling. "At least let's start the dialogue. I figure there's a 30-year build-out. I figure the first ten will be people talking and saying, 'This is ridiculous, we can't do it.'"

"But we're going to have to do something. We can't stay the way we are and move people."

Knowing the passions the streetcar alone has aroused, all I could think of to say in response was, "Well, good luck..."

What do you think of her idea?


Anonymous said...

I think a light rail line running to the airport should come first.

James Edgar said...

I've said it a zillion times - the streetcar has almost no benefit, other than it holds more people than a bus. It stays in traffic lanes and has to stop for lights. And in places like Elizabeth Ave from Presbyterian to CPCC, where there is now only 1 lane each direction, traffic will be bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, 24 hours a day. Has anyone that visits this site ever rode bus route 15? It is ALWAYS 25 minutes late. The streetcar will always be late as well.

Light rail operates in its own travel area, doesn't have to stop for lights, and runs on time.

Every penny that has been spent on this streetcar is a colossal, criminal waste of money. Fallon is absolutely right that we should be spending mass transit money on light rail instead.

Anonymous said...

I think a light rail line to South Park and Ballantyne would make the most sense as that is where people are actually trying to commute to and from.

Hoosier Newman said...

As I had posted in an earlier article, there is no potential for the street car project viability. It does not serve the general population, it is merely a 'showpiece'. Most cities with streetcars kept them, and city evolved around them. They did not uproot existing traffic to place an even slower method of travel. Some engineers are looking at distance without the consideration of time. Some govt official look at dollars without consideration of functionality. The most effective use of tax dollars would be overhead light rail right down the center of the bus lanes on Independence, then Albermarle out to Harrisburg Rd.

The small town mentality is dying for Charlotte, and it's "Time to Grow Up". It's an oxymoron to attempt to be a world class "Mt. Pilot/Mayberry" transportation model and cosmopolitan city. Look at cities where it works. Denver, Atlanta, Chicago. Take everyone off the deciding factors that have not been elsewhere and seen growth. Some members have no vision because they have not seen or dreamed of growth on the scale that Charlotte is projected to have.

Anonymous said...

Does she not realize that CATS has a long range vision plan, where they have vetted the routes and development potential?
Why would she want to introduce a totally new idea for a line based off of what? Her assumptions about things? The plan should be carried out, and the small streetcar line should be kept only to connect the Transit Center with Gateway Station. That is its highest, best, and original purpose.

claire fallon said...

The cats plan was done in 1998,different city different time. Claire green Fallon

Anonymous said...

In this order:
-North Corridor Line to Mooresville
-Claire's line
-Underground line: Center City/Myers Park/SouthPark/Arboretum then above ground to Ballantyne where it can connect to the Blue Line.

Streetcar should only connect Plaza-Midwood to West Trade Gateway station. Charlotte's west side, absent a jobs boom, will never redevelop in our lifetimes.

I know, pipe dream. But that's how I think it should be done.

Anonymous said...

To add: Even in San Francisco, site of a technology jobs boom and much angst over a "housing crisis," only limited redevelopment has followed the MUNI Metro T line out to Bayview/Hunter's Point, an area similar to our Beatties Ford Road. Few people want to live there.

Sending our street car out Beatties Ford Road is highly unlikely to spark redevelopment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous commenter and it should be in the following order:

1. A north line to Mooresville
2. East/West from Matthews to the Airport
3. Ballantyne to South Park/South Blvd. underground.

This city will not get to the next level with mass transut. Also, traffic from the SC line on S. Tryon to Uptown is already congested on a small 2 lane road. We need to plan now and stick with them or else, they will call us North Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

Light rail running along the Independence Boulevard corridor from Matthews /Levine CPCC campus to downtown Charlotte with connections to the airport (either bus or light rail) Cats had plans for transit along Independence long before Monroe Road was considered for a route. Independence makes best choice for moving a huge amount of riders because the basic route is there already. Connections to Monroe Road area would be made by buses which would pick up transfers from a transfer point along Independence (perhaps at Conference )and take them to stations along Monroe where there would be park and ride lots to park their cars.

Anonymous said...

Claire Fallon might be surprised at how many people agree with her. She deserves our thanks for provoking a conversation.

George Cox said...

Light rail is the only way to go,
East-West, CLT, South Park, North line and Ballantyne . Just legalize casinos across the state
and there will be more than enough revenue for these projects
and ones in the Triad and Triangle as well. Or get Elevation
church to chip in.

Pradigy Musicman said...

The streetcar is dumb. Light Rail to the airport from Center city should have been done. Independence just needed Light rail, not a huge business killing lane expansion. I'm 100% for Casinos to fund government projects, as it will only create more and more jobs.