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atownrocks

Charlotte The Next Atlanta?

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Charlotte is currently trying very hard to not become the next Atlanta. Charlotte is very fortunate to be able to learn from Atlanta's mistakes in regards to transit, sprawl, etc.

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Hahahahaha.......good god I hope not.....I'd prefer the next Boston, but in all honesty Charlotte will develop in a different way than most any other city in the US. There will become high-density corridors bisecting residential neighborhoods. Imagine something more along the lines of Brookline, MA, or Burbank, CA.

If you are talking about strictly ammenities, sure why not. It will be the size of present day Atlanta in about 30 years. The current transit planning is roughly the same scale. I certainly don't want anywhere near the glut of malls that Atl has, but SouthPark will nearly rival Lenox once NM is completed.

I'm not sure what you mean in terms of buildings? # of skyscrapers? Again, it's just a matter of time. Architectual stylings? I'd say it's already comparable. Height? Well Charlotte has two residentail buildings planned already taller than any residential buildings in Atlanta (planned or otherwise)

I think if you are judging Charlotte based on the overall combination of both urbanity, ammenities, and basic quality of life, I think Charlotte will easily develop into a more desirable city over the long term, and I would assume most every forumer here would agree with me or they wouldn't avidly post and browse this forum morning to night unless they were anticipating the next announcement of Charlotte's maturation.

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Fortunately Charlotte is already well on its way to avoid becoming like Atlanta in the future. The two cities are already vastly different in terms of development style and attitude--from planning to transportation.

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The only true thing that is comparable to Atlanta and Charlotte is that they are Southern cities. They are two very different cities. One is way ahead, and the other is trying not to be too far ahead in the future. In terms of population, I would say that Charlotte's metro region will equal that of Atlanta's today in about 10 - 20 years. In terms of commercial importance, you cannot compare because they have different economical strengths, where one is communication, and the other is banking and finance. Interms of malls, entertainment, etc., Charlotte is on its way to becoming an Atlanta-like city of culture and fun. Charlotte, however, is wanting not to be an Atlanta, it wants to be its ownself, a Charlotte. Who wants to be the city that is called, "the next Atlanta?"

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Yeah I guess your right. I still think that Charlotte needs more to do. There is so much land at here Charlotte will be a big city. Charlotte is much more friendly and cleaner downtown which is clerly becomeing a very popular place to live.

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For a city that's the seat of a metro with 1.5 million people, Charlotte isn't doing too shabby. Of course one should never be satisfied because when that happens, one loses the drive to be even better.

As Charlotte evolves and incorporates more people, it will naturally attain more ammenities. I hope that it's metropolitan land area doesn't get any larger. Right now it is big enough (~~3500 square miles?). If it can remain that size (or perhaps even shrink a bit) but fill in, it would certainly be a trend breaker among the fast-growing inland southern cities.

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Certainly I can understand Charlotteans desire to not become anotherAtlanta - as if Atlanta were some anomoly in the sunbelt. Atlanta is simply the face of 1970's through 1990's sprawl development, not some out of ordinary entity unlike anything else. But that's beside the point - Atlanta became what Atlanta is, but fortunately still contains a turn of the century downtown (though barely surviving the 1960's & 1970's), a small urban core & in my view - the city's greatest assets, a large number of streetcar suburbs full of charming bungalows & entertaining village centers.

Now let's review how Charlotte has managed not to follow Atlanta's footsteps:

Promoted a street grid system rather than a system of collector roads based off of country lanes.

Preserved the historic architecture of downtown, as well as the urban neighborhoods surrounding the center.

Controlled growth in the 1980's & 1990's rather than allowing an explosive number of subdivisions, shoppping centers & office parks.

Succeeded in promoting smart growth initiatives in suburban / exurban counties, thus limiting low scale sprawl. Meanwhile forming a partnership in a metropolitan organization with real power over transportation & development issues.

Didn't build a perimeter freeway.

.... oops. ;)

Seriously, I like Charlotte & I've defended Charlotte. But too often I've defended Charlotte on the basis that it is unreasonable to judge a city based on the era & climate. That explains my defense of Atlanta - though I'm certainly not pleased with what Atlanta has become - & explains my defense of Charlotte - though again I'm not completely pleased with what has become of that city.

But will Charlotte be a better managed city than present day Atlanta once it's urban area surpasses 3 to 4 million? Most likely.

Will it be better? That is subjective. Certain things are impossible to build, and character is something that takes time. But I don't care to argue over which is better, it is irrelevant to me, so please continue... :)

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TheBrad (sorry, that's how I know you)......I tend to agree. I think the best point you made is the develop patters over the last 1/4 decade have really defined the two cities. Atlanta was bigger when this growth began so it consumed much more land and it's "problems" are much more obvious. Charlotte almost had the advantage that it was too small when this sort of sunbelt phenomenon began to grow at the same rapid rate of sprawl. We are a city of 1.5 million that is just now finding it's direction......hopefully we caught our mistakes early enough......though we're going to build that outerbelt dammit, that's what real cities do!!!

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^ That's cool - I promote the usage of 'TheBrad', despite my questionable decision to use Teshadoh.

But I do believe Charlotte will manage it's growth better than Atlanta. Particularly since the city / county has a greater influence on it's own growth.

But... imagine when Charlotte does 'fill in' to around 3 million as Atlanta's urban area is around. Charlotte would then include Rock Hill, Gastonia & Concord - just as Atlanta's urban area includes various large towns. In that case, despite what is occuring in Charlotte, a metro in this era is much more than just the primary city. So - generally speaking, Charlotte will appear to be similar to Atlanta, but with a newer urban core (though by then more in-fill).

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Are you guys crazy or something? :P One only needs to look out the window the next time you fly out of Charlotte-Douglas Int. to see just how close we are to becoming another ATL. Our road patterns are screwy (thanks to the old wagon trails and landownership patterns that typify the East). Scattered houses dot the countryside with little towns and new neighborhoods springing up everywhere.... its a real mess. At night time its almost impossible to tell where the real city starts and the country ends.

I do agree that the metro as a whole is becoming more and more progressive in trying to encourage smart growth. But I think the percentage of smart growth (TODs and other urban villages) will constitute a significant minority (unfortunately). Case in point, the massive subdivisions going in down by Lake Wylie... didn't Didn't Doug Smith do a column about a year or two ago about a 1,000+ acre development there where the lots where going to be greater than an acre in size!? The developer claimed that large lots would help protect the water quality of the lake by keeping density down. I'm sorry, but kind of crap ticks me off sometimes.

Lets be realistic here, in 20-30 years our roads will be just as clogged as Atlanta's are today. Maybe our sprawl will be slightly less if 10% of the expected 1 million or so new residents decide to live along the transit corridors and in uptown. That's still leaves 900,000 people who will help expand our suburbia. (I know, I know... 10% is better than nothing, so we may fare a little better than ATL, but not by much in my opinion)

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Atlanta became what it did for several reasons that don't exist for prior day Charlotte.

  • Huge growth during the 50s-90s. While Charlotte had a great deal of growth too, its the shear numbers that make Atlanta much different. Now during this period the concepts of new urbanism, smart growth, etc. simply did not exist in mainstream politics and we have the present day auto centric Atlanta. The idea was to grow at any cost to show the rest of the country the New South. (and they did)

  • Race. Atlanta had/has significant racial problems that don't exist in Charlotte. Nobody wants to talk about this but there is a very good reason that most whites chose to live beyond the perimeter and why Marta does not go into the heavy urban counties of Cobb and Marietta. In comparison, Charlotte has always been noted as a city where the population is fairly racially integrated. Again Atlanta is a product of bad timing.

  • Government. Through a quirk of politics, Georgia's counties are limited in size to that where no part of the county is more than a day's horse ride from the county seat. As a result the counties are very small compared to NC. The Atlanta metro consists of 25+ counties that make regional agreements all but impossible.

  • Finally when Atlanta was going through its wild growth, it did not have the advantage that Charlotte does of being able to look at a big, sprawling, out of control, mess of a metro 250 miles away. It is a big incentive to not reproduce the same train wreck here. (opps I should have said car wreck. :D )

I think that by voting in a transit tax (which Atlanta does not have) and making heavy investments in a future rail system along with the required zoning, Charlotte is building something rather unique in Southern cities and will look nothing like Atlanta does now in 20 years. And it also helps greatly that NC is much more pro-Transit than Georgia which is another plus to Charlotte.

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I can't wait too see what Charlotte will look like in 20 to 30 years... (visioning greatness)...

Anyway... I think that once atl held the olympics(sp?) back in what 94 or 96 that there was such an influx of growth that they could not control it and decided ... build everything... where ever you want...

They did not establish a dense urban core but allowed their dt... mid town to just build where ever they bought land... thats why the dt area is so spread out... it you clumped it up together like CLT you would have what looks like clt just taller.

I agree with everyone that clt is learning from the misstakes that atl made. We're make our own... already have (485) but because of atl's mess... we will grow into a much more urban dynamic city imo

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in many ways, Charlotte is becoming the next Atlanta. but like it was pointed out before, Charlotte is avoiding mistakes that Atlanta has made. The culture of Charlotte and Atlanta are like night and day. Charlotte's population is prodominantly caucasion and the city is filled with conservative christians. Atlanta is prodominantly African-American and is a far more liberal city in terms of culture and lifestyles. On Surface, the two cities are amost twins. Atlanta is spread out more and has a skyline twice as big as Charlotte's. Both Charlotte and Atlanta has that "can do" spirit in which both cities think anything is possible. Charlotte is trying to convince the nation that its a major league city in America. Atlanta is trying to convince the world that its a world class city.

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You made some good points monsoon - but to counter some of them:

- Charlotte is going through a similar growth spurt as Atlanta did - which started around the 1960/1970's not 1950's. Charlotte in the 1970's was where Atlanta was prior to WWII in size - by the 1990's Charlotte caught up to Atlanta in size in the 1960's. Even in my old memory, South Park Mall in Charlotte was known as a mall on the edge of Charlotte, most everything south beyond Pineville has been built since the 1970's. That is explosive growth! Additionally, unlike Atlanta of that era, you can't talk about Charlotte without discussing the satellite cities that pop up around Charlotte - Monroe, Rock Hill, Gastonia, Concord, & Kannapolis & their growth. Those satellite cities will not be seperate urban areas for long (Monroe already isn't) & they are all developing towards Charlotte (Fort Mill is now in Charlotte's urban area as opposed to 10 years ago when it was in Rock Hill's).

So their is explosive growth, it's just that it is occuring in multiple locations outside of Charlotte - rather than a centralized urban area. That isn't good is it?

- Race relations in Atlanta aren't perfect - but certainly better than most southeastern cities, due to progressive leadership in the 1950's & 1960's. Atlanta didn't have riots in that era unlike most similar sized cities & integration occured before most of the southeast. Since then Blacks have done well in Atlanta, but unfortunately due to white flight the metro is largely segregated. But something to consider is - cities with a historically large Black population & culture are, often by choise. Blacks are moving into middle / upper income suburban locales of Clayton Co, south Dekalb, Henry, & south Cobb by choice. Like much of upstate SC & western NC - the Black population has historically been small in Charlotte & the various cities such as Rock Hill. Prior to the 1990's they were mostly found around central urban cores - not in the suburbs. But due to Charlotte's historical small Black presence - new Black residents are integrating into suburban areas. My point being, comparing Atlanta with Charlotte in terms of race relations is not comparable.

Your last two points are valid & I certainly hope for the best for Charlotte. Though my explanations now seem to be long winded, I do hope you get a better idea what my point is. That is - Charlotte's growth is comparable to Atlanta's through the 1990's, the city has doubled in size from the 1970's to the 1990's & growth is occuring in multiple locations. The fact that Charlotte is more integrated than Atlanta is very good - but why it is, is a matter of timing & lack of cultural context.

That said, I do still believe Charlotte's urban area will be better managed than Atlanta's present urban mass. Due to monsoon's point of transit leadership & fewer government entities. But that isn't to say Charlotte will suffer the same issues that Atlanta does now - sprawl, pollution & traffic. Charlotte's metro area is still not following smart growth leadership - it is still primarily low density sprawl. A better regionwide road pattern is still not in place - still dependant on a few freeways & highways as commuting corridors, which means suburban traffic corridors will be similar to suburban Atlanta's - as it already is. And which leads to pollution, in combination with industrial pollution from the region, the air quality will decline in Charlotte due to automobile-centric development that has, is , & will continue as exurban commuting patterns increase (Chester Co for example). Additionally water supplies are limited to the Catawba basin for most in the metro - which is similar to Atlanta's dependance on the Chattahoochee.

But I hope for the best, but I wouldn't pat my back yet that "Charlotte won't be Atlanta" - because there is a great deal of similarity between the two. My best comparision would be Charlotte will be a more manageble Atlanta...

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I think another big difference is to simply look at the population growth rate of the central county. Fulton vs Mecklenburg. They are very close in population already. But Mecklenburg is growing at a much higher rate than Fulton which indicates the two areas are much different in how they are handling their growth.

i.e. ATL's growth is in its suburban counties, CLT's growth is in its urban core. Remember the core counties of both are already close to the same size.

On your comment on race, I think it is a very valid issue to compare as race has always determined how cities grow in the USA. White people won't move into Fulton because of race. That situation does not exist in Mecklenburg.

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I think another big difference is to simply look at the population growth rate of the central county.  Fulton vs Mecklenburg.  They are very close in population already.  But Mecklenburg is growing at a much higher rate than Fulton which indicates the two areas are much different in how they are handling their growth.

i.e.  ATL's growth is in its suburban counties, CLT's growth is in its urban core.  Remember the core counties of both are already close to the same size.

On your comment on race, I think it is a very valid issue to compare as race has always determined how cities grow in the USA.  White people won't move into Fulton because of race.  That situation does not exist in Mecklenburg.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think your reasoning is valid, but your knowledge of Atlanta needs some further instruction. Fulton for one - a large county by Georgia standards & extends far north to south. The county is actually a composite of three counties which merged in the 1930's (Campbell, Fulton & Milton). So - most of Fulton spatially is suburban, north of Atlanta is Sandy Springs (1970's era suburb), Roswell (1980/1990's era suburb), Alpharetta (1990/present suburb), & more undeveloped country - much of it home to horse farms. South of Atlanta are early 1900's suburban towns then an extensive undeveloped span that still includes farm land. So - beyond Atlanta & the southern suburbs, Fulton is predominately white & experienced great amount of growth from the 1980's on due to Georgia 400 freeway. This area is now beginning to mature - so your assumption that Fulton is predominately an urban Black county is false.

Nonetheless I am not meaning to discount Charlotte's integration, I think it's great. But it has much to do with current growth trends in previously unurbanized areas. Cities such as Raleigh, Austin & much of California are naturally going to integrate at faster rates due to growth & the suburban development patterns that is based on dispersal, rather than concentration.

Your comment concerning Fulton is ironic though, the county did indeed slow in development in the 1960's & 1970's due to white flight with Clayton, Cobb & Dekalb counties growing. In the 1970's GA 400 was built & promptly the northern half has grown at a fast rate - which boosted the county's population as Atlanta was hemoraging in population. Now - since the 1990's, Atlanta's population has started growing & northern Fulton is slowing down (partly due to the dot com bust). The issue regarding population is difficult to gauge in what is happening in Atlanta now. Previously the population decline was due to both white flight & generally the degredation of urban neighborhoods. Since the late 1990's the city is gaining in population at greater than 1000 people per year. But that gain is more significant in other ways - the city is gaining in population (primarily gentrification & densification of Midtown) as poor Blacks are leaving (due to gentrification or due to improving their economic status) and are being replaced by wealthier & most notably singles or couples. Essentially homes that were subdivided as duplexes & home to large familys are being reconverted into single family homes by young couples (my wife & I moved into a home that was previously a duplex home to more than 10 people). So the growth is rather incredible when considering all of these factors. Anyways - just an off topic diversion....

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I dunno... I still think some of you guys are a little too dillusional about this topic. I went down to ATL to visit a friend in Alpharetta last summer and noticed a lot of similarities between their northern suburbs and the Concord area off I-85. Pretty much the same type of sprawl (just that ATL is on a bigger scale). Let me just address some other rambling topics now...

MARTA: 3 of the 4 spokes go through the ghetto (east to Decator, south to the airport, and west beyond the GA Dome). Only the northern spur goes to the nicer areas. (that was a moot point, but I wanted to clarify Metro's earlier statement).

I suspect that when the four MARTA lines where constructed in the 1970s, Atlanta's size, growth and issues were compariable to Charlotte's today (but ya'll are right in that Atlanta didn't have the model of what bad growth looked like). They built these lines with the goal of moving people to and from their jobs downtown, which is a main purpose here for ours. The northern spur is booming right now with all the new development (ours will too probably). Yet the majority of incoming residents are still choosing the suburbs because it is more economical (same will continue to be true in Charlotte).

Core growth: Again, not to pick on you Metro, but Mecklenburg still has plenty of room left to expand, thus our county is growing by leaps and bounds. I didn't see much in the way of open land in Fulton Co. except for just south of Apheretta and that is probably why their's is slower. Additionally, just about all of our explose growth (337,000 newcomers to the metro b/t 1990 & 2000) was in the suburbs, not denser infills. In about 15 years Meck will also be mostly filled in and the new growth will spill into neighboring counties thanks to our brand new outerbelt. That critical piece of infrastructure will help see to it that the Charlotte metro continues to move towards another Atlanta. During the 60's when our city leaders were planning this stuff, they actually identified Atlanta as their primary rival and pulled out all the stops (so to speak) trying to emulate them. Athough though we have come to realize this as a mistake, a lot of things that were set forth then will be hard or impossible to correct now (i.e. the outerbelt) and we will just have to live with them.

I am not a naysayer, although some of you would/may think so. I'm simply expressing my thoughts on what i'm seeing, as I'm seeing them. As I said in my previous post, I think we will grow slightly smarter and slightly slower than Atlanta did when they were our current size, but the overwhelming majority will the same kind of sprawl that will render our metros undisguishable in the coming decades. That's my piece.

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oe-305......i agree mostly with what you are saying though I'm not following what your point on MARTA is and it's pattern......when MARTA was built there were similar racial/economic patterns that are today, though certainly not as sprawled.

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Charlotte & Atlanta have their differences and similarities. In my opinion (being a Charlotte native), I think Charlotte still has a pretty long ways to go to arrive @ the density levels of Atlanta. But, I think the city will reach and/or even surpass those levels in the next 10-15 years given the rate of exponential growth that has occurred in the past 15 years already.

Around the time I was born (1986ish), Charlotte was a very different place than it is now. We barely had a downtown, our city limits somewhere short of some fields

pass Albemarle Rd., & and many of our present subdivisions weren't even thought of. Fast-forward ten years, Charlotte's downtown had dramatically changed, the city limits had expanded, & the outerbelt mess was beginning to noticeable. Now in 2005, Charlotte is facing problems nonconceivable in 1985 or 1995. The rate of change in Charlotte is indeed very exponential.

There is quite a bit of space left in Mecklenburg County alone....but given the rate that Charlotte grows...it'll all be gone by 2015.

To me, Atlanta & Charlotte are like two sisters: one 21....the other 15. You do the math & figure out why the 21yrold is more appealing than the 15yrold.

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oe-305......i agree mostly with what you are saying though I'm not following what your point on MARTA is and it's pattern......when MARTA was built there were similar racial/economic patterns that are today, though certainly not as sprawled.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I guess I wasn't totally clear. I was just trying to draw similarities to Atlanta's rail lines and our proposed system. Both are a hub and spoke system that are designed to get workers downtown to their jobs and help curb congestion. Just like MARTA has failed to significantly help slow the pace of suburbanization in Atlanta, CATS' system (of up to 5 possible rail corridors) will have a really tough time convincing the majority of new residents to give up the lower taxes, larger yards and other perceived benefits of living in these fringing communities.

On the plus side, I do see such factors as a more proactive approach by our local and state gov't towards public transportation and planning, rising gas prices, and the DOT's recent promise to slash future road construction projects as helping us grow a little more wisely in the future.

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  • Government.  Through a quirk of politics, Georgia's counties are limited in size to that where no part of the county is more than a day's horse ride from the county seat.  As a result the counties are very small compared to NC.  The Atlanta metro consists of 25+ counties that make regional agreements all but impossible.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think your reasoning is valid, but your knowledge of Atlanta needs some further instruction.  Fulton for one - a large county by Georgia standards & extends far north to south.  The county is actually a composite of three counties which merged in the 1930's (Campbell, Fulton & Milton).  So - most of Fulton spatially is suburban, north of Atlanta is Sandy Springs (1970's era suburb), Roswell (1980/1990's era suburb), Alpharetta (1990/present suburb), & more undeveloped country - much of it home to horse farms.  South of Atlanta are early 1900's suburban towns then an extensive undeveloped span that still includes farm land.  So - beyond Atlanta & the southern suburbs, Fulton is predominately white & experienced great amount of growth from the 1980's on due to Georgia 400 freeway.  This area is now beginning to mature - so your assumption that Fulton is predominately an urban Black county is false.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

What monsoon mentioned and what teshadoh touched on is government. Charlotte has a quasi-merged City/Coutny government- "CharMeck." This alone give Charlotte a large advantage in planning for the future. Charlotte's one central government covers most of the county, and it covers a large portion of the urbanized metro area. This gives the city a better position to control what is going on and promost the kind of growth that it wants to see.

Atlanta has alot of governments and squabbles amongst them, and more importantly, no one government that has the most power or influence. For an example of squabbling take a look at the Sandy Springs incorporation and the Fulton County split proposal. I think part of Altanta's problem is that it has the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, Dekalb County, Cobb County, Gwinett County, Alpharetta, and the list can go on and on. There is so much division in Atlanta that it is hard to get cooperation from all of them. I think this has been a problem in Atlanta's history and has likely contributed to its current situation.

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Indeed. Charlotte/Mecklenburg has

  • County wide Utilities system.

  • County wide Police system (though several of the towns operate their own police systems too.)

  • County wide Court system

  • County wide Transportation system. CATS is funded by all county residents.

  • County wide School System. This is the reason the city/county have remained remarkably integrated and did not suffer the segregation that is endemic in Atlanta.

  • County wide Health Care and Social Services system. Again all residents pay so there is no incentive to leave the city.

  • County wide Taxing authority

In addition there is the MTA. A regional authority that is responsible the development of the Charlotte area mass transit system. It includes representatation from all municipalities in Mecklenburg county as well as all surrounding counties and even from SC (part of Charlotte metro is in South Carolina). This system of "inclusion" will insure that the transportation system being built does not stop at the city limits.

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The big difference between MARTA and Charlotte's proposal is that MARTA was designed to move people exclusively......it was designed to go to the Airport, Downtown, Buckhead/Lenox......there was little thought into land use patterns. They didn't do large rezonings to TOD when it was conceived......it was simply, this is where people live now, and this is where most of them want to go. The problem is that many of the areas were already somewhat built-out but not at a high enough density to support heavy rail, Midtown though being the biggest exception.

Recently though BellSouth has invested in the system by consolidating it's offices at stations, and building Park and Ride lots for its employees.....in my mind this is a huge deal that rarely gets mentioned in tranist conversations, where a private corporation invested in public tranist.

TheBrad.....can you elaborate on how this has turned out?

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