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So its been about 10 years since the Blue Line opened and Charlotte has spent a significant amount of energy talking about how to make the city more walkable and less car dependent. As I think about the walkable portions of Charlotte (Dilworth, Southend, PM, Wesley Heights (needs a grocery store), NoDa, etc.) all of these places were built before cars and they have merely been updated to accommodate modern needs.
Try as I might I can't think of a single post-war neighborhood in Charlotte that has been made more walkable. Is there any neighborhood outside of the inner ring where walking to the store, school or transit is possible for more than a token few? The Blue Line created little or no change in the neighborhoods south of New Bern. Birkdale-like places seem much more like malls than neighborhoods to me and feel as isolated as a mall -- but I don't spend much time there so correct me if I am wrong. Brightwalk comes to mind as one of the best examples but AFAIK it lacks retail and is basically cutoff from any other neighborhoods by Statesville Ave and 77. LoSo is another place where people now want to walk, but it lacks the necessary infrastructure (sidewalks and transit access). We have even failed at connecting neighborhoods by means other than the car (e.g. crossing from Dilworth to Southend on bike or foot is still kinda hairy).
So my question is what is missing from the development process? Is it zoning (e.g. lot size, sidewalk width, land use mix)? Transit? Traffic engineering (too many car sewers)? A combination of all or something else entirely?
Ten years of experience suggests that we have not figured out how to make new walkable burbs -- is it time to give up? Would giving up be a bad thing?
EDIT: am I being too pessimistic? Does new multi-family in places like Park Road / Selwyn make new walkability available to some? Please tell me I have overlooked some significant positive change somewhere.
Zoom level 18 is the to-scale size of two-lane roads used (can be seen in the URL, "...&z=18"). Probably better tools, this was my choice of impatience, suggestions welcome. Editing open, no personal attachment, new layers can be added if this one is not worth fixing. If a visual Master Plan exists for this with CRTPO, MTS, etc., please post that. Goals:
Connect transportation routes (roads initially). Correct bad layout/encourage better future layout. Provide egress/access for developments with insufficient options (ie only one). Guide future development with base nodes. Limitations:
Invoke "Eminent Domain" as seldomly as possible (especially on expensive properties). Disturb watershed and the environment as little as possible. Preserve public/civic lands (parks, cemeteries, sports fields, etc.). Resist temptation to "design" (ie neighborhoods/development), just connect or master-plan. Be judicial in rail/water/interstate crossings. Notes/Questions:
Violated above principals, notably: Alexander Street Park, because it is adjacent to uptown, and many similar alternatives within walking distance. Three streets bisecting the Elmwood & Pinewood cemeteries. Connecting the grid in 4th Ward, argument being future planning/greater good/access. Left Eastland alone, Chernobyl. Power lines/towers are obviously a problem in Charlotte, many places where it is simply a tangled mess, not sure if that issue will reach a critical point in which utilities such as these can be dealt with, can they? What rail tracks are defunct and can be "erased"? When can a creek be "capped"? Pipe dreams and wishes. Collaborate and listen.
A while ago, I asked for the help of fellow forum members to help me come up with ideas for urban design around bus stops supplemented with good and bad examples.
I am very grateful for everyone that took the time to help me out.
I have since completed my master's thesis project; thought I would post it here for people to check out. Perhaps it can be a resource to other students or practitioners.
Thanks again and take care.
Short version: Greenville City Council asked the planning and zoning department to push deleting the existing ordinance restricting gates on developments and neighborhoods in the City of Greenville. It's expected to be on the agenda for the City Council's 11/26/2012 hearing.
The Planning Commission recommended wording that they felt would strengthen the existing requriement, but ultimately the final wording/deletion is up to City Council to decide.
A petition is circulating to support the Planning Commission's recommendation to strengthen the existing requriement:
Long version in next post below
The City of Greenville Planning and Zoning Department was asked by City Council to delete the City ordinance restricting gates, gate houses and guard houses unless the decision-making body determines there is public safety reason to allow them. (Reference: Planning Staff Report to the Greenville Planning Commission and City Council 9.13.2012, available online under the 9/13/2012 Planning Commission Agenda file Z-29-2012-TextAmendment.pdf)
The Planning and Zoning Department proposed language that would eliminate the restriction altogether. At its September hearing, the Planning Commission felt eliminating the restriction completely was not consistent with goals of the Comprehensive Plan. They suggested the Planning and Zoning Department revise the language to require a public hearing and broaden the criteria by which the decision-making body would evaluate a proposal including gates, etc. There was further discussion of this issue at the October hearing. (Reference: Planning Staff Report to the Greenville Planning Commission and City Council 10.31.2012, available online under the 11/08/2012 Planning Commission Agenda file Z-29-2012-TextAmendment-Gates.pdf)
At its November hearing, the Planning Commission approved recommended wording to City Council that they felt would strengthen the restriction on gates. The ordinance restricting gates is expected to be on the agenda for the November 26, 2012 City Council hearing. (Reference: my notes from the 11/08/2012 Planning Commission hearing). The Commission's recommended wording is based on Option 2 from the 10.31.2012 Planning Staff Report, less the word "marketability".
My neighborhood has started circulating a petition supporting the Planning Commission's recommendation to strengthen the existing restriction. The petition is online at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/gates_gvl_sc/