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Tides

Charlotte traffic congestion

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For those of you who are familiar with both Atlanta's traffic congestion and Charlotte's traffic congestion... do you predict that one day Charlotte will have the same level of gridlock and traffic congestion as Atlanta ?

Is it inevitable , or can this be avoided ?

And if anybody has pics of Charlotte traffic ( rush hour or not ) , please post them , much appreciated .

Tides

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It depends. Atlanta has a few things working against it that don't apply here.

  • Atlanta did a huge amount of growing when automobile oriented development was king. People did not know any better. The Perimeter is the class leader on why freeway loops are bad for cities.

  • Georgia has the misfortune of having very small counties. As a result regional planning is difficult as ATL's MSA consists of 28 counties and even Atlanta itself is split by 3 counties.

  • Atlanta has suffered from significant racial issues. White flight past the perimeter led to a lot of the sprawl. Charlotte has avoided this for the most part because of the single countywide school system, and the city has been recognized a number of times over the past 30 years for being unusually integrated as compared to other Southern cities. Even the unofficial name "The Perimeter" for I-285 has a lot of negative conotations.

  • Atlanta gave up on mass transit. Part of this is the state government there does not believe in it and this penalizes Atlanta a great deal. In comparison the NC state government generally supports transit funding as the NC Railroad and the support for the South LRT demonstrate. MARTA is an excellent heavy rail system, but it is suffering from lack of investment, there are no plans to extend it, and the city has been woefully negligent in using it to spur TOD. A contrast to the DC Metro which is the same age demonstrates the opportunity lost.

  • Atlanta did not have an "Atlanta" as a guide for what not to do.

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Metroboy - great job summing up the problems! Seriously, I would agree with your assessment.

What I consider the paramount problem in Atlanta metro, as is the case with other large sunbelt metros - is the supremacy of the edge cities. What people misunderstand when they refer to Atlanta traffic is that it is not just a downtown problem, congestion rates are nearly as bad & are getting worse in suburban areas - Cobb Co, Gwinnett Co, north Fulton Co in particular.

This of course all stems from Atanta developing in our nation's worst anti-urban period of history: 1960's - 1990's.

But it depends greatly on downtown Charlotte staying strong & South Park, UNCC area or other edge cities to remain as minor business centers. Because once traffic becomes complicated - it is difficult to properly model. So - as long as the land along your freeway loop is being zoned strictly for residential & not commercial, you should be fine. But once developers start building office parks along the beltway, that opens up an avalanche of edge & more likely edgeless cities. Because Charlotte's freeway system is innadequate for an urban area larger than Charlotte itself - it will have to grow denser & limit growth along highway corridors in Iredell, York, Union, etc.

It is a combination - suburban growth can be modeled as long as they commute to a single business center. But the system breaks apart once edge cities come into play.

Now - I would have to disagree with some of your comments metroboy, I would list them as: * Atlanta is split by 2 counties, not 3 * Charlotte has partly avoided racial issues b/c it's Black population was not as large as Atlanta (like why New England is among the most tolerant places in the nation - because they are mostly White) * Transit has not been given up in Atlanta metro at least (about 10 different transit projects are planned - half have been funded), though MARTA it unfortunately has * Your arguement about the lack of TODs is absolutely false - MARTA stations have been a huge economic incubator since the 1970's & the City has been very proactive in promoting future TODs

Otherwise - good job ;)

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You know I love a good ATL-CLT chat :)

But I think you are generally right about the transit concept in Atlanta - in a sense I think public perception is that transit has been abandoned. MARTA still has a strong ridership base, & public policy statements have shown strong support for transit in the metro, but I think I would agree, for most of the suburbanites the idea of transit is dead.

Which is a good segue way to this - I think, again the comparison of 1960-70 Atlanta to modern day Charlotte is very good. Developed Atlanta was a little larger but not too much, then Atlanta hadn't swallowed up too much of neighboring communties - as Charlotte has yet to. But more importantly, they are/were both on the verge of massive expansion, were in the process of building their freeway loop & in planning stages for transit.

So what happened? Atlanta did unfortunately grow in a car-oriented era, both in the suburbs & in the city. Downtown was still strong though, & the idea was that a freeway perimeter would ease traffic congestion in downtown by providing a bypass. Also the idea of a transit system appealed to many suburbanites, though Cobb & Clayton voted against it - it was thought the basis of the system would be Fulton & Dekalb anyways.

The perimeter freeway was then found by developers as an ideal location for office parks - Perimeter Center & Cumberland developed around shopping malls. Transit was a popular concept, but relied heavily on government subsidies because the technology used was geared more for a denser developed city. But the worst problem of the transit design was that it was based on BART & METRO, which were also designed as commuter transit systems - they were built to ship in suburbanites into downtown & back out, not for city residents (the East-West line was primarily built to appease city residents). By the 1980's, the city population was in massive decline & employment centers in the suburbs rivaled that of Downtown, which prompted the development of a 'new downtown' in Midtown.

But the past 10 years have made me much more optimistic about Atlanta - particularly regarding transit oriented developments. But also I am pessimistic, the economic drive will always be whatever is cheaper or closer to the market. So - as long as the population is in the suburbs, the jobs will be too, which also means as long as the jobs are in the suburbs, the population will be too. What is done is done - Atlanta will urbanize (at least for sunbelt standards) but will always have to cooperate with the suburban economic base.

Which takes us back to Charlotte - if you REALLY don't want to become Atlanta, it will require extreme cooperation from Union, Cabarrus, Iredell, Gaston, York & Lancaster counties. Zone high density around town centers or major corridors, otherwise low density or greenspace. Or better yet a growth belt. Also, Charlotte / Meck has to minimize any suburban office development & particularly limit growth along it's interstate beltway. I think that is the greatest key - and I will keep stressing this - you do have to FORCE people to work downtown through zoning.

But that will also mean a great dilemna for Charlotte & other sunbelt cities - people are largely moving out of the Midwest & Northeast to ESCAPE urbanism. If sunbelt cities are to urbanize, they will have to urbanize in a manner that appeals to everyone. What Los Angeles is doing may in fact be a model for sunbelt cities, it isn't pretty - but despite it's problems it is largely working. We may all dismiss LA, just as many in Charlotte dismiss Atlanta as a failed city - but if LA fails, so will Atlanta, & if Atlanta fails, so will Charlotte. There are different factors in how we are all developing - but we are all nearly copycat sunbelt cities, the primary economic drive for us is accessibility & good weather.

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I think that Charlotte's lack of freeways might actually work in its favor. The fact that there aren't 10-lanes going both ways could ultimately push people to live closer in. There will always be the Weddington types that don't care how long they sit in traffic, but for those who really value their time with loved ones and productive time away from work, they're the ones who will say no to hour-long commutes.

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^ That is what I'm inclined to believe too - consider Atlanta's growth has predominately occured along freeways. But then again - in the past 10 years much of the growth is now occuring along other highway arterials, just as US 74 is one for Charlotte & US 521 & NC 24 could become.

Another factor I forgot to mention, & it really is a big one is parking accessibility. I'm amazed what people will endure regarding long distance commuting - as long as they have a parking space. The easier it is to park, the more likely people will drive. Which unfortunately is a Catch 22, you could reduce the number of parking or making it costlier - but that would then be a major decision for a business to leave / or choose not to locate in downtown or even in Charlotte. It sounds stupid, that a silly paved parking spot would be so important - but that is how our sunbelt cities have grown b/c people want a city where they can easily drive in.

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Great replies , everyone . Much appreciated .

In relation to future traffic congestion , as I 485 is completed ( Charlotte's perimeter ) will the situation get worse , or better ?

Also , will the government and the citizens stand up tp the sprawl interests ( such as the developers , who could care less about the effects of sprawl ) , at the very least will the inevitable sprawl be more "responsible " ? It seems that Atlanta let the developers just build their houses , and didn't worry about the need for additional roads , sewage systems , schools , etc .

Last but not least , as Charlotte grows I pray that regional and local transportation options will be built , and utilized .

Tides

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Charlotte is developing the Target "bulls eye". Upscale inner core and outer ring. The middle suburbs are decaying, with the exception of parts of south Charlotte. 485 will become an important demarker... much like being "inside" or "outside" 405 does, in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Go read the forums on charlotte.com -- people already advise newcomers to stay outside 485.

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Charlotte is developing the Target "bulls eye". Upscale inner core and outer ring. The middle suburbs are decaying, with the exception of parts of south Charlotte. 485 will become an important demarker... much like being "inside" or "outside" 405 does, in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Go read the forums on charlotte.com -- people already advise newcomers to stay outside 485.

That is a great analogy, the Target Bulls Eye. And if you think of it, all Target stores are in the Target Bulls Eye haha...

ok so I couldn't help but make this (Target stores, then, now and what's to come)

post-872-1128918977_thumb.jpg

post-872-1128918977_thumb.jpg

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