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Traffic Congestion and Highway Construction


monsoon

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Some food for thought. I'm in ATL every couple of weeks for work, and it's made me think a lot more about their transportation network compared to Charlotte's.  I got curious about ATL's 285 and how it compares to 485, and that grew into the chart below (which only has completed, clearly defined beltways included). 

Frankly, I was shocked to find that our beltway encapsulates a much bigger area than Atlanta's. It makes me wonder how fruitless transit planning efforts could be if - like Atlanta - it's really the stuff outside the beltway that brings traffic to a standstill. 

image.png.7b209a0498fef2d96c174585f8575e0f.png

Certainly I think CLT is ahead of the game in setting up in-city patterns for dense TOD, which in theory would mean fewer people resorting to life in far-flung suburbs, but is that enough? Is inner-city density enough to keep a future Charlotte metro of 5.7 million from looking like today's Atlanta metro of 5.7 million? 

Not for nothing, but Atlanta's metro covers twice as much area as Charlotte's, too, and that size is dictated by commuting patterns. There's a strange question in here somewhere about how much we work to address transportation problems outside our beltway while also not encouraging sprawl further and further away. 

 

 

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I am really quite frightened by the thought of another 3 million people in our little metro.  How about we grow just enough to get that MLB team, then cut it off there?

But since people will still move here, I think that a big part of the solution is to continue to work to make Charlotte a city that people want to live IN, and not just near.  Roads and transit affect that, for sure.  But perceptions of schools, crime/public safety, government, amenities, housing options / affordability, and so forth are very important too.   I think the city of Charlotte does pretty well -- actually, I cannot think of many cities our size that do better -- but certainly would agree that we have room for improvement across the board.  (And if you're still with me, there's a primary next week.)

Circling back to transportation, unless the outlying suburbs put the brakes on new development, sprawl is going to happen with or without our encouragement.  I think the filter with respect to transportation projects is whether there's an overwhelming benefit to people who live in the city.  Imagine, for example, some hypothetical project to improve throughput on Providence Road from 485 to downtown.  That might induce more traffic from Weddington, but plenty more people in Charlotte would benefit.  On the other hand, an expressway through Union County that dumps a ton of new traffic onto Providence at 485 would not be such a good idea.    

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Trouble with that scenario though, is there is no room for expansion on Providence between 485 <> Uptown without significant encroachment into people's front yards, if we are talking about more lanes for automobile traffic. Not that it couldn't happen I suppose, but good luck. 

I'd rather Rail anyhow, but again, just not likely. 

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I think the biggest difference between Atlanta and Charlotte is the degree of employment decentralization. Atlanta's downtown is a weak node in a metro area  that has lots of  other employment centers. Atlanta's lack of a dominant employment center (along with unbelievably auto-centric zoning) makes it difficult to connect people to jobs with transit so there is no centrifugal force.  Atlanta's dispersed employment is also responsible for the city's congealed traffic. The absence of a dominant flow for peak-hour traffic makes it impossible to improve the road network which makes driving anywhere, at any time,  miserable.  I wouldn't say that Atlanta is the worst offender for employment dispersion,  the Triangle area is likely worse but their traffic tsunami has not made landfall yet.

Our banks have saved us from the worst of Atlanta's urban design. The need for banks to be on 'high street' (as well as foot dragging on the construction of 485) allowed uptown to remain our dominant employment cluster.  Consequently our traffic relatively predictable and  the dominant flows can be served with transit.  Ballantyne almost fuk'ed all of this up (thanks Johnny), but fortunately traffic has stunted its growth before it could damage uptown. The River District is the next threat to our employment ecology (thanks again Johnny), but if the city is sensible enough to act on the  need to make it a transit-oriented node then we may dodge that bullet.

I honestly don't see residential sprawl to be a huge threat to Charlotte's future if we can  zone transit corridors to encourage relatively inexpensive suburban TOD. Combining this rezoning with a regional transit plan which connects our satellite towns (Lincolnton, Gastonia, Rock Hill, Monroe, Concord-Kannapolis-Salisbury and Moresville) to the Charlotte core should allow us to remain a relatively low-cost bigish city which can offer transportation alternatives and patches of walkability (something that seems important to contemporary firms like Mercedes, GE, Google and Amazon).    This strategy will also preserve plenty of space for folks who still want quarter-acre lots and HOA fees -- as long as they are paying for the infrastructure and services they consume and deal with the traffic on the drive to work without whining they are welcome to their cheap Mcmansion. The thing we need to avoid is employment creep out to 485 and beyond  -- the way we choose to connect the River District to Uptown is probably going to be the single largest factor determining the degree of 'Atlantaness" in our future. 

EDIT: continuing to recruit employers who feel a need to locate in non-transit accessible places makes us much more Atlantaesque.

/rant/

Edited by kermit
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15 hours ago, tozmervo said:

Some food for thought. I'm in ATL every couple of weeks for work, and it's made me think a lot more about their transportation network compared to Charlotte's.  I got curious about ATL's 285 and how it compares to 485, and that grew into the chart below (which only has completed, clearly defined beltways included). 

Frankly, I was shocked to find that our beltway encapsulates a much bigger area than Atlanta's. It makes me wonder how fruitless transit planning efforts could be if - like Atlanta - it's really the stuff outside the beltway that brings traffic to a standstill. 

image.png.7b209a0498fef2d96c174585f8575e0f.png

Certainly I think CLT is ahead of the game in setting up in-city patterns for dense TOD, which in theory would mean fewer people resorting to life in far-flung suburbs, but is that enough? Is inner-city density enough to keep a future Charlotte metro of 5.7 million from looking like today's Atlanta metro of 5.7 million? 

Not for nothing, but Atlanta's metro covers twice as much area as Charlotte's, too, and that size is dictated by commuting patterns. There's a strange question in here somewhere about how much we work to address transportation problems outside our beltway while also not encouraging sprawl further and further away. 

 

Those numbers can't be right, initially I thought that because I drive half of Indy's every 2-3 weeks and it's a colossal, long pain and no better than several others on that list I've driven often that it is supposedly much smaller than in comparison.   A quick loop length check of several of those reveals the area numbers can't be right, or they're eliminating water and other such things in area calcs.  I think length would be the better assessment of a loop anyway.

To your argument, I think we're fortunate in that by the time we're needing 6-10 lanes in each direction we won't be able to afford it. :)

Or transportation modes will have actually evolved.

Edited by nowensone
typo
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Charlotte and Atlanta's beltway 485 285 respectively are basically the same length 67 miles here in Charlotte 64 in Atlanta but that seems a big difference in area. Our 485 will be widened and it will be toll express lanes eventually all the way around but first up is between 77 and Hwy 74 Monroe bypass. You will be able to drive on toll lanes from Charlotte to Marshville in Union county all on toll! https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/I-5507/     When the first toll road opens in this area I will be getting a transponder as the future will be  toll lanes as much as I hate them and avoid them. 

On another note Houston's 3rd beltway Hwy 99 the Grand Parkway will be the biggest beltway in the nation and it is currently open west and north of Htown will be 180 miles in length . http://www.grandpky.com/

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On 9/9/2017 at 2:00 AM, nowensone said:

Those numbers can't be right, initially I thought that because I drive half of Indy's every 2-3 weeks and it's a colossal, long pain and no better than several others on that list I've driven often that it is supposedly much smaller than in comparison.   A quick loop length check of several of those reveals the area numbers can't be right, or they're eliminating water and other such things in area calcs.  I think length would be the better assessment of a loop anyway.

 

I just did a very quick/rough check using Google Maps, and came up with CLT 300, ATL 250, INDY 186 sq miles.

Edited by grodney
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17 minutes ago, nowensone said:

The lengths:

285:    63.98 miles
485:    67.6 miles
465:    52.79 miles

Those don't seem to gel to the area numbers, I just learned that calculating area from perimeter is not really possible though in these cases the loops are fairly circular.

If a square and a circle each have a perimeter length of 100 miles, the square will have an area of 625 square miles. The circle will have an area of 796 square miles, almost 21% more area than the square. 

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1 minute ago, tozmervo said:

 

If a square and a circle each have a perimeter length of 100 miles, the square will have an area of 625 square miles. The circle will have an area of 796 square miles, almost 21% more area than the square. 

Which is why a circle is the most efficient shape area wise. You can pack the most in...

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On 9/11/2017 at 1:38 PM, tozmervo said:

 

If a square and a circle each have a perimeter length of 100 miles, the square will have an area of 625 square miles. The circle will have an area of 796 square miles, almost 21% more area than the square. 

Those lengths were of the full loop itself, not "sides", so areas of squares versus circles not really relevant here unless the argument is some loops are more square-like than circles.  Some do more resemble the former.

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12 minutes ago, nowensone said:

Those lengths were of the full loop itself, not "sides", so areas of squares versus circles not really relevant here unless the argument is some loops are more square-like than circles.  Some do more resemble the former.

I was responding to the fact that the relative lengths of beltways do not correspond to the areas within those beltways. Two completely different beltways could be the exact same length, but the areas within the beltways can be dramatically different. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Has anyone ever noticed how excessively wide some of the roads are in Greensboro? Ex. Holden Road is 6 lanes wide but doesn't have hardly any traffic on it in this pic. https://goo.gl/maps/82vcL66QNUL2

I can show more examples but you all probably already know about them. Yet for Charlotte, it seems it has many heavily congested thoroughfares that are still just 2 lane roads that should've been widened long ago. Am I right or am I just crazy?

Edited by NCMike1990
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^ The "Great State of Mecklenburg" has never gotten any love from NCDOT (or the legislature).  Cabarrus, Gaston and Lincoln have benefited from this by soaking up most of the region's highway dollars. Charlotte's location on a boarder also does not help -- only about 3/4 of our metro has political representation in Raleigh.

OTOH Greensboro has always maintained a significant political donor class and Guilford has gotten "benefits" in terms of road dollars.

All that said, I think Charlotte is much better off having avoided Greensboro's  arterial road fetish.

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The great thing about the roads in the Greensboro area I think it might help in getting a big plant for their megasite SW of town off I-840/85.  I think Gboro is the least congested large city in the country and I hope they win the Toyota Mazda plant that is looking for a site now.  Mecklenburg is always at odds with Raleigh and this has been this way for decades for some of the blame should be put right where it belongs past and current Mecklenburg and Charlotte leaders.     That being said I think NC has finally realized its major metro areas contribute so much to the state economy it is changing.  

I visit Gboro a couple of times a year to drive on their interstates like 85,785,40,840, 73, 74 and 985 all which are in Guilford county. 

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31 minutes ago, KJHburg said:

 ...I think Gboro is the least congested large city in the country...

20 years of relatively weak growth will have that affect.

Successful cities are congested, unsuccessful ones are not. 

 

Edited by kermit
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Greensboro has gotten more love for certain on the asphalt, though lets not wax romantic here, nor be catty.

It is as auto-centric as any example derided generally, and is likewise quite congested, per capita.  Holden is no exception, a factor of time of day being important, if you mean that stretch of bridge over I-40, yeah, that has fallen in use as travel/centers shift elsewhere.

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I've always thought that Greensboro's massive amount of interstates and wide roadways was because of the FedEx hub, or whatever became of it. I went to school in the Triad almost a decade ago, their congestion aren't nearly as bad as Charlotte or Raleigh's, and the political climate there don't seem to be in a rush for transit.  I'd say Charlotte's congestion in the 90's were worse off than Greensboro and Winston-Salem now, and Winston-Salem's freeways seems more neglected than Charlotte's. 

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From the Business Journal today about the parcels sold off by the city around 277 where the redesign of the intersection with South Blvd went. A rare success story. 

"Totaling about 13 acres, the city received almost $36.8 million total in the transactions. The sites ranged in size from 1.7 to 3.8 acres.

A good chunk of the money repaid the Bank of America loan used to build the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That totaled $24.3 million with interest, according to a city spokeswoman, leaving about $12.5 million.

Those net proceeds are shared between the city and the state — about 82%, or $10.2 million, for the city and 18%, or about $2.3 million, for the state." 

Subscriber story https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2017/09/25/how-much-did-city-of-charlotte-receive-from.html?ana=e_du_prem&s=scroll&ed=2017-09-25&u=oAaDx%2B74FoP4qOJ%2By4AU6dhJPpc&t=1506370558&j=78881961

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17 minutes ago, KJHburg said:

From the Business Journal today about the parcels sold off by the city around 277 where the redesign of the intersection with South Blvd went. A rare success story. 

"Totaling about 13 acres, the city received almost $36.8 million total in the transactions. The sites ranged in size from 1.7 to 3.8 acres.

A good chunk of the money repaid the Bank of America loan used to build the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That totaled $24.3 million with interest, according to a city spokeswoman, leaving about $12.5 million.

Those net proceeds are shared between the city and the state — about 82%, or $10.2 million, for the city and 18%, or about $2.3 million, for the state." 

Subscriber story https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2017/09/25/how-much-did-city-of-charlotte-receive-from.html?ana=e_du_prem&s=scroll&ed=2017-09-25&u=oAaDx%2B74FoP4qOJ%2By4AU6dhJPpc&t=1506370558&j=78881961

It's funny you posted this, earlier today i was thinking about the future possibility of capping 277 and how the sale of land that resulted from a capping of 277 could help recover cost of the project. 

Edit: I don't know if it's possible to build a cap and build high rises above it at that location. 

Edited by Popsickle
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1 hour ago, KJHburg said:

From the Business Journal today about the parcels sold off by the city around 277 where the redesign of the intersection with South Blvd went. A rare success story.

I am intrigued by this perspective (emphasis added above).  Charlotte has been one of the fastest growing cities in the country for more than two decades, yet you suggest that the municipal government only rarely makes good decisions -- how do you reconcile our growth with this attitude towards our governance?

[I am not suggesting that the municipal government can do no wrong, I am asking about your attitude towards Charlotte's 'day to day' operations]

Edited by kermit
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