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Thinking Ahead: CATS 2035 Transit Plan

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With the dramatic change in the current economic climate (rapidly growing federal deficits, tighter state budgets and decreased sales tax revenue), perhaps we should all be thinking ahead and what a CATS 2035 plan may look like? Obviously there are some things that are going to need to change to make the planned corridors financially feasible.

  • What would those changes look like?

  • What additional forms of revenue could be explored to offset the decrease in existing funding areas?

  • Should light rail be considered for corridors that are destined for BRT or vice versa?

  • Should specific corridors be built in phases or would we jeopardize federal funding too much?

  • Are there corridors that should be scrapped completely?

  • Should we cut the northern towns (i.e. Huntersville) loose from the half cent transit tax?

This is not a discussion on the existing plan, but rather what a new plan might look like to ensure growth in mass transit in Charlotte.

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I know this would be a long shot and would be difficult for many reasons, but I wish (emphasizing that this is just a wish) that rail could be laid in the bus lanes on Independence. The huge empty parking lots along the close-in parts would be fantastic acreage for redevelopment into dense residential with commercial and retail mixed in. Pedestrian bridges would be needed to access the tracks since they are between multiple lanes of traffic. There are already many apartment complexes the further out you go so some denser residential is already near this proposed line. Many commuters from Union County, Mint Hill, Matthews, and other suburbs could use Park and Rides.

I've always wished for this whenever I venture out Independence.

Other than that the North line and Street Cars going East/West would still be priorities in my eyes.

It is obvious, though, the current economic conditions are going to make anything like this difficult. Funding isn't dependable, especially sales tax revenue.

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First of importance I would say is the NE blue line extension. If it gets built now, I think it can have an impact in shaping growth and promoting density & sustainable, urban, mixed use development in the U City area in the coming decades. The North commuter line is secondary; I think we should be more concerned about shaping growth in the city rather than helping to promote the lifestyle choices of people who don't live in the city. We shouldn't promote/reward sprawl and encourage people who don't even care enough about Charlotte to even live here. The only reason I support the commuter line is that perhaps it will help remove some of polluters from the road.

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Seeing as there are tracks on Elizabeth just waiting to be used, I think any new plan should put those to use within no more than ten years.

Of course, you don't have to build nearly ten more miles of track to use the half-mile already built. So then, prioritize either:

a.) ideally JCSU to Presby as a Phase I in 10 years or less with modern streetcars, or

b.) at a bare minumum, CTC to Presby using Tober's trolleys with a barn in Elizabeth.

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First of importance I would say is the NE blue line extension. If it gets built now, I think it can have an impact in shaping growth and promoting density & sustainable, urban, mixed use development in the U City area in the coming decades. The North commuter line is secondary; I think we should be more concerned about shaping growth in the city rather than helping to promote the lifestyle choices of people who don't live in the city. We shouldn't promote/reward sprawl and encourage people who don't even care enough about Charlotte to even live here. The only reason I support the commuter line is that perhaps it will help remove some of polluters from the road.

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Remember that the whole county pays the tax, so saying that the folks in north meck don't deserve rail because they are sprawl mongers is a little unfair :)

Most of the rail in this country wouldn't exist if rail were only built for city limits populations.

Whatever is the path of least resistance is where CATS should build next.

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I'd hope for more rail for both commuters and those that live in town. I really thing it should be done as best as is possible to serve as many as possible. Running it to the 'burbs might encourage sprawl, but it doesn't appear that sprawl is stopping any time soon so this is at least a way to give some alternative to sitting in traffic and pumping smog into the air. Certainly not a panecea, but at least a start and an alternative for some. If the South line is an indicator, there are plenty of people ready for this alternative.

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We've got what, 5 years, a decade at most until peak oil hits? We got a little taste of what it will be like last summer. That's going to stop suburban sprawl like a brick wall. The cities that don't have transit already in place are going to die off rather quickly. The 2030 plan is really all about whether Charlotte will still be alive in 2030.

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OK I get yelled at all the time for deleting posts from topics, yet here is an example of why it's necessary. This time I will leave them and try a different approach. If you guys don't get a clue on what it means to stay on topic then I am going to start suspending a few of you. Currently we have 5 topics open in this section on transit. The reason for this, is to attempt to get a reasonable discussion going on what should be changed in the 2030 Plan. Yet despite that, some of you insist, constantly, in taking these posts off topic. Peal oil has absolutely nothing to do with this topic. InitialD, you have a habit of this. Try to read what a topic is about before making a post. If you have any questions, then PM me. Don't post it in this topic.

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think we need to look at getting the counties out side of Mecklenburg to get ready for expansion to their areas. Just stopping at the county line will make no sense in 2035. As this area grows out, the surrounding counties will have to come up with money to expand the line. Maybe we need to set up region rail group to fund and build our future transit system.

I could see Rail and BRT to Concord, Rock Hill, Gastonia, Monroe and up to Iredell county. It is time for these cities and counties to step up to the plate and do their part.

There has to be a change in the DOT on how funds are given out before I see much done in this area. This is another area we need to work on. As we can see in the last week, Charlotte gets short funded again.

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think we need to look at getting the counties out side of Mecklenburg to get ready for expansion to their areas. Just stopping at the county line will make no sense in 2035. As this area grows out, the surrounding counties will have to come up with money to expand the line. Maybe we need to set up region rail group to fund and build our future transit system.

I agree that we need a metro transit solution that encompasses the immediate surrounding counties. Obviously the CATS plan couldn't dictate what happens in the counties surrounding Mecklenburg, but it could certainly allow for things like transfers to other transit agencies. The only one in operation at the moment is Concord Kannapolis Area Transit.

There is no easy way to get to Concord Mills if you live in Charlotte and have no private transportation (Taxis will not travel here and since it is outside of Mecklenburg, there are no buses that have a stop there) for example. The Concord bus system does have a stop at the mall however, and have a system transfer at a location like the future NE line terminus could be beneficial to both counties. I would rather see this than wasting an arm and a leg on Concord extending the NE into Cabarrus.

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While it was very off-topic, I do see a good discussion about peak oil so I have moved those posts to the following thread that exists on that topic. Please feel free to continue discussion on peak oil at the following thread but please do not have that discussion in this thread as it has no place.

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/Peak-Oil-t9376.html

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I actually believe Charlotte could still see four new rail projects by 2030. Here's how:

For North, the City and Towns actually use Synthetic TIF on station areas and Uptown borrows against an MSD for the terminus station. Combined with some stimulus money already promised to CATS and what little is left for capital expenses from the County sales taxes, this project is actually built next.

For Streetcar, an Elizabeth TIF/MSD finances a 1.5-mile starter line between CTC and Presby using Tober's trolleys as initially as its only vehicles. If so, this can also be the next project built. With the success of such line and its bonds quickly paid off, the line can be expanded either towards JCSU or Plaza-Central, depending upon the tax capacity and development potential of the next phase. Eventually, once the line reaches either 4 miles or a proposed VMF site, both modern vehicles and a true VMF (since earlier phases just need a trolley barn) would be built. Trolleys could still operate as added vehicles on the line, much like San Franciso's MUNY and Market Street F-Lines have mixed fleet.

For Northeast, the Feds pass the most multi-modal Transportation Reauthorization yet within a year, greatly expanding the New Starts program, going back to the 80/20 levels funding of 20 years ago and equal to highways, and drop or drastically change CE ratings.

For Southeast, the NC Turnpike Authority finally realizes dumping the Monroe By-Pass into an unfinished US 74 that is the hodge-podge "Independence Boulevard" won't work. Hence, the Turnpike Authority creates a guideway for CATS (maybe LRT) by doing a T-REX project on Independence. Though the entire highway must then become a tollway, the public accepts tolling in exchange for a faster built freeway and cleaned up edges over today's ailing commercial properties.

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....

For North, the City and Towns actually use Synthetic TIF on station areas ....

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And if you accept that's an era of failure, you will fail to quickly reverse course.

Obviously, there is risk with Synthetic TIF. But the beauty is that the risk then is limited to developers and an isolated sub-area within a community. Using municipal bonds instead would expose the entire community to risk. And I'm sure that's off the table.

It is true that the sales tax, due to lower receipts, won't be enough now. But it's also true that the system plan never saw such source as the primary funding source for any corridor. But then, it's also sadly true that the State will now, or at least for the foreseeable future, not be contributing what the system plan had assumed, or the State will just be passing through the stimulus money as their contribution.

If you accept that you can't now take some added risk to make up the shortfall needed to keep the project on track, well then, you have already accepted failure. Bold plans call for bold actions. Declaring all avenues dead is inaction.

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......

Obviously, there is risk with Synthetic TIF. But the beauty is that the risk then is limited to developers and an isolated sub-area within a community. ....

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TIF also works with the market-based paradigm that is so ingrained in this pro-development City. We've never been a top-down Portland of doing things with a heavy government hand. And yet we are still emerging as an alternative national model for TOD and transit-land use planning because of recent successes and the partnerships built.

And declaring something as dead or unrealistic is the easy way out for a naysayer. The naysayers aren't offering alternative financing mechanisms, besides stimulus (a shell-game of fiscal responsibilities), which is highly unlikely to cover all, if any of the costs.

In Post #14 of this thread, I offered bold ways to keep Charlotte's system aspirations on track. Rather than say it's too risky or unpopular as a knee-jerk naysayer, creativity is needed.

Charlotte was bold enough to say it wanted to dramatically reshape its growth about a transit-land use strategy. Just because the times get tough is a thoroughly lame excuse. We've heard the criticism from the naysayers. Let's hear from the thinkers. What are others' alternative ideas to keep Charlotte at the forefront of reshaping the American landscape?

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If nothing else with the new expansion of E concourse and the new international councourse proposed at the airport. Their should be an at least light rail link between downtown and the airport.

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I'm curious, does anyone know if Providence Road has been considered as a streetcar/other dedicated transit opportunity? I know "redevelopment" isn't a great argument for Providence in the sense that most people wouldn't consider that a corridor in need of redeveloping (ala south corridor). But there are stretches of it that have a pretty high density (relatively speaking) adjacent to the road and certainly there are redevelopment opportunities in the sense of making it denser.

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I have not heard about Providence Rd. being considered as a transit corridor over the last 15 years or so that rail has been discussed in this county. It is kinda interesting however as 25 years or so, when they were digging up Providence to put down the main water line that feeds SE Charlotte, I was thinking that I wished it was a subway tunnel. (this was a really big pipe)

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I'm curious, does anyone know if Providence Road has been considered as a streetcar/other dedicated transit opportunity? I know "redevelopment" isn't a great argument for Providence in the sense that most people wouldn't consider that a corridor in need of redeveloping (ala south corridor). But there are stretches of it that have a pretty high density (relatively speaking) adjacent to the road and certainly there are redevelopment opportunities in the sense of making it denser.

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In 2011, CATS should roll out the 2035 plan. Does anyone know whether MTC is leaning toward LRT or BRT? I hope it's LRT.

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