The Keys To Charlotte's Successful Light Rail

Many things came together for light rail to come to Charlotte, starting in 1996. Key was perseverance by a conservative mayor, a volunteer group that started a historic trolley, voters who supported a sales tax, and experienced transit professionals
July 8, 2010, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Grist explores the instrumental people and events that enabled this 10-mile system (known as LYNX) that opened Nov. 2007 to surpass its ridership forecast by 3,000 the first year. It forms a key part of the Charlotte Area Transit System.

Charlotte is car-loving NASCAR country, a vast suburbia of cul-de-sacs and strip malls. Yet its new light rail line is a national model for success. How did sensible transportation planning come to sprawlburbia?"

The key word is 'development' that would be enabled by the system, and transit oriented at that. Surprisingly, a 39-year-old conservative mayor knew that roads alone were not the city's future, and that transit would enable high density growth.

"In 1996, six months into his first mayoral term, conservative Republican Pat McCrory put transit atop his agenda. He lobbied relentlessly -- not about carbon footprints or global warming -- but about transit as economic develop men. The legislature finally OK'd a half-cent sales tax for transit , if voters approved. In 1998 they did."

Thanks to Daily Grist

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Published on Friday, June 25, 2010 in Grist: Cities of the Future
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