In June 2015 the Trolley is coming back to Charlotte! As a native Charlottean, I have seen Charlotte’s transformation into the “booming metropolis” it is today. As the traffic has increased, so have the size of the roads. When the Lynx Blue Line opened in 2007, Charlotte took a big step towards becoming a premiere city of the Southeast.
Public transportation can elevate our city by cutting down on vehicle traffic, increasing foot traffic uptown (yes, that’s what we call downtown), and promoting economic development. The effects of the Blue Line are already evident, as anyone driving down South Blvd can attest to after viewing the bombardment of extensive development utterly reshaping the entire area. Additionally, the light rail system somehow avoids the stigma associated with riding the bus, which resulted in the Blue Line achieving its 2019 projected daily ridership by 2009. However, the growth of public rail lines in Charlotte is only just beginning.
When the vote was announced in 2012 to invest $12 million dollars of taxpayer money into the construction of a streetcar line (Lynx Gold Line) in Charlotte, the reviews were mixed. Some people applauded the investment into alternate forms of public transportation, while others felt it was a waste of money that would never yield the necessary returns.
Today the Gold Line garners as much controversy as it did when it was first announced. Constructing the Gold Line’s infrastructure has lead to road closures and traffic delays, which have made navigating uptown a nightmare. However, the most substantial criticism concerns the uncertainty of whether the Gold Line will ever actually reach completion. The City has already applied to receive a $63 million Federal Grant, which is needed to proceed with construction of Phase 2. If the Federal Government denies the Grant, then it is uncertain when the Gold Line will be completed, if ever.
While these are legitimate concerns, Charlotte's Transit Plan (Map, Plan) displays the importance of the Gold Line to the overall transit system. The Gold Line will act as the only East-West traveling train. Public transportation patrons have overwhelmingly shown that they prefer rail lines to bus lines. Thus, the temporary road closures and risks associated with diving head first into a public transportation infrastructure overhaul appear undoubtedly justified.
Verdict: The benefits of the Gold Line, and light rail expansion in general, stretch beyond mere public transportation. This line will provide incentives for developing the surrounding areas, which will in turn improve the city without direct interference by the local government. These electric train lines will also benefit the environment and have the potential to reduce the traffic around the city. Regardless of where and how the city begins updating our public transportation system, any upgrade is beneficial and necessary to create a viable option to circumnavigate our city without failing prey to ever-widening highways and traffic delays.
Joshua W. Goodman, Family Law Attorney at Fisher Law Group PLLC
Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, I have always had an interest in our community and I hope that by highlighting some of the exciting events and important issues you will find the same enthusiasm and impetus to get involved.