Mary Newsom has an interesting post about the wishful thinking that some local business leaders have about taking down the freeway noose that encircles Charlotte's downtown. At the same time, there is a long shot hope to turn part of Uptown into a thriving Rome copycat. Of course both of these things are both dreams at the moment, but what happens when instead of bringing Rome we start to think about Vienna, Austria and its Ringstrasse.
Vienna was once a medieval city surrounded by a wall that was later torn down by the Hapsburg King Fraz Joseph who built a ringed boulevard around the city. Today that boulevard is known as the Ringstrasse and carries people, cars, and trams around the medieval center city.
At the same time, Charlotte's freeway has cut off the city from its surroundings and could possibly learn from Vienna's teardown of the moat and walls as well as other cities who have decided to tear down thier freeways in search of a better life. Here is downtown Charlotte as it stands now:
and here is the center of Vienna:
The Vienna ring U shaped is 2.5 miles while the Charlotte U ring is 3 miles. This makes them strikingly similar in size and Charlotte very adaptable to the possibility of creating a ring road that actually ties Uptown together with the rest of the city versus the freeway which separates each area.
Here is what this might look like if Charlotte finishes its transit plan and adds the ring. The cool thing about this would be that it would open up a lot of the land that was taken by the freeway off the tax rolls and put it back on as well as increasing the value of land inside and just outside the loop tremendously over time.
In thinking about this through the network paper from the streetcar planning effort in Portand, it's likely that this could end up being an integrated circle line with radial streetcar lines pushing out from the center ring.
This would also be highly dependent on a rapid transit network that moves to the center. The Vienna system can be highly dependent on the U Bahn which connects to points in the center city with three minute headways. Charlotte already has one piece of this with another in the Silver Line rapid transit coming in from the east. It's an interesting excercise and something that could sit at the back of people's minds because it won't happen anytime soon. This might also be another good reason to go visit other cities and you know, learn from them.