Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Charlotte Citizens Understand the Space Race

So Charlotte is being held up by a lot of other cities around the country as one that will beat them if they don't get moving. It's a good position to be in as there is nothing easier that hanging in there and having hope on the attack instead of being afraid that someone is coming. There are always bumps in the road and Charlotte has had theirs but it I now think I understand the problems many cities are having with the Federal Government based on an article in today's Observer.

No matter how hard they try to push bus rapid transit, people just don't want it. In Connecticut, the Hartford Busway which will be a true BRT is costing $50 million per mile. Thats a lot of cash for a bus. And it's also more than the cost of building a rapid streetcar line on the same right of way. What is the point in that? Are they going to prove that it's just as cheap and useful as Curitiba that way? That model was based on easily changeable land use policy (NIMBY doesn't exist in South America) and cheap labor (easy in South America as well).

But that won't change what people on the Southeast Corridor want in Charlotte. They see the BRT as a lowly gesture in their direction. Why are the other corridors getting light rail and we are stuck with the BRT? Why aren't we going to be treated the same? This happened in Atlanta with MARTA. The rest of the system into the poor areas was to be built out as bus lines and that smacked of racism. Is the current trend towards BRT just a way to give poor citizens second class transit? Is it a way to keep transit only for the poor instead of providing rapid transit options for everyone? Well I have a feeling that the people who push BRT believe in these things. They aren't doing it for the betterment of cities but rather to keep transit down.

There are some good places where BRT might be the best option, but I feel like most BRT fanatics just don't like rail. They don't like that people ride it, they feel like it takes money from roads and they don't understand why not everyone wants to live in the Suburbs and drive to work everyday. To them i say, I don't understand you either, but perhaps we should work something out so that we stop wasting money on something that people just don't want. It's been voiced over and over again in public statements. Statements from Charlotte below.

Here are some of comments made by people at the Southeast Corridor public meetings:

"I want equity. Do not give us buses because we are poorer and have more minorities."

"Matthews-Bus Rapid Transit makes one feel cut off from Charlotte."

"I prefer commuter rail in the Southeast Corridor."

"Light rail benefits the Southeast Corridor."

"SE residents will not ride bus rapid transit! Light rail transit is the only viable alternative!"

The comments go on and on. Interestingly, nobody stood up at any of these meetings and said anything like "I like the busway" or "Busways are a good idea."

Seems like they should get what they want, they are the ones paying for it.

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