Cover Story: Moving the Transit Center for DNC week?

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Democratic National Convention is coming to Charlotte 13 months from now.  But we've learned that could mean huge hassles for anyone who uses public transportation.

The 10th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks is just a month and that has a lot of people wondering what will happen to Charlotte when the DNC is in town? How will they move people from place to place and keep people safe?

There have been all kinds of reports of shutting down the Transit Center in Uptown but is that really true?

There are lots of denials and no one's saying for sure.  But everyone within city circles knew that it would have to happen once Charlotte got the bid.

What will security look like DNC week?

Charlotte in its bid to the Democrats suggested closing the Transportation Center in Center City and re-routing the hundreds of bus trips who come through here on a daily basis to an alternative site away from the Arena during that week.

The Transit Center lies across the street from the Arena, the main convention venue.  And down the street from the Charlotte Convention Center where many events will be held.

The reason? Security.  September 11th forever changed the way political conventions are staged..

Chuck Plunkett who covered the 2008 convention in Denver for the Denver Post told us if the past is any indication, we won't recognize Charlotte DNC week.

"You will feel like your city has been occupied by an invading army. There will be a police presence unlike anything you could imagine that swoops into town," said Plunkett.

Should the Transit Center be moved, off-sites that could be used might include locations in South End.  The city would like to keep any bus transfer station near the light rail line.

Also possible are locations north of Trade and Tryon.  The original central bus stop was at the Square.

An outside possibility is keeping the Transit Center open, which security experts say is unlikely.

No decision has been reached.

And the Democratic National Convention Committee, the DNCC, told us in a statement, "Security plans will not be determined until much closer to the Convention."

Allison Billings, a transportation consultant with Charlotte Center City Partners, helped work on Denver's transportation plan when she was there three years ago.

Denver's arena while still in downtown was surrounded by a surface parking lot and easier to draw a security perimeter around the site.

"We don't want everybody disappearing and feeling like they can't get here. There will continue to be accommodations made so that folks can continue to work," said Billings.

But around the arena in the so-called "hot zone" will likely see a security fence with checkpoints and only those credentialed will be allowed in.

A second zone will likely surround the Convention Center.

The Transit Center lies between the two.

Keeping the area "sterile," security experts say, will be paramount and having buses coming in and going out wouldn't be prudent.

Another challenge for convention organizers is the LYNX light rail line.

It runs right through the Convention Center, presenting a security risk.  Trains may be forced to stop ahead of the Convention Center that week.

The DNCC is mindful that it doesn't want to give the impression this early on that the convention is going to be an inconvenience to Charlotteans.

CATS has moved the Transit Center temporarily at least three times over the last decade:  twice while testing its emergency preparedness plan a third time when a suspicious package was found.

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