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Charlotte’s Strategic Mobility Plan: Making the city less car dependent and improving transit

By 2040, traffic congestion will look vastly different, and the city wants help from the public to plan for the exact vision.
The city is looking at ways to change that, to ultimately reduce congestion, and the city hopes to get people more involved with mass transit
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 8:15 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte is a city where people like to use their cars and many people will drive instead of using city transportation if they have a choice.

The city is looking at ways to change that, to ultimately reduce congestion, and the city hopes to get people more involved with mass transit. It’s known as the Strategic Mobility Plan.

“I think planning for the future is exactly what we need to be doing,” said Jennifer Veal of Charlotte.

By 2040, traffic congestion will look vastly different, and the city wants help from the public to plan for the exact vision.

“Our hope is that we begin to shift how we move in Charlotte,” said Ed McKinney, the Deputy Director of Charlotte Department of Transportation.

The plan calls for a 50-50 mode share, meaning 50% of all travel will happen through walking, cycling, or public transit.

“We’ve set a very aspirational goal of about how we want to move and change the way people move in the city, and we want to use this plan to kind of help set those priorities and take the actions we need to do to get there,” said McKinney.

Veal walks most places in Uptown but agrees improvements need to be made about mobility in Charlotte.

“I have an office in Southpark, so I think just being able to go 6 miles down the road would be really beneficial, even though I know the light rail kind of goes north and south, but if we can have it going multiple directions,” said Veal.

Currently, 76 percent of Charlotteans commute to work alone in a car, contributing to gridlock.

“Getting 50% of our daily trips in something besides a car is a really big reach for a city that is sprawling,” said Ely Portillo, Assistant Director of Outreach & Strategic Partnerships at UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.

Portillo said the more obtainable and cheaper goal is investing in protected bike lane, sideways and greenways throughout the city.

“A focus on those could really pay off in the near term, and even in areas that are more suburban,” said Portillo.

This is part of the city’s plan, along with expanding the rail and bus system.

“One of the big initiatives that CATS is moving forward with is a new notion of high frequency and bus priority throughout the city,” said McKinney. “One of the things we’ve done in this plan is look at those corridors and look at all of the ways we can shape our streets and the way we operate our streets to help bus transits be more efficient, be more comfortable, and to really reach more residents in our city.”

The city wants to make sure this plan is equitable so people of all incomes can afford to get around the city.

“From our perspective, making our transportation system more affordable is apart of making our community more affordable and livable,” said McKinney. “So, if you have access to bus routes, if you have access to rail, if you’ve got the ability to walk or bike, those are options that are more affordable for you to move.”

McKinney and Portillo said developing around or near transit lines will help the city achieve its strategic mobility plan.

“Big picture, I think that transit and land use, how we build, how we grow is intimately tied together and it’s going to be really tough to see that transit expansion succeed if we don’t also tie land use changes to that,” said Portillo, “and encourage denser development around transit lines and encourage denser development in places where we’re going to see transit lines in the future, it’s really tough to have one without the other.”

Under the Strategic Mobility Plan, the city wants to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries of those on Charlotte roads. Overall, the city said it will take everyone doing their part to make this happen.

“Certainly, behavior has to change, so our job is hopefully to put the infrastructure in place, the comfortable facilities in place so that behavior can change, and people can live closure to where they work,” said McKinney.

The city wants the publics opinion about this place, there is a public engagement session Thursday May 26th at 6pm, and Tuesday May 31st at 12 p.m.

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