As a Charlotte resident I am always surprised to hear non-residents speak of the reputation the city has developed as a center of progressive and thoughtful transportation planning. I have to assume that outsiders are not distracted by local debates about the blue line extension, the merits of the north commuter line or the politics of streetcar expansion. Charlotte’s reputation, valid or not, is fortuitous in an era where the new workforce is increasingly expressing their preference for transit-oriented urban environments. Surveys such as that conducted by USPIRG along with recent data on population change suggest that economic development will be increasingly focused on metro’s that are (or are perceived to be) both transit friendly and walkable.
At the risk of schadenfreude, it appears that Charlotte’s reputation as a Southern bastion of progressive transportation planning will be enhanced by the defeat of Atlanta’s TSPLOST transportation improvement funding plan at the ballot box tonight. Atlanta’s voters have sent a message to workers and firms shopping for a home in the global economic system — congestion is preferable to higher taxes, urban circulation and mode choice is not worthy of investment and transport infrastructure is not a local priority. According to governor Nathan Deal’s director of communications, The State of Georgia is clearly aware of this problem:
“Will we be able to compete in the global market with Plan B? [the alternative to TSPLOST] Yes. Will every company look at us? No.”
Charlotte, despite its flaws, now looks like a more attractive destination for human capital in the global era.