Why Is Charlotte’s Former Mayor Challenging Charlotte’s Transit Plans?

In 1998, the citizens of Charlotte, North Carolina, voted to raise their sales tax by a half cent in order to improve transit. They used that money to build the Lynx light-rail and to expand bus service, boosting ridership an impressive 100 percent.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is threatening to pull $299 million in promised funds for light rail expansion in Charlotte, if the city moves forward with plans to build a streetcar. Image: Charlotte Observer

Now Charlotte is moving forward with plans for a $119 million streetcar — and they’re planning to do it with local property tax money. But Governor Pat McCrory and some other Republican political officials have different ideas. They’re holding Charlotte’s light rail extension plans hostage, as one local elected put it, threatening to pull $299 million in state funding for the blue line expansion if the streetcar goes forward.

Jeff Wood at the Overhead Wire wonders what’s motivating the governor, who, ironically, was integral to the completion of Lynx when he served as mayor of Charlotte:

McCrory believes that only the half cent set aside for transit should be used for expansion, and that funding from the state ($299m) is dependent on local funding being so constrained, that the city has to go through the state. Apparently trying to speed up the process of building out the network by local funding is not allowed. One line at a time, and no streetcars. And forget that the roads don’t pay for themselves. What this tells us is that decision makers in the state think that if Charlotte has its half cent of play money, the big boys can use the funding for the other interests.

But what else is going on in the region that would equate to other interests? How about the $3B in road projects that are happening in Charlotte currently. And they want to start a state fight over a few hundred million? What a disgraceful flareup.

The State doesn’t want to give money because they think Charlotte has enough, and Charlotte with the help of NCDOT wants to waste billions on sprawl highways. Building sprawl highways that have no use until the land around them is developed into oblivion. Charlotte pretends that it doesn’t want to turn into over sprawling and traffic choked Atlanta, but it looks like being Georgia is the goal, and the state led by Pat McCrory, is more than happy to help them get there.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Twin City Sidewalks explores the cultural and legal questions surrounding “pedal pubs.” The FABB blog looks at new research indicating that kids who walk or bike to school are able to concentrate better. And Bike Blog NYC writes about a new device developed for bike commuters who take on the notorious smog of Beijing.