Planning & Transportation

The Truth About Traffic

Whenever there’s a new development proposal pending before a local governing board, the center of the conversation always seems to gravitate toward traffic. Given this tendency, I think it’s important we understand historic traffic changes in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation maintains historic traffic counts for urban areas around the state, including Chapel Hill. These traffic counts date back to 1997, with the most recent data being from 2013. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the average annual daily traffic in some major areas around town:

 

Area

1997

2004

2013

Change, 2013 vs. 1997

W Franklin St (just west of Columbia St)

17,400

18,000

12,000

Will Chapel Hill Transit Really Start Charging Fares?

At a work session earlier this month, the Chapel Hill Town Council received a report on the fiscal sustainability of Chapel Hill Transit. The report describes CHT's current situation as akin to “tale of two cities.” One the one hand the system has been enormously successful in attracting new ridership and on the other hand facing some fairly significant obstacles because of that sucess. The report identifies funding as the chief area of concern, noting that the urgent need for capital expenses mostly to help replace the agency's aging fleet. 

In response to the meeting, a slew of stories appeared with headlines like "Chapel Hill Transit Could Start Charging For Bus Rides." That got me and a few of OrangePolitics' other editors thinking: what would happen if the system really were to start charging fares as a way to be more sustainable? After talking it over a bit, we came up with (at least) two potential issues:

Democracy and the Quality of Urban Life

Speaking to a sizeable crowd at Duke last Thursday night, Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, shared his vision for and thoughts on “Democracy and the Quality of Urban Life.”

As mayor from 1998-2000, Peñalosa radically transformed the physical form of Bogotá. He worked to incorporate the city’s remote, illegally-constructed slums into the city by building new public spaces, parks, and pedestrian and bicycle connections. He implemented aggressive policies to limit car use by eliminating parking and creating dedicated bus lanes to improve public transit. He spoke at length during his talk about how the work he carried out as mayor was designed to make Bogotá a more inclusive, equal, and democratic city.

Increased Density is the Right Choice

This column originally appeared in the Chapel Hill News on Sunday, January 25.

By Travis Crayton & Molly De Marco

In 2014, “density” might well have been the word of the year in local government in Orange County.

Much of the debate about development in our communities boils down to preferences and emotions about the scale and density of proposed projects. (How tall? How many new units per acre?)

In 2015, the density debate is likely to rage on. But what is it about greater density that evokes such strong opinions?

Change in any facet of life is hard. When it comes to change in our neighborhoods, this is especially true. We become accustomed to a particular way of life and patterns of behavior, and we find comfort in these routines. But sometimes change is necessary. As a community professing to hold progressive values, such as environmental sustainability, socioeconomic diversity, and livability, we sometimes should embrace change to uphold and live out these values.

"Public" Participation: A Look at Central West

Researchers at the UNC School of Government recently released the results of a survey (PDF) they conducted about Chapel Hill’s Central West Small Area Plan process. You might have seen some press and spin about this survey and the comments participants provided in the survey. But before we start extrapolating from these data, it’s important to make sure we understand who provided feedback on the Central West process and how those individuals compare to our community at large.

Making this comparison is particularly important to assess and understand the effectiveness of public participation efforts in our local government. After all, if public participation is primarily coming from specific groups of people and other groups are being left out of the process, that’s not true public participation or engagement -- it’s the privileging of certain groups at the expense of the rest of our community.

So let’s take a look at the demographic data of the Central West survey participants compared to the 2010 Census data for the town of Chapel Hill. Here’s what the age and race data look like:

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