Rickie White's blog

The public transit and planning nightmare that is our region.

Having lived in other parts of the country and visited other parts of the world that have livable, walkable, dense communities, it's sometimes hard to come home and be too positive about the state of affairs in this area. Just as grand old Durham always seems to be on the cusp of something big and grand and wonderful before plunging off the precipice into bad planning and disastrously bad governing decisions, the region as a whole seems to have good ideas and good people and decent governance but just can't seem to quite get it on track (pardon the pun) with planning and public transport.

Legislative Redistricting

As if folks haven't already heard enough about elections and politics... a new and interesting development has taken place in terms of redistricting for the state house and senate in Orange County. Though it's too early to really bet on these districts due to the amazing amount of litigation that's likely to take place by Republican detractors of the maps, it might be worth talking about the implications of the new map if it is implemented.

But what does this all really tell us

What does this election truly tell us in Carrboro/Chapel Hill and what do folks think is going to happen first in the Chapel Hill Council and Board of Alderfolk?

Infill, pseudo-infill, and NIMBYism in Carrboro

Let’s talk about Carrboro’s current development policy (probably the most contentious issue in Carrboro politics this month). At the risk of oversimplifying, we seem to have 3 camps here in town. One camp seems to be the majority (and vocal minority at times) and advocates the current administration’s policy of increasing commercial space downtown by allowing taller buildings to make dense development economically feasible for the developers. This camp (or at least lots of people I’ve talked to) generally approves of dense housing and commercial downtown and has mixed feelings about high density village mixed use development outside of the main part of town but understands that village mixed use has its positives and negatives and generally supports it as a way to reduce sprawl and the cookie cutter subdivisions that are its alternative. These folks also tend to be resigned to the fact that Carrboro is going to continue to add population whether they like it or not and they look for ways to accommodate that without the sprawl and increased pricing that has occurred in every other town where this has happened.

Pedestrian-(un)Friendly Carrboro

For those of us who grew up in any other part of North Carolina, moving to Carrboro often seems like moving to a different (and better) world. Carrborians have always prided ourselves in trying to keep the good parts of Southern life intact (the relaxed pace and community) while striving to be the most culturally diverse, progressive town in the state. Instead of comparing ourselves to other similar-sized cities in the state, like Brevard or Concord or Goldsboro, most folks I know now compare Carrboro to other interesting, progressive cities throughout the country. We still stack up quite nicely in terms of our schools, public transit, and leadership, but we fall quite short on a very important indicator or quality of life: pedestrian friendliness.

Just look at other towns that are often mentioned in the same breath as our own: Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor, Madison, Towson Park, MD. We are much smaller than most of these towns and have other factors which separate us, but these municipalities are ones in which you can walk around much more freely and where bike paths and sidewalks can carry you to most parts of town.



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