Planning & Transportation

Baby Steps: Our First NCD

Tomorrow (1/21/03) the Chapel Hill Town Council will hold public hearings on some major (and some minor) zoning changes. On the table are the creation of the town's first-ever Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD). This NCD would apply to Northside (where I live), and I was on the commitee that developed the proposal. The biggest change is the banning of duplexes (which I opposed). That is probably what most peope will speak about at the hearing, although there are also concerns about the proposed cap of 2,000 square feet per dwelling (which I supported). I think the NCD is sorely needed, and this is a good step. But it doesn't really confront the problems that face our downtown, working-class, near-campus neighborhood. Some people don't think it can address those things. I think it could have... but anyway.

Martin Luther King Boulevard

In addition to a number of other good ideas on the Chapel Hill Town Council's agenda, I'm told they will hear a proposal tonight to rename Airport Road to Martin Luther King Boulevard. When I was first exposed to this idea (at a candidate forum last fall), I was taken aback. I've known that road for a long time by only one name.

But actually, it makes a lot more sense to me than naming the road after an aiport that hardly anyone uses, and most people expect to be closed within a few years. And It's especially appropriate that the street that will be the future grand entrance to Carolina North should be named after such a great American. I hope it will serve as a daily reminder to all of us to do whatever we can to live up to the moral challenges of our times (of which there are many).

Locke Up the Trains

Yesterday, the John Locke Foundation sponsored a conference whose aim was apparently to trash rail plans for the Triangle. You can read about it in the Herald.

Some interesting excerpts:
The American dream is being challenged by "misguided planning policies" and doctrines "that call for greater government control over development, housing, transportation and consumer choice."

"mass-transit is a dollar-gulping failure"

"the cost of each passenger mile in an average car was 20 cents, compared to 60 cents for each mass-transit passenger mile. In most U.S. locations, each new rider could be provided with a leased car for his or her entire lifetime for the cost of building a mass-transit system,"

It sounds like this conference could just as well have been planned by the highway industry. The comments above reflect a glaring failure to understand federal and state transportation subsidies, the incredible success of transit in many major cities in the US and around the world, and American history.

She's Got a Ticket to Ride

Better late than never, TTA has developed a website,, that will help a user get from any spot to any other spot in the Triangle using the wide array of transit systems we have here.

I was skeptical it would work, but I entered my home address (on a street not served by transit), and it asked me a few more questions and was eventually able to figure out where I was. It even offered two routes, one with less transfers and the other presumably faster. It even tells you what the fare will be, which is useful with multiple systems.

The interface could be a bit smoother and the software is a bit buggy, but I'm quite impressed with the features. You can jump to an earlier or later itinerary, and save locations and connections. There's even a version for mobile handheld computers (how many transit riders have these?). I wonder how well it prints.

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.



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