We sent this letter to the Charlotte City Council and City Manager Jones on January 14, 2020, requesting they budget $50M over the next two years to make the city safer for biking, walking, and accessing public transportation.
January 14, 2020
Dear Council Members, Mayor Lyles, and Manager Jones,
As you begin your careful deliberations about how to allocate our public tax dollars for capital projects in FY20 and FY21, we at Sustain Charlotte, on behalf of our 15,000+ local supporters urge you to consider the following.
As we begin this new decade, cities are changing in a fundamental way. For most of the past century, as a result of the invention of the automobile and the freedom of rapid, efficient movement it promised, we have designed our communities almost entirely around it. That is, we've designed our homes, our schools, our offices, our neighborhoods, and our cities with the assumption that everyone would drive a car to get to where they need to go. In doing so, we made it almost impossible to get around using our own bodies.
We now know this assumption was deeply flawed and this auto-only design has resulted in some of Charlotte's (and many other cities) most pressing problems. Namely, our inability to move around our communities using our own power by walking (or biking) as we have for most of human history has led or significantly contributed to:
- Declining economic mobility for those who cannot afford a car and are unable to reach jobs due to lack of other reliable transport options
- Transportation expenses becoming almost as high as housing in terms of the % of household income they require (29% for housing and 22% for transportation)
- Declining social capital due to neighbors not being able to know and trust one another
- Dramatic increase in chronic public health diseases such as diabetes due to lack of physical movement
- Thousands of vehicle collisions each year, dozens of which result in death or serious injuries
- Toxic and dangerous tailpipe emissions that are linked to cancer and a range of respiratory illnesses
- Climate-changing greenhouse gases (vehicles are the largest single source of these gases in Charlotte)
We have all inherited a century of decisions that prioritized moving cars over moving people. The auto-oriented city we now inhabit is a product of that intention. But given all of the problems this design philosophy has led to, we now must retrofit our streets for safety, health, and affordability by making the necessary investments.
With this in mind, we ask you to allocate $50M of the remaining voter-approved CIP dollars over the next two years (FY21-22) to making our city safer for walking, biking, and accessing transit. We respectfully request these funds to be allocated to the following existing city programs and projects that are desperately in need of funding:
$20M for Pedestrian Program: Great places to walk are the foundation of a successful transportation system. Since most of Charlotte’s physical growth occurred after the “automobile boom” of the 1950s, there is tremendous need throughout our city to provide safe walking conditions for all by building sidewalks, crossings, refuge islands, signalized intersections, and other infrastructure.
$10M for Vision Zero: City Council’s 2017 adoption of the Transportation Action Plan included a commitment to work towards eliminating deaths and serious injuries of people walking and bicycling on Charlotte’s streets by 2030. This funding supports the implementation of the Vision Zero Action Plan and focuses on improving safety in the High Injury Network (the 10% of the street network with disproportionately high fatalities and serious injuries).
$10M for Bike Program: In 2017 City Council approved the Charlotte BIKES Plan, which calls for $4M per year for “world-class bicycle projects, programs, and a bicycle-friendly community.” The FY2019 budget provided $4M over two years, which was the first stand-alone bicycle program funding since 2008, but only half of the annual amount needed to keep the goals of this plan on track.
$5M for Uptown Connects: Following the 2016 Uptown Connects study and successful opening of Phase I of the Uptown Cycle Track in spring 2019, CDOT is currently completing design work for the Uptown Connects bicycle/scooter network and estimating the cost of implementation. This funding will cover a significant portion of construction for this network, which will make Uptown safe for bike and scooter mobility and become the foundation for an “all ages and abilities” bicycle/scooter network throughout Charlotte.
$5M for XCLT2: Funding for an east-west bike/ped trail master plan and initial land acquisition to build a trail that complements the north-south Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT). This will provide geographic equity in active transportation, and takes advantage of two simultaneous planning efforts: the Silver Line Rail Trail Study and the Mecklenburg County Greenway Master Plan Update.
These five initiatives - Vision Zero, the Bicycle Program, the Pedestrian Program, Uptown Connects, and XCLT2 - represent a key part of Charlotte's strategy to promote more affordable living and build a safe, healthy, and accessible city for all Charlotteans. Transportation equity, affordable housing, and public safety should be part of a multi-faceted approach to tackling affordability and economic mobility issues in Charlotte. We know you must weigh many priorities during the budget process. These five initiatives support transportation equity, save lives, improve health, build social capital, reduce our contribution to climate change, and save residents money. Given all of these benefits, they deserve funding.
Thank you for your consideration of this request and your service to our community. Please let me know if we can answer any questions or assist you in any way.
Founder + Executive Director