Volunteers, residents build benches for public bus stops in Charlotte

(By WSOC TV) More than 20 residents and volunteers gathered Saturday morning to build benches for public bus stops in north Charlotte. The event was organized by Sustain Charlotte in partnership with the Prosperity Village Area Association. Read more here.

Nonprofit strives to make Charlotte safer for pedestrians, bike riders

(By DaShawn Brown, WSOC TV) For years, local nonprofit Sustain Charlotte has been working with officials to integrate safety features throughout the city. Kate Cavazza, a program director with Sustain Charlotte, said the safety initiatives could save lives. “That means more lighting, more crossings for pedestrians that aren't 4 miles apart to allow equal access for everybody to cross the street at safe opportunities,” Cavazza said. Read more here.

Nonprofit unveils plan to add 150 miles of greenway to Mecklenburg County

(By Mark Barber, WSOC TV) A new plan has been unveiled to add more greenways in Mecklenburg County. On Monday afternoon, a nonprofit called Greenways for Mecklenburg shared their plan to ask county commissioners to add 150 miles of connected greenway by 2030.  As traffic delays on Charlotte's interstates get worse every day, more and more frustrated drivers are searching for ways to escape the gridlock. "Charlotte is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the entire country and we can't keep building roads wherever," said Meg Fencil, with Sustain Charlotte, one of the groups that supports the proposal. Read more here.

Local group wants faster greenway growth in Charlotte

(By Erik Spanberg, Charlotte Business Journal) A nonprofit dedicated to expanding local trails this week began pushing for Mecklenburg County to triple the number of miles of connected by greenways to 150 by 2030 — a number that would increase by half the pace already funded and planned.  Greenways for Mecklenburg and supporters, including Sustain Charlotte and Carolina Thread Trail, point to rapid population growth and rising land costs as the basis for jump-starting expansion. County park-and-rec leaders agree, but note that land costs are somewhat less of a concern since 70% of the property used for the existing greenways came through rezoning, often for free or at deeply reduced rates. Read more here.

Invasion of the Bike Shares

(By Ryan Pitkin, Creative Loafing Charlotte)   For Phillip Sanford, a Charlotte cyclist who regularly advocates for more bikeability in Charlotte, the rollout of dockless bike-share programs has left him sore. He worries that the constant photos on social media of neon bikes strewn about like litter on the city's sidewalks is giving cycling a bad name. "Our city is close to capacity for cars and we need to utilize mass transit and bike commuting as the area grows," Sanford said. "We need proper infrastructure. We need a public base that is very pro-car and anti-anything else to have a positive view of bike commuting and its possibilities. Flooding the area with cheap bikes with little oversight and a lack of acknowledgement of legitimate concerns just perpetuates the idea that biking is just a fad very few people should be a part of." Kate Cavazza, bike program manager with local cycling advocacy organization Sustain Charlotte, thinks otherwise. She said she has high hopes for the programs and wouldn't mind seeing more in the area. Sustain Charlotte has been consulting with each company about where their bikes could be best used as they arrive in Charlotte, Cavazza said. She pointed out that while the groupings may seem crowded during the first months of operation, once people start to ride them throughout the city — especially as the weather warms out — they won't be as noticeable. "Each new bike that gets dropped, they kind of stand there and people look at them. With time, we hope that people get on these bikes and they're spread out into communities all over Charlotte," she said. Cavazza is optimistic that dockless bike sharing can help bring bikes to parts of the city not usually associated with cycling and help provide more people with a dependable mode of transportation. She said she's aware of some of the bad publicity the dockless bikes are getting, even from within the cycling community, but hopes she can rely on the folks who want to support bikeability concepts in Charlotte to lend a helping hand in the first months of the rollout. "I would say, for other bike advocates, if you see a bike that's down, pick it up, move it over," she said. "It doesn't take that much effort. If you have a problem with it, move it three feet to the left." Read more here.

Bus ridership is tumbling in Charlotte. Can a new CATS plan bring people back?

(By Steve Harrison, The Charlotte Observer) Shannon Binns is the executive director of Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit that advocates for alternatives to driving, including walking, biking and transit use. Binns said he believes CATS will redesign the bus system to funnel passengers to the light-rail line, which will cover roughly 20 miles when the extension opens in March. Binns said he also wants CATS to increase the frequencies on some bus routes. Read more here.

City officials consider closing sidewalk gaps

(By Justin Vick - The Charlotte Weekly) The city is considering changes that would create safer conditions for pedestrians. The Charlotte City Council is scheduled to vote on revisions to sidewalk construction standards Nov. 27. The changes create more triggers for the construction of sidewalks and planting strips along thoroughfares. Joe Padilla, executive director for the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, told the council during the Nov. 13 public hearing that no one is questioning the need for sidewalks, but he wanted them to understand potential tradeoffs. Tearing up and replacing substandard sidewalks represents additional costs in grading and clearing that will be passed on to tenants or buyers of new buildings or multifamily housing, he said. Padilla said additional regulations not only add to costs, but also could hurt city initiatives such as providing more affordable housing and preserving 50 percent of the tree canopy. He suggests adding exemptions for affordable housing developers that encounter site constraints. Kate Cavazza, bicycle program manager for Sustain Charlotte, said the amendments would close loopholes allowing developers to sidestep having to build sidewalks for new or phased developments. Read more here.  

Pedestrian-friendly development thwarted by projects along Blue Line, critics say

By: Ely Portillo (Charlotte Observer) Developers say that apartment residents still expect – and need – to own a car, even if they live next to the light rail. Lenders also expect new apartments they’re funding to have the same ratios of parking spaces-to-bedrooms that they’re used to in other parts of town. That’s generally one space per bedroom. The big parking decks add millions of dollars to a building’s cost, pushing rents higher when the apartments open, and critics say they implicitly encourage residents to own more cars. Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, said this year that by not having rules mandating less parking at new buildings along the Blue Line, the city is squandering an opportunity. “When we don’t maximize the land use around the transit investments, we really are undermining those investments,” said Binns. Read more here. Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article189496849.html#storylink=cpy  

As Charlotte’s new rules stall, bad growth multiplies

By: Shannon Binns (Special op-ed for Charlotte Observer) A recent Observer headline laid out the challenge: “First test for City Council newbies: What to do about Charlotte’s growth?” Indeed, Charlotte’s five new council members – along with their re-elected colleagues and new mayor Vi Lyles – have their hands full dealing with exponential growth at the same moment that a massive rewrite of our rulebook for managing growth is seriously bogged down. Our soaring economy requires never-ending construction that, if not properly managed, threatens our quality of life. The challenge is compounded as Charlotte’s traditional low-density, car-oriented development pattern no longer fits the preferences of many residents, especially our burgeoning millennial population. And Charlotte’s appalling economic inequity compels us to ensure that new developments offer affordable housing throughout the city. Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article189385774.html#storylink=cpy Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article189385774.html#storylink=cpy Read the full op-ed here.  

First test for City Council newbies: What to do about Charlotte’s growth?

(By Ely Portillo - The Charlotte Observer) Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, said he hopes the new council members will be receptive to expanding bicycle lanes and transit, encouraging less car-dependent growth, capping the maximum amount of parking near light rail stations to make it less attractive to drive and making new developments more walkable. The group promotes environmentally friendly development patterns, as well as biking and mass transit. All five new members are under 40, and some, such as District One’s Larken Egleston, have participated in Sustain Charlotte programs like Biketoberfest. “We’re hopeful, given that the new members are younger, they’ll be more excited about the type of growth we advocate for, as well as improving transportation choices,” said Binns. “There seems to be a stronger interest in compact development, walkable development, which we advocate for as well.” Read more here