News crews packed the room to hear the City Council Transportation and Planning Committee meeting on Monday, October 22nd. Continued discussion about the Comprehensive Plan and what to do with electric scooters dominated the agenda.
I-77 Mobility Study
The Charlotte Regional Transit Planning Organization is about to start an I-77 corridor study with Akins Inc leading the effort as the primary consultant. This study will not only take into consideration future and existing plans, but will also examine parallel projects to increase connectivity along the corridor.
Neighborhood Traffic Calming Policy Changes
Assistant City Manager Danny Pleasant introduced Tamara Blue, Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the neighborhood traffic calming policy framework. This topic has been discussed in the previous two TAP meetings. CDOT wants to preemptively reduce the speeds of all neighborhood streets to 25 miles per hour and reduce the petition and traffic thresholds for installing multi-way stops, speed humps, and speed cushions. Read more about these specific neighborhood traffic calming proposals in our recap of September’s TAP meeting.
Council Member Larken Egleston said that it was a great plan and he wanted to see it brought to full council last month. He made a motion to move the neighborhood traffic calming policy update to full council for their businesses meeting on November 26th. Council Member and Committee Chair Greg Phipps seconded the motion, which it was approved unanimously.
Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan Update
Assistant Planning Director, Garet Johnson, provided an update on the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive plan.
Charlotte Future 2040 encompasses a number of components:
- It is a physical plan, with a reflection on social and economic values
- It is a long-range plan with regular (5-year) updates
- It is comprehensive, encompassing the functions that make up a community
- It is a unified physical design for the public and private development of land
- It is a statement of policy, covering community character, geographic considerations and change
In September, the City Council authorized contract negotiations with consultants, M.I.G. The consultants are currently working with staff to develop the scope of work, budget, and engagement plan.
Johnson highlighted public engagement activities undertaken by staff to grow awareness and support for the plan, including their participation in Biketoberfest presented by The Charlotte Knights. Staff will continue their community outreach efforts as the plan is developed.
While the plan is currently scheduled for adoption in April 2021, the schedule is expected to be updated by the end of this month.
Greg Phipps was among the council members who encouraged staff to highlight changes coming to communities before 2040. While community members are interested in the long term plan, council members said they heard feedback that the community wants to hear more about short term improvements being made in their community.
Pleasant opened the conversation by saying that transportation choices in our city are rapidly changing, comparing the rise of e-scooters to the start of the automobile. Charlotte is rethinking how to manage transportation systems with the introduction of new technology and mobility options.
CDOT’s Deputy Director Dan Gallagher reminded the committee that Mayor Vi Lyles gave the committee and staff 60 days (about 60 days ago) to develop a report and recommendations for her consideration.
Council Member Braxton Winston said he wanted to see CDOT go a step further and be proactive instead of reactive and come up with a scooter vision plan before the state makes a judgement on the issue.
Ultimately, scooter regulation will likely come from the state at the beginning of the new year. City Attorney Robert Hagemann was on hand to answer legal questions and reminded the room that Charlotte is not alone in dealing with scooters. Cities across North Carolina and the country are in the exact same situation as we are. Hagemann said that when the state legislature makes a decision on scooter regulation, Charlotte has an opportunity to bring the city’s experience and expertise to the state table.
Scooters are currently defined as vehicles under North Carolina General Statute 20-4.01 and riders have to follow the rules of the road. This includes yielding the right of way to pedestrians, riding with traffic, obeying traffic signs, and not scootering intoxicated. Even though the City thinks sidewalk riding is acceptable in non-congested pedestrian areas where street infrastructure is lacking, Gallagher went on to say that CDOT is developing an education campaign with the scooter vendors to better inform riders of their responsibility as vehicle operators.
Council Member Tariq Bokhari sees three immediate things for the City to do:
work through the intergovernmental agency committee to share Charlotte’s recommendations with the state legislature, keep working on the City’s safety campaign, and finish the recommendations requested by Mayor Lyles. He also went on to say that the “free market” and public demand should decide how many scooters are on the streets, instead of Council or CDOT.
We agree with Bokhari, CDOT, and Hagemann’s approach to scooters. CDOT, not City Council, decides how to operate city right of way and we support their decision to wait on the state to make regulatory recommendations. In August, Charlotteans took over 140,000 trips on scooters. As Winston said during last month’s TAP meeting, we need to be focused on how scooters and bikes fit into our built-environment so we can build accompanying infrastructure to match the need with continued financial support to CDOT’s bicycle program in upcoming fiscal year City budgets.
As Pleasant said, dockless bike share and electric scooter share offer a cleaner way to travel and convenient first and last mile solutions to transit riders. As a city and as responsible alternative transportation users, we need to help CDOT by being safe cyclists, motorists, pedestrians, and scooter riders. If City Council limits dockless bike share and scooters, transportation choices for our citizens would be reduced and Charlotte’s standing with peer cities as a transportation policy leader and innovator would be diminished.
See the full presentation from the meeting here.
This meeting was well covered by the press. Check out the extensive coverage below!
Charlotte City Council discussing permanent policy solutions for electric scooters in the city.
Road Rules: The push to regulate scooters in Charlotte.
Road Rules: Charlotte looking to regulate scooters.