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Let's Build it Right!
Let’s Build It Right The First Time!

"If you are not going to do it right the first time, don’t do it at all… We’ve learned that retrofitting is too expensive and can’t be done."

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory--Charlotte Observer, Sept. 30, 1999

The above quote was made by Mayor Pat McCrory when he became upset over the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) lack of planning for any sidewalks on many of the outer belt future overpasses. When we continue to talk about making our city more pedestrian friendly and the find out that plans are still being made to exclude pedestrians it is easy to see why he might be upset. However we could not help thinking how his remarks could just as easily relate to our transit planning as well.

Here, in the mayor’s own words, is exactly what we at Citizen’s for Efficient Mass Transit have been saying about the city’s busway plans. When our transit officials talk about spending hundreds of millions of the taxpayer’s dollars building busways on four of our five major transit corridors, then coming back in 20 or 30 years to tear it out and build light rail in it’s place, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Again, in the mayor’s own words, retrofitting later is too expensive and there is little chance it will ever be done. Mr.. Mayor, let’s do it right the first time when it comes to transit as well as sidewalks. We are going to spend far more money on our transit corridors, and if they are not done right we will all suffer the consequences, either directly as transit riders, or indirectly, as motorists and taxpayers.

If our city fathers and transit people are really serious about future light rail in these corridors--and their talk is not a lot of window dressing, designed to fool us long enough to prepare these same corridors for permanent busways--then we need to step back and take another look at these plans.

Let’s build the rail lines that have been tentatively approved and temporarily delay starting work on the other corridors until an outside, wholly independent group of consultants have had a chance to review the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans. In addition, wee need far more citizen input than has been the case up until now. The public hearings we have had in the past have for the most part not been very well attended. With the exception of the citizens in the Lake Norman communities, the general public was only beginning to become aware of the issues. A large segment of the public, probably the motorists, obviously didn’t think it mattered to them, so they didn’t participate.

It does matter, however, even if you never plan to use mass transit. Your trip on the highway will be more crowded or less, depending on the success failure of this transit system. Your taxes could be greater or less, depending on these corridors. You might think that the one-half cent sales tax for mass transit would take care of everything. It will pay part of the cost of constructing this system. However, will it pay the extremely high cost of operating and maintaining the largest busway network in the U. S. for generations to come?

If we delayed construction on the corridors where busways have been selected, this does not mean that nothing will be done to help people in these areas until the consultant’s recommendations have been restudied.

We can upgrade and improve the existing bus service by instituting express bus service, and expanding the route structure and hours of operation. There are other possibilities, such as traffic signal preemption.

With the money the half-cent sales tax is generating for mass transit, it shouldn’t be too long before funding is available to start some of these other corridor projects. By waiting to study the issues more thoroughly we may be able to "do it right the first time."