Will Charlotte’s transportation network be ready for 400,000 new residents?


A version of this story originally appeared on SustainCharlotte.org. Sustain Charlotte is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire choices that lead to healthier and more vibrant communities across the Charlotte metro region for generations to come. Jordan Moore contributed to this story.

Between 2015 and 2040, Charlotte’s population is projected to grow by 400,000 people. That’s like adding the entire population of Miami or New Orleans to our existing city. Will our street network be ready to safely and equitably provide for the daily transportation needs of our current and new residents?

That was the question on the mind of City Council’s Transportation and Planning Committee at its Sept. 12 meeting. Click here for the presentation they saw.

It’s exciting to be one of the nation’s fastest growing large cities, but it’s also quite a challenge to plan for such incredible population growth.

The results of CDOT’s 2016 Household Survey are in, and residents are speaking up for safer bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Eighty-one percent of respondents would be encouraged to bicycle more if they had on-street separated facilities (i.e. protected bike lanes or cycletracks) available.


People would walk more if it was safer, more convenient and allowed them to access a variety of interesting and useful destinations:


Charlotte’s Transportation Action Plan (TAP), the policy and technical document that helps Charlotte achieve its transportation vision, is updated every five years and adopted by City Council. The 2011 TAP is due for an update this year. The necessary updates are determined by the results of the Household Transportation Survey, best practices in other cities and needs that are seen by CDOT and City Council since the adoption of the previous TAP.

The emphatic key point of the presentation was: “To build, maintain, and operate a travel network with safe options for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists in our rapidly growing City, staff estimates $5 billion in transportation investments will be needed over the next 25 years.”

Here’s a breakdown of the proposed investments:

  • $665 million for maintenance: 12 year re-surfacing cycle; 160 miles of sidewalk; 100 miles of curb and gutter.
  • $285 million for technology: New equipment at intersections’ Traffic Management Center; Intelligent Transportation Systems; new street lights.
  • $130 million for safety: 40 projects to improve safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists; embrace Vision Zero philosophy through engineering, education, and enforcement to reduce fatal crashes and serious injuries.
  • $3 billion for Complete Streets: 100 multi-modal arterial roadway projects and 40 intersections; more frequent bridge inspections and replacements; 200 smaller-scale projects.
  • $400 million for walkability: 250 miles of new sidewalks; projects at 20 schools; 250 crossings at arterials (major roads); ADA retrofit projects (to improve accessibility).
  • $100 million for bicycle travel: 250 miles of new bikeways including buffered bike lanes and off-street paths; 80 low-cost bike-ped connections.
  • $330 million for placemaking: Station-area projects in two rapid transit corridors; projects in five mixed-use activity centers; 100-150 traffic calming projects; 20-25 landscape/pedscape projects; 20 area plan project.
  • $195 million to preserve opportunities: Design/engineering for selected future projects; advance acquisition to preserve parcels for right-of-way; leverage funds with private developers to create better projects and travel networks.

We’re particularly excited by CDOT’s clear articulation of what transportation customers want: Better mobility, more mode choices, more route choices, better designs, and safer streets.

A lot of great additional policies are recommended for the TAP that weren’t included in the 2011 adopted version, including (in part):

  • Establish mode share goals. This means goals will be set for what percent of trips are taken by single occupancy vehicle trips, car/vanpool, bicycle, walking, and transit. With the projected increase of 1.5 million daily trips by 2040, it’s simply not sustainable for a large percent of those trips to be taken by single occupants of cars.
  • Refer to latest NACTO design guidance: Our Bicycle Program Director Jordan Moore went to Seattle last month for the 2016 NACTO Designing Cities conference, where he learned the most current and effective practices for multi-modal transportation planning and implementation. We’re glad CDOT and City Council are pursuing best practices for our transportation networks.
  • Plan and design for the “8-80” City: Simply put, a city whose streets are safe and inviting for both an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old has designed its transportation network properly. Charlotte still has a lot of work to do to correct decades of past decades of planning solely for automobiles, but we’re now heading in the right direction by considering the needs of all street users.
  • Emphasize safety through Vision Zero: It’s time to stop just aiming to reduce accident rates. It’s time to aspire to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
  • Refer to the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP): The CTP is a state-mandated transportation plan for the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization that includes Mecklenburg, Union, and southern Iredell Counties. Think of it as the larger regional context for CDOT’s work. As Charlotte grows, the integration of our transportation networks with the networks of our neighboring communities will become even more critical to move people safely and efficiently across the region.

The Transportation and Planning Committee wants to get public input in October in order to make official recommendations by November. We think that you should get involved.

For more on this, including comments from City Council, go here.

Photo: Charlotte Observer file


  1. I hope we aren’t estimating the number of new residents by 2040? Not sure what our current growth trends are, but 2000 and 2010 are population grew by over 35% each period. Using an apparently conservative estimate of 800,000 current residents in the queen city, and a slightly more modest (but still high) 30% growth per decade, we are closer to doubling our current population. I understand population models are more complex than a back of the napkin estimate, but that’s a nearly 1/2 million resident difference. I just hope our traffic planners aren’t being as short sighted as they have historically been.

    We also need to make sure we focus on redesigning some of our poorly designed interchanges, including some of the recent awful decisions. Not sure exactly who we should tar and feather for deciding to use the on ramp from mallard creek church as the only on ramp to 485 inner which merges with the other 485 on ramp which also becomes the exit for N Tryon. So one overloaded merged lane, yet 2 lanes flowing off the opposite direct on 485.

    Regardless of how much we improve foot and bike traffic, we are going to always have a heavy reliance on our major freeways. Our city is too sprawled. Until we put enough heavy investments into an effective rail system, which will be harder are costlier than if we were compact.

    There is a point to that rant though. Whatever we spend on improving transportation, we need to make sure we are making smart decisions. And that we are doing our best to ensure that poor design is not our bottle necks.

  2. Not even an option for the city to grow by 400k. Look at recent events and daily traffic issues . Charlotte is maxed at the 500k we have now that live in town. I know the chamber says we have 18 millions residents so we are a huge city , but that is for their bs sales pitch. If we grew by another 40k it’s an issue so don’t smoke that pipe dream.


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