Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Charlotteans like public transit -- and suburbia

A national survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council finds support for more local spending on buses, light rail and other public transportation. But additional interviews in Mecklenburg County also show a strong appetite for far-flung suburbs and long commutes.

A bipartisan polling team conducted telephone interviews with 800 likely voters for NRDC in late June and early July. The survey found that Americans want to spend less time in their cars, but most feel they have no other choice.

Mecklenburg officials say vehicle emissions -- compounded by commuters driving alone to and from work -- are the biggest local contributors to Charlotte's long-time smog problem. Metro Charlotte routinely ranks among the nation's smoggiest cities.  

Only one in three in the NRDC survey said convenient public transportation is available, while two out of three said they would like their local governments to spend more on buses, trains and light rail. Those surveyed were twice as likely to support expanding public transportation instead of building new roads.

The pollsters did 200 additional interviews in Mecklenburg County and in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, home of Cleveland, and suburban Philadelphia. All three cities fell in line with national support for improving public transportation.

But this is where the answers get interesting for Charlotte.

While 43 percent of Mecklenburg residents like compact houses on small lots with short commutes, 45 percent prefer larger houses on bigger lots with commutes of 40 minutes or more. Nationally, only 29 percent like such communities.

Fifty-one percent of Mecklenburgers want walkable communities with mixes of houses, apartments and stores. But 46 percent would rather live in residential-only neighborhoods where they have to drive to stores, a lifestyle endorsed by 40 percent nationally.

Another 51 percent in Mecklenburg say new development should be built within existing cities and suburbs. Thirty-nine percent -- compared to 30 percent nationally -- say it should go on undeveloped land outside those areas.

"It seems like it might be people wanting the best of both worlds," says Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte, an advocacy group working with NRDC. The group hosted a panel discussion on the topic during last week's Democratic National Convention.

Binns theorizes that driving is an accepted part of Charlotte's culture and that traffic congestion hasn't gotten bad enough to push local people toward alternatives. Changing that mindset, he acknowledges, will be a challenge.


Anonymous said...

These surveys that are written about as if this is news are never truthful. They ask questions like "if you had to have more tax money spent on transportation, what would you like?". "Would you be in favor of more buses if it ment that you would not have to walk to work". 'Do you want to live near a new road". These "surveys" need to disclose the questions that are asked to be used as a defining sentiment of the citizens.

Anonymous said...

If 51% of Charlotte wanks to live in a walkable community that represents a huge unmet demand for this type of development.

What will that do to the price of housing in the burbs when these people leave?

I suspect we are on the cusp of a huge reverse migration back to the city all over the US

Anonymous said...

I don't think we're on the cusp of a huge reverse migration, but a reverse migration has already started.

The younger generation is moving to or staying in the cities longer. They have less children or not children at all, so a big yard and a large house are not necessary.

The suburbs still have their place in society, but inner city living is definitely making a comeback across America.

I chose to live in the city because I lived in suburban DC and it was a nightmare of a commute to and from work.

I now live uptown and work just a block outside of uptown. I still drive to work because it would be about a 2.5 mile walk from First Ward to W. Morehead street, and I can get to work in 4 minutes. 6 if I hit traffic.

It's great. I'll never live in the suburbs. I'm an either/or kind of person. Either give me the heart of the city, or remove me from it entirely. Suburbs, to me, lack the conveniences of city living, but includes a lot of the hassle. No thanks.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been blessed to have children, but that doesn't mean I want to live on top of my neighbor, either. Uptown is like Florida to me- a nice place to visit but I don't want to live there. I have dogs and I enjoy the aspiration of having a backyard for them- and me- to enjoy sans leash. The UC is fine with me, but I want distance between me and my neighbor's house and I hope to see light rail in our future soon!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4:05. Here is a link to the full results of the survey including questions.

Anonymous said...

That link did not work, but I found the survey. I think that makes my point.

They ask do you spend too much time comuting in your car? If so what would you rather do with the time you (really can not)save by using "other transportation"?

Then they will ask would you like to live closer to work? Meaning in the city. Then, when someone says that they would like to live closer then, there is support for living in the city rather than the suburbs.

So, the real question should be -"What is updated, reliable, and efficiant transportation"?

Trains are from the early 1800's. Busses are from the early 1900'S. Bikes are real old, though efficiant if your personal energy is not taken into account.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the groups results synopsis. Only 800 people contacted. They group "somewhat in favor" and "slightly in favor" together to arrive at a majority. I am Anon 4:15 and Anon 3:40.

Jim K