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The Streetcar Project: To Fund Or Not To Fund?

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(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) — In July 2010, the Queen City won a $25 million federal streetcar grant. The Streetcar Project will break ground today, and the long-term goal of the project is to reduce auto traffic and create local jobs.

The 1.5 mile starter line is already paid for through a $12 million contribution from the city of Charlotte, in addition to the federal grant. Past the initial starter line, which will extend from Time Warner Cable Arena to Presbyterian Hospital, there is overwhelming uncertainty about how Charlotte will fund the remaining 8.5 miles.

The next line would add an additional 2.5 miles to the track, with the majority of the track going through Johnson C. Smith University. City Manager Curt Walton has proposed spending $119 million to extend the line, however, City Council members have spent several months talking about whether or not funding for the extension should be included in the budget. Walton’s proposal would mean that Charlotte residents would be assessed an 8 percent property tax increase — which is part of a $926 million capital budget.

On Monday, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx shocked residents who support the Streetcar Project, by proposing two new budgets — one of which does not include the $119 million extension for the streetcar. It appears as though Foxx, a longtime proponent of the street car, has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of support from council members. Charlotte City Council will meet on December 17th to discuss the proposed budgets.

For now, the future of the ten mile streetcar line remains unknown, but here are some factors that council members may consider before making a decision:

  • Just like a car, the streetcar will travel on local roads and would have to obey traffic signals.
  • The streetcar would experience delays due to traffic.
  • The streetcar will not shave time off of your commute — It’s not faster than a city bus.
  • The total cost of the full 10 mile line is $36,990,000.
  • The streetcar will provide high-quality transit service and will connect key destinations along the 10 mile line.
  • The streetcar would directly serve Central Piedmont Community College.
  • If the streetcar is built in its entirety, at least 65 percent of Charlotte’s population will have access to transit.
  • Eventually, more and more people will use public transit and leave their cars at home, reducing regional vehicle miles and travel and reduce transportation‘s overall impact on the environment.

Local Residents Weigh In

The public has a general idea of where Mayor Foxx and council members stand on extending the streetcar line, but what about local residents? How do they feel about the streetcar and paying more in property taxes?

Kenneth James is a Digital Marketing Strategist who resides in Charlotte. James believes that the streetcar extension would be beneficial to the vitality of our city. “The long term cost-benefit ratio of city mass transit is extremely lucrative; less congestion, less pollution, fewer accidents, fewer road fatalities, more jobs, more local businesses, more mobility for the poor and underprivileged, more job mobility, etc. A tax increase is the literal price we pay for living in a modern, civilized society and it is well worth it. I fully support this,” James said.

While James supports the Streetcar Project, another local resident opposes it. Jenn Hall, a Digital Sales Coordinator, feels that the streetcar is a big “waste of money.” If the city cannot find a way to pay for the additional lines, having a streetcar that only travels 1.5 miles is useless and would not benefit the city. The money set aside for the starter project should be reallocated to a more efficient project,” Hall said.

–Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte

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