Episode 52: Building a Resilient City

TransLoc MarketingThe Movement Podcast

Charlotte’s growth to become one of our nation’s largest cities has not been seamless. In a special episode, learn from some of Charlotte’s leaders and advocates on what is needed to build on its past as it looks to its future.

If you enjoyed this podcast, check out more from Josh Cohen in this blog!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Cohen: Josh Cohen

Franklin: Franklin

Binns: Shannon Binns

Jaiyeoba: Taiwo Jaiyeoba

Tober: Ron Tober

Cohen: In 1799 a 12-year-old farm boy named Conrad Reed discovered a 17-pound gold nugget not in the hills of California or Alaska but in a creek just north of Charlotte, North Carolina.  The United States’ first gold rush started there near a sleepy, Southern town named after the wife of King George III in order to curry favor. Throughout the 1800s gold fever took hold in Charlotte, eventually leading the federal government to build a mint there to turn the raw gold into gold coins.  In 1910 Charlotte surpassed Wilmington as North Carolina’s largest city, and it hasn’t looked back. Now Charlotte is home to over 870,000 people, good for the 16th largest city in the country.  

This spirit that kick-started the first gold rush in the U.S. has continued through today.  Regulation changes and aggressive banking CEOs built on Charlotte’s financial history to make Charlotte the county’s second largest banking headquarters.  Today skyscrapers dot the skyline in Uptown Charlotte, and it really does feel like a big city there. These swashbuckling, private company leaders have been critical to not only private growth but investment in public goods like parks, arts, and museums.  But a question remains; who is Charlotte for and how will it get there? That’s the question I tackled on a recent visit to the Queen City. Welcome to The Movement.  Let’s go.  

F: Mobility is an essential component to the cities of our future.  To build this future, we need to do more than invest in technology; we need to invest in the people who will make the hard decisions necessary to create vibrant, equitable, and sustainable cities.  Welcome to The Movement where we talk to the brave leaders who are effecting change in an effort to build a coalition of leaders who will make tomorrow real.  Here is your host, TransLoc’s National Director of Policy, Josh Cohen.  

Franklin: The only thing missing was walking, and so I started walking just so I could have a testimony.

Cohen: That’s Debra Franklin.  She’s not only a Charlotte Area Transit System bus operator, but she’s also a community advocate and cyclist and recently a walker.  Similar to Debra, I approached this trip from the perspective of having a testimony. I rode my bike to the Durham train station [NOISE] caught the Amtrak down to Charlotte [BELL CHIMES], and brought my bike with me on the train so I could have another way to move around Charlotte.

[NOISE]

Cohen: Good morning.  I have a bike reservation to put on board.  I just didn’t know if I needed to do anything special.  Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate your help. I’m all checked in.  They’re super nice. It’s a beautiful train station they redid a few years ago, a beautiful waiting area, bathrooms, ATM.  It’s really, really nice.

[NOISE]

Cohen: Approaching this trip experientially as a walker, biker, transit rider was important to me to better understand what Uptown Charlotte was like.  

[NOISE]

Franklin: I’m a union officer.  And so one of the union officials, someone contacted them because they were interested in including transit into the conversation as far as pedestrians and bicyclists.  And I happen to be a bicyclist, and everyone at CATS knows I bicycle, and so they felt that I would be the best person to talk to actually represent transit as a bus operator.  And so from there I just started going to meetings, and then—I’m not a walker. I’m mostly a bicyclist, but actually when you walk you’re using the same type of services.  

And you could get hit on a bike and you could get hit while walking, and so naturally walking became a part of what I talk about.  And I started walking; I walk 30 minutes a day. And then I bicycle, and then, of course, I ride the train and drive the bus. And so all of that has to do with infrastructure.

Cohen: Shannon Binns is the founder and executive director of Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit helping to advance Charlotte’s regional sustainability through smart growth.  One theme of our conversation was about how important it is for the entire community but especially leaders to follow in Debra’s footsteps and experience all of the transit modes available in Charlotte.  

Binns: You’re making me think we need to do more here at Sustain Charlotte to get people in decision-making positions, you know, whether it be within the business community or the political government to get onto a bike, to get onto a bus.  We’ve made some efforts in that way, but you’re making me think we need to do more because I think it is really important. If you don’t know what it’s like, it’s very easy to not prioritize that, to think, “Well, you know, we have the service.  What’s the problem?”  

Cohen: Right.

Binns: But if you haven’t experienced it—and I think, again, most of our business and government leaders in Charlotte do not take transit to work by and large, do not ride a bike.  And it’s interesting; sometimes I’ve proposed meeting with an elected official and taking them on a bike tour to show them some of the challenges. And I can think of a city staff member, a former city staff member at Charlotte DOT; I wanted to do the same thing.  And it’s amazing the lengths they go to to tell you why they can’t do it. Like, getting them on a bicycle—

Cohen: “I could die out there.”

Binns: Yeah.

Cohen: That’s the point.  

Binns: Yeah.  I mean, they just come up with any number of excuses, and then I would sort of say, “Well, here’s the reason that’s not going to be an issue,” and they’d come up with another excuse.  And so it’s been a real challenge to get some of those folks who have direct decision-making over transportation investment and policy to actually experience what it’s like on a bike. I haven’t tried as hard getting them onto a bus, but I could see there be similar obstacles that they would put up.

Cohen: That was one of my goals on this trip to Charlotte.  By actually using the available infrastructure or lack thereof I gained empathy on what it’s actually like to use transit and ride my bike in conditions that are not that welcoming.  

[NOISE]

Cohen: I’m always struck whenever I come to charlotte just how big-city-like Uptown Charlotte feels.  

Binns: It does.  

Cohen: Like with the tall—I think it’s something about the curbs and the car garages and just the width of the roads and so forth.  Like last night there was just huge traffic jams getting out of town.  

Binns: Mm-hmm.

Cohen: It was wild.  I brought my bike down on the train, so I’m zipping around town, you know, on my own bike, which is—

Binns: It’s a much better way to get around downtown.

Cohen: Quite freeing.

Binns: Yeah.  

Cohen: Although, I mean, you know, the flip side is not—

Binns: Not much bike infrastructure.  

Cohen: Not much infrastructure at all.

Binns: No.

Cohen: In fact, you know, in some places with some of the development, you’ve got the whatever bike lane there was is closed.

Binns: Or it has a sign in it, so you can’t use it.

Cohen: Yeah.

Binns: Yeah.

Cohen: Yeah, so that’s a real—and so as I’ve kind of been zipping around town a little bit, it’s been interesting because it definitely has not felt that welcoming to that micromobility—

Binns: Not at all.

Cohen: —with bike or scooter or whatever yet.  

Binns: Yeah.  And, again, I think that’s why I think the word “potential” is so important here and why I use that word.  I think we have the potential. We have very wide streets uptown. I mean, CDOT will often say, “They’re wide enough,” of course, but compared to a lot of cities they’re pretty wide.  

Cohen: One of the thoughts that I always think about whenever we see some of the data on transit ridership or bike-pedestrian infrastructure usage is supply begets demand.  Right?

Binns: Mm-hmm.

Cohen: You know, so you’re not going to ride—you know, only the foolhardy souls maybe like myself will—

Binns: And myself.  

Cohen: —will try to, like, ride in an environment that’s just not really that—

Binns: Welcoming.  Yeah.  

Cohen: —you know, conducive to doing so.  And we might do it for any number of reasons, but if we really want to kind of have a tipping point, you have to actually provide that supply and whether that’s infrastructure or bus ridership or transit infrastructure, whatever, in order to do that.

Binns: Mm-hmm.

Cohen: But what that requires is someone to paint that vision for what that could be.

Binns: Definitely.  

[NOISE]

Cohen: That supply is what is laid out in various plans that government and community leaders produce on a fairly regular basis, a regional transportation plan, a bicycle and pedestrian plan, etcetera.  All of these plans are the culmination of a community’s declaration of its priorities and principles. Shannon Benz, again.  

Binns: I think what’s often cited as a little bit ahead of its time especially for a Southern city was—I believe it was in 1998—about 20 years ago, that Charlotte created its first transit and land-use plan.  So this was very much, as the name suggests—I think I’m getting the name right. It was the 2030 Transit and Land-Use Plan or something to that effect.  So it was this very, I think, important plan that realized that if we have a plan for a transit system with multiple corridors, that will guide land-use decisions, development as we grow.  

I think that was very, I guess, forward thinking in some ways.  I don’t know if it’s forward thinking from a national perspective, but it’s certainly forward thinking for the Southeast.  And that has led to the Blue Line, of course, the 20-or-some miles of light rail that we have in the Blue Line. It also led to a significant increase in bus routes and bus service.  While, I think, where we are certainly behind schedule in terms of realizing that 1998 plan and it has gone through revisions over the years—it’s currently being updated again—I think that has been a very good thing from that perspective over the last 20 years.  

I think it’s done a lot to shape land use particularly around the Blue Line.  Unfortunately we haven’t implemented it as quickly as we should have or could have to have even greater impact, but at least we had the plan and we’ve done some of it.

[NOISE]

Cohen: Often in communities these land-use plans, transportation plans, and bike-ped plans are influenced by larger, more holistic, comprehensive plans, hence the name.  These comprehensive plans proactively try to paint a broad and sometimes fuzzy vision of the future that can then be turned into specific policies by the regional transportation plans that follow them.  But as I found out when I met with Charlotte’s Assistant City Manager and head of planning Taiwo Jaiyeoba, it’s not that simple in Charlotte.

[NOISE]

Cohen: When was the last comprehensive plan?

Jaiyeoba: The last time we had a comprehensive plan similar to what we’re working on right now was 1975.

Cohen: Wow.

Jaiyeoba: We are the largest city in the Southeast without one right now.  There was one that we did roughly 1990, but it was not a true comprehensive plan as much as just laying a general framework for how we should grow.  The 1975 comprehensive plan was very visionary, in my opinion. A number of things were proposed in that plan that have been implemented today. But I think we got away from that and we started created area plans in response to everybody wanting something for their area.  While that is not necessarily a bad thing, the problem is that it’s almost like a patchwork. It’s like a quilt, and everything has its own. So you go to this area, it looks different; you go to that area. And while I truly believe you’ve got to preserve the characters of your neighborhoods, you’ve got to have a citywide, cohesive plan that drives investment that can allow us to achieve equity before you now start looking at focus areas, rather than using those area plans to create different cities in one city.  

We got this far without having been updating or refining it consistently.  I think it has to do with a lot of leaderships that we’ve had in this city, folks from the private sector and also from the public sector who just felt, “We’ve got to do this anyway.  We’ve got to do this anyway.” And I think being a banking city earlier on has helped because it brought a lot of corporate leaders here who have experienced how life is done in Boston, in New York, in other places; and they want to reflect that here.  The downside to that is that when you begin to reflect what happens in other bigger cities in a place like Charlotte the tendency is to leave some folks out of the process.  

Cohen: Sustain Charlotte’s Shannon Binns agrees.  

Binns: We have enjoyed, I think, a lot of support, to your point, here in Charlotte from the business community.  The business community has led the transit, you know, the tax for transit campaigns, ballot campaigns both times, both the initial one and then the second time when it was challenged, both successful of course.  But those were led by the Charlotte chamber, you know, with support and leadership from the business community.  

Cohen: Charlotte likely wouldn’t look the same without its tremendous private sector business community.  While the banking community helped to grow the Charlotte area, the Charlotte economy is now diversified into other areas including energy, food, and motorsports.  But the people taking all of those well-paying jobs had to live somewhere, and that’s led to the suburban sprawl of southern Charlotte that I explored on my last trip to Charlotte and chronicled in a TransLoc blog post last year.  Community advocate, Debra Franklin.  

Franklin: We had a riot here, I think, in 2016.  Now we’re supposed to call it something else, the uprising.  And I don’t use the term uprising. We had a riot in Charlotte.  And so it involved an individual that was shot, but during that riot you heard conversation about people that felt that we had two Charlottes and that Charlotte wasn’t for them; the bus way wasn’t for them; the bike lanes aren’t for them.  And so to me that’s a communication problem.  

Cohen: These two Charlottes are what local officials call the crescent and the wedge.  The wedge refers to the affluent area of southeast Charlotte and Mecklenburg County that in a story familiar to many cities includes many of the better schools, shopping, and housing.  In contrast the crescent surrounding the wedge is where you will find many of the areas minority and less affluent residents. This distinction between these two Charlottes is critical, as a 2014 Harvard University study ranked Charlotte dead last out of the nation’s top-50 metropolitan areas as it relates to economic mobility.  

[SIRENS]

Cohen: In 1998 Charlotte residents voted 58% in favor and 42% against to levy a half-cent sales tax to fund public transportation, including the regions first light rail line.  Charlotte recruited a transit agency veteran, Ron Tober, to come in and lead the Charlotte Area Transit System or CATS and make the light rail a reality.  

Tober: During the early years of CATS while we were doing the engineering work and the environmental work we expanded the bus system significantly.  We more than doubled the size of the CATS bus system.  

Cohen: With the transit tax?

Tober: With the transit tax money.  We got criticized for that by people who said, “You should save the money to build the light rail line.”  But I knew from my own personal experience many years and working in other venues in transit that we needed to have a bus system, a good bus system to support a rail network, which was part of the plan, including the first line in the south corridor.  

[BELL CHIMES]

Cohen: After the light rail opened in 2007 and then expanded until 2018, the Blue Line now carries over 27,000 people a day and traverses 19 miles across Charlotte.  It has spurred over $3.5 billion in completed or planned new construction. I had heard so much about the light rail that the next step was I had to take it for myself.  

[BELL CHIMES]

Cohen: I just got off my first CATS Lynx light rail trip.  It was a very nice trip. I took it from the Parkwood Station to the East/West Boulevard Station.  It’s about 12:30. The train was pretty full, which was great to see, and it had a wide mix of folks on there, different ethnicities, some folks office professional, some folks were construction workers and everything in between, so that was pretty cool to see.  

The other thing that was really fascinating to see is just all of the building that’s being done along the light rail corridor here.  It really is a lot. So the kind of fixed infrastructure of the light rail definitely seems to be providing the incentive for that type of investment from the real estate perspective.  So pretty interesting to see.  

[BELL CHIMES]

Cohen: Assistant city manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba.  I’m curious over the course of the last 20 years what you feel like Charlotte has done well as it relates to mobility and land use and so forth.  

Jaiyeoba: I’ll tell you that first of all it’s the light rail, the investment in rail transit as Charlotte.  This is what my colleague John Lewis, who you know, who is the executive director for the Charlotte Area Transit System—he always uses this phrase “investment in rail is built into the DNA of Charlotte.”  Right in the ’90s they convened this committee of grassroots leaders and community leaders and business leaders to come up with the Charlotte Transportation Center, the hub there, but also how can we make sure that we have investment in a rail system in Charlotte and also extending beyond Charlotte.  

And there was a sales tax that passed, and then there was an attempt to repeal it.  That attempt failed, and as a matter of fact there was more, many more people who felt that you need that.  So the first phase was built. And, of course, the second phase to build an extension was built, but prior to those being built was a 2030 transit system plan that was developed in 2006 that says, “Here is how we see Charlotte growing in terms of public transit.  We see light rail going all the way to the university; we see light rail going all the way from the Matthews area to the airport. We see light rail. We see Gold Line, the streetcar going through Uptown to connect one of our major corridors to the west side.”  

So there was the sense that if we’re going to be a successful city—because Charlotte was already known as a banking city, but if we’re going to be a successful city, investment in rail was very important.  And I think Charlotte has done very well there, in my mind, and I have lived in four states. I’ve lived in California; I’ve lived in Michigan; I’ve lived in Georgia, and now I’m here. And in every community that I have lived in, maybe with the exception of Sacramento in California, I have not seen another community where you have a lot of people look at investment in rail as critical to our success as a city.  

[NOISE]

Cohen: Geographically the city, a mere 76 square miles in 1970 now encompasses more than 300 square miles.  The result is a sprawling, Southern city that is actually less dense than notoriously car-centric cities like Houston and Phoenix.  The metropolitan area of 2.5 million residents extends north, west, and east to seven counties in North Carolina and south to three counties in South Carolina.  Sustain Charlotte’s Shannon Binns.

Binns: Because of the success, I think, of the Blue Line, surrounding counties and surrounding municipalities want to get in on the action.  Last year we had a number of communities pass resolutions of support for transit in their communities, which are outside Mecklenburg County, to have transit service into Charlotte; Stallings, North Carolina, for example.  I believe Belmont, North Carolina did the same thing. And so I think the effort, again, that the Centralina Council of Governments is leading and their doing this year is regional transit and coming up with a regional transit plan.  

So they’ve already done work over the last, I think, two years or so, mostly in 2018 to kind of get buy-in that we need a regional transit plan.  And now the work that’s underway that I believe CATS has essentially contracted the Centralina Council of Governments to come up with a more detailed vision for what a regional transit plan or network would look like.  So that work is happening this year.  

We have so many people commuting into and out of Mecklenburg County every day.  I forget the numbers. There’s an enormous number of people going into center city Charlotte or just into Charlotte from surrounding towns beyond Mecklenburg County.  And they’re essentially all using the same roads, you know, Interstate 85, Interstate 77. And, you know, if we could build transit lines like we did highways, those people could be having a much more pleasant commute, you know, less stress, less time, all the things that people benefit from when they take transit.  You know, and the movement is already happening; it’s just giving them an alternative way of getting into Charlotte. So I think there’s, again, so much potential. We just need the leadership to make it happen. 

[NOISE]

Cohen: The Silver Line is the next phase of light rail expansion that is currently being planned in the Charlotte region and that those other cities outside of Mecklenburg County are pining for.  The estimated 25-mile light rail Silver Line will go east/west from Matthews through Charlotte into Gaston County. And despite the success of the current Blue Line former CATS CEO Ron Tober believes rail is not enough.  

Tober: First and foremost, I think at this point, is to focus on expanding the bus network that exists in the area.  You know, the current bus system here in Charlotte with CATS’s bus system today has roughly the same number of buses as we had 12 years ago in 2007.  So in the past dozen years or so there has not really been a great expansion or any expansion of the bus network. In fact, in some respects it’s smaller than it was.  

Cohen: On a per capita basis, for sure.  

Tober: Yeah.  And that, you know, given the population growth, that’s a stunning thing to recognize.  And the leaders here are now focusing on that, that they recognize that they need to expand the bus operation particularly as it relates to economic mobility, which is a critical issue in this community at this juncture.  

Cohen: Assistant City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba agrees.  

Jaiyeoba: Today, as you and I are talking, 80% or so of our riders will be carried using the bus system.  Buses will still be the most efficient way by which you can move people around. I believe that when we were thinking about investment in our rail system many years ago we should at the same time have been investing in our bus system to a degree where the frequencies will not be 30 minutes, 45 minutes today.  You know, we need to get to at least 10 to 15 minutes. We need to get to a point where I don’t even have to look at the app on my phone to know that it’s coming. We need to do that. We still need to.  

I mean, because rail isn’t going to run everywhere.  It’s not going to run in a neighborhood. Primarily I think the reason why a lot of people support rail investment is because it’s not intrusive into their living space in their neighborhoods.  You know? But on smaller streets you’ve got to have buses and small shuttles that can still carry people. If we have a robust system that has rail corridors like the Silver Line, Blue Line, Gold Line, or Red Line, or whichever other line we have, maybe Green Line somewhere in the future, if those become the spine, then the bus system or the shuttle can be the ribs and kind of it brings transit closer to people.  And I believe that that’s something we need to make deliberate effort to build out over the next 20 years, sooner rather than later because it addresses the question of equity.  

Cohen: Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower once famously said that plans are worthless, but planning is indispensable.  That is the process that Charlotte finds itself in now. How they do this planning is critical, as local advocate and CATS bus operator, Debra Franklin, shared with me.

Franklin: So we all know our leaders.  I think, whenever there’s a question, people will go for the leader, that neighborhood leader.  And I think that right now it’s time-out for that, and maybe we need to start going to every person now.  And so we have to figure out a way that we hit every household to make sure that every household has the same type of problems.  Because we don’t want to build something that someone is not going to use.  

Cohen: This was the approach that Shannon Binns took shortly after founding Sustain Charlotte.  

Binns: The very first thing we did in 2010 was we held a visioning workshop, and we convened almost 100 thought leaders across a range of issues from transportation to economy to buildings to—you know, we had all these different topics that we brought people together around, people who had expertise in those areas.  And we asked them a simple question. We said, “Finish this sentence in your subject matter expertise group. Twenty years from now Charlotte looks like…” and we published that as a document, our first publication in 2010 called Charlotte 2030: A Sustainable Vision for Our Region.  

So I think we, you know, creating a big vision, a long-term vision for our community is very much in our DNA.  And we’re actually going through a process right now as part of our five-year strategic planning effort to come up with some new, inspiring, bold goals for Charlotte to aspire to.  So we’re kind of going through a visioning process right now. What’s different about this and what we did 10 years ago, this will be much more focused on transportation and land use.  And we’ve reached out to do this visioning in partnership with the city and with the goal of having this not just be a vision that we have endorsed and made public but hopefully the city will also get behind this particular vision and bake the goals into the comprehensive plan, the 2040 comprehensive plan that they’re currently drafting.  So I think we’re trying to align our efforts, if you will, and dovetail our visioning for the next five years with really the visioning the city is doing right now as part of the comprehensive planning process.  

Cohen: Former CATS CEO Ron Tober.

Tober: The city is engaged in a comprehensive plan process.  And I think it’s going to be very important for that comprehensive plan to not only support transit oriented development but to engage in things that are going to be supportive of things that are, again, not as sexy as light rail projects but are very important; sidewalks, preferential treatment for buses, and bike lanes and things of that nature to open up more multimodal possibilities within the region’s transportation system.  And that is part of what needs to be done, I think, in this 2040 comprehensive planning effort that the City of Charlotte is currently engaged in.   

Cohen: Assistant City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba.

Jaiyeoba: What we’re doing right now is obviously we’re doing this comprehensive plan.  We started about a year ago. We call it Charlotte Future 2040; it’s a 20-year plan.  And the message behind it is, “How can we through this plan create a platform for capital investments that will guide our growth, that will ensure that we have a degree of resiliency at least we need to achieve?”  We need to be a resilient city in this space.  

Transportation doesn’t stop at the border, so the fact that I live in this particular neighborhood and this is how I want my road to be or this is how I want to get to work, why can’t the people living three, four, five neighborhoods away have the same opportunity as well?  So having that cohesive structure through a comprehensive plan that lays out a set of policies that we can all agree to and that our elected officials can eventually adopt, I think, really it’s a good thing for us.  

We can talk about transit all we want.  We can talk about rail; we can talk about bus like I’ve just been talking; but there are certain things that make using those even convenient for people, such as gaps in sidewalks.  We’ve got to build those. There are people today who would rather walk to get to work or to get to the nearest bus system or, you know. If my kid is working at Chick-fil-A—that’s like about half a mile away—but still has to call Uber to get them there because there’s no safe means to walk there, then that’s a problem.  We’ve still got to invest in protected bike lanes, in my opinion.  

Like we said earlier, we are number five in the country when it comes to cities where people drive, more people drive for a distance of three miles or less.  That means that people can use their bike and even their scooter within that space. So if you provide protected bike lanes for people, even if they are a half-mile or even longer from a bus line or a bus station or a train station, they can still ride their bike for a mile or two or three conveniently without sweating profusely to get on a bus.

Cohen: Or dying.

Jaiyeoba: Or dying—exactly—yeah because of the roadway.  So I think we need to invest more in those. And I also believe that from the land-use end is we need to look at our regulations and just allow more density in our neighborhoods, because when you have more density you’re likely going to have enough ridership that will support investment in transit.  But then you also are likely going to have more people that will use alternative means of moving to those places.  

I think if you can cover some of those things, not only do we improve the environment; we also improve people’s health.  More people will choose to walk; more people will choose to bike; more people will choose to use the scooters. You know, we can reduce congestion, and when you reduce congestion you affect pollution, and so you improve the air quality and all of that.  And the investment we’ve made in the automobile, I think, is killing us in many ways than one.  

But if we can turn around and begin to invest in housing units that are affordable for people, within proximity of alternative means of mobility, it gets people to jobs, gets them to visit grandma, you know, to make sure their grandkids are also in good proximity to their families.  So those are things that I really think over the next 20 years we’ve got to start thinking. We can’t do sprawl because it’s too costly. We have to think smart and build smart and invest smartly. And I believe that if any city is capable of that, in my opinion, Charlotte is one of those.  

Cohen: Remember that 17-pound gold nugget fond by 12-year-old Conrad Reed that started the nation’s first gold rush right outside Charlotte?  Conrad’s father took it to the jeweler who paid him $3.50 for it. That was a large sum at the time, almost a week’s wages, despite it being worth 1,000 times that amount.  Call that capitalism, if you like, but what it feels to me like is greed. Fast-forward over 200 years and you would hardly recognize the Charlotte area that Conrad Reed grew up in.  It’s got tall buildings. It’s got pro sports teams. It’s got the light rail and the billions of dollars in investment along the light rail corridor.  

Charlotte has grown from a city chasing gold to a city chasing banks to now a city chasing even more important things.  That process will not be easy, but it will be greatly enhanced by leaders who are recognizing that their role in the community is not just to bring the dollars to town but to ensure they are spread throughout the community.  I’ll give Taiwo Jaiyeoba the last word.

Jaiyeoba: How can we use this comprehensive plan to shatter that whole thing of two cities in one city?  That’s the goal behind the comprehensive plan; achieve equity, drive sustainability, create livability so that if I live whether in the crescent or in the wedge, I have access to basic things that make life worth living in an urban environment.  

F: Thanks for listening.  If you like what you hear, head to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast.  You can find out more at TransLoc.com or follow Josh Cohen on Twitter at @CohenJP. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of The Movement.  

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If you enjoyed this podcast, check out more from Josh Cohen in this blog!