1,000 riders on Charlotte’s Blue Line extension. So double the transit tax…

So goes the logic according to the Charlotte Observer:

About 1,000 people jammed the UNC Charlotte light rail station Friday morning. They wore T-shirts that said “First to ride” and waited in line for two hours to take the train’s maiden voyage toward uptown. After 10 years of planning and four years of construction, the hoopla was appropriate, but the whole event was also a discouraging reminder:

This is not nearly enough.

…How can Mecklenburg County chip away at its soon-to-be-massive need for more transportation options? Double its sales tax dedicated to transit, for starters.

One thousand people with a population of 842,000. If that doesn’t justify doubling a tax I don’t what does. But it gets better—-remember—-this is not nearly enough

John Lewis, the CEO of the Charlotte Area Transit System, estimates light rail to the airport, Lake Norman and Matthews would cost around $6 billion. Revenue from an additional half-cent wouldn’t suffice, which means the region needs additional strategies.

One could be what is known in planning circles as “value capture.” There are a variety of ways to implement it, but it generally means paying for some of the public’s investment through the higher land values that investment will produce. The Blue Line prompted some $2.1 billion in new development in the South End, for example. Since that was made possible by public investment, it’s reasonable for the developers and others who profit from that development to put some toward the public cost.

That’s rich—push “transit-oriented development” and when developers go for it they need to pay up.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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