CHARLOTTE, N.C. Will Charlotte be one giant traffic snarl Tuesday?
Thats the big question as the Democratic National Convention begins, school resumes, the workweek kicks off and drivers attempt to navigate an uptown where lots of streets are closed.
After planning for this day for a year, a Democratic National Convention Committee spokesman said Monday that Charlotte is prepared.
But to be prudent, drivers heading into uptown should leave early. When Charlotte officials released the street-closing plan in August, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe predicted that disruptions would add about 20 minutes to travel times.
But in truth, uptown Charlotte has probably never operated with this kind of weekday traffic disruption. Many residents, aware of the potential gridlock, say theyre steering clear of the area.
With all the road closings and the traffic no thanks, said Steve Vanlanen, who lives in the SouthPark area.
Darren Stevens, 33, a pharmacist at Carolinas Medical Center, agreed.
Im staying as far away from that mess as I possibly can, he said. Im laying low.
Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, one of many convention attendees who flew in Monday, noted that Charlotte isnt as walkable as some convention cities, such as San Francisco, and doesnt have as extensive a transit system as others.
I understand shuttles will be provided, he said. It will be a bit of a challenge.
One positive note: Regular traffic should be lighter, since thousands of uptown workers will opt to work from home or remote locations this week. Duke Energy, for instance, has encouraged many of its 3,000 uptown employees to work away from uptown.
Also, Tryon Street will be open Tuesday after being closed the previous two days. But itll be a one-way street, for northbound traffic only, between Stonewall and 12th streets.
Vehicles in the vicinity of the convention site, Time Warner Cable Arena, should also expect to encounter checkpoints. (See Page 4A for pedestrian and vehicle street closing maps.)
The public can use the Lynx light rail except in uptown, where it is reserved for DNC attendees to travel between the Charlotte Convention Center and the arena. The 6,000 delegates in town will also rely on 250 private buses, not cars, to shuttle them to various convention events Tuesday.
Once again, rain is in the mix. The National Weather Service forecasts a 60 percent chance today, mainly after 5 p.m.
Olaf Kinard, spokesman for the Charlotte Area Transit System, said buses and the 9.6-mile Lynx light-rail line that runs from Interstate 485 at South Boulevard to uptown are the best transportation bets for visitors.
The bus transit center has moved from Trade Street to a temporary location at Mint and Third streets until Thursday.
With DNC visitors pouring into town, light-rail ticket sales are up. For Sunday, sales were up 220 percent over a typical Sunday.
But Kinard said theres no way to estimate mass transit ridership during the convention. He does expect it to surpass the 30,000 to 35,000 who ride on an average day, he says.
Thursday, when President Barack Obama speaks in Bank of America Stadium, should be the busiest day.
At three uptown public schools Metro School, First Ward Creative Arts Academy and Irwin Academic Center Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have changed bus routes and dismissal times to minimize delays.
Elisabeth Arriero, Adam Bell, Joe DePriest and Brittany Penland contributed.