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Commuters swell Charlotte’s population by one-fifth

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    Washington, D.C. led all large cities, posting a commuter-generated population growth of 79 percent. The percent of commuters flooding Charlotte (18.3 percent) topped more populated cities such as Phoenix, which sees a 9.1 percent increase because of commuters, New York (7.5 percent) and Philadelphia (7.1 percent).



Each day, some 129,000 commuters flood into Charlotte, swelling the city’s population by nearly a fifth.

Charlotte may be the 17th largest city in the country, but it ranks 10th in population growth generated by commuters from surrounding areas.

John Yutzy of Mooresville commutes 35 miles every day to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. He said Charlotte is a “wonderful place to work,” but he prefers the lifestyle of the suburbs.

“You can still see green space out here,” Yutzy said. “Forty minutes is the price you pay for the quality of life that the Mooresville area offers.”

Advantages, disadvantages

But for Charlotte, such commuters can bring challenges.

They increase the demand for wider roads, better traffic signals and expanded bus and light rail, said Linda Durrett of the Charlotte Department of Transportation.

The daily influx of commuters also helps the city in some ways.

Randy Harrington, Charlotte’s budget and evaluations director, said Charlotte’s high commuter population also brings economic vitality, because more people buy goods and services in the city.

Alan Pisarski, author of the Commuting in America series, published by the Transportation Research Board, said Charlotte is becoming a “magnet place” for people to work.

He said financial businesses often cluster together in cities, which could be the cause for Charlotte’s high number of commuters.

Younger people tend to live close to work, Pisarski said, while those with families are more likely to live farther away.

He said people who choose to live farther away from where they work tend to value strong school systems, larger homes and green spaces, which are often more prevalent in suburbs.

Union leads commuters to county

For Mecklenburg County, the population increases 14.6 percent because of commuters. It’s not clear the breakdown among the various cities and towns.

Union County sees some 37,000 people leave for Mecklenburg each day, followed by York County, S.C., with 29,000, an Observer analysis shows.

Cabarrus and Gaston counties send about 25,000 workers to Mecklenburg and Iredell County sends more than 10,000.

David Howard, an at-large Charlotte City Council member, said governing officials need to push development toward rail lines to provide easy access to the city for commuters.

“It just tells me that we have a strong region,” he said.

Jim Dee, who commutes to Charlotte from Huntersville, said he sees his town as an attractive place to raise a family.

“There’s always going be people commuting from the Lake Norman area,” he said.

Staff writer Gavin Off contributed.

Haggerty: 704-358-6180
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