Gold Line is worth the transit future it would bring

From Vi Lyles, at-large Charlotte City Council member, in response to “Council spends like it’s 1999” (Sept. 14 Our View):

I am a fiscal moderate, and I support the Gold Line because it is a choice we make today for Charlotte’s future.

Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Our population is projected to be over 2 million in the coming years. We are a community of Baby Boomers and Millennials, entrepreneurs and everyone in between, who want to have transportation choices.

Moving the Gold Line forward implements the 2030 Transit Plan, which is founded on our Centers, Corridors and Wedges Growth Strategy. Supporting the Gold Line does not require exclusion of one transportation mode over another, but allows us to accomplish all of the modes of transportation.

The Gold Line connects the east and west. Johnson C. Smith University recently published “Let There Be Light.” This collection of essays about Charlotte’s west end includes one about the acquisition of west side property to build the Brookshire Freeway. That project continues to be symbolic of the economic demarcation in our community formed by government policy in the 1940s that remains today. This is just one example of how infrastructure was built without respect for community balance.

Since the 1970s, the city's Community Investment Plan began to address the imbalance. We paved dirt roads (yes, there were dirt roads in Charlotte) and built sidewalks, curbs and gutters. We also invested in new growth areas. We built Harris Boulevard, Highway 51 and a bridge to Ballantyne. That bridge continues to pay a return on investment with corporate relocations, including Met Life’s recent move to Ballantyne.

It is time to invest in the east and west. Economic studies predict new private development along the Gold Line with greater exposure and access to new business opportunities. More than 2,000 existing small business and neighborhoods have a real stake in the transit plan’s implementation. They have waited long enough.

And while development may add to the tax base, that is not the primary reason for the Gold Line. Completing the Gold Line establishes a fully connected transit system for all of Charlotte, moving people to employment, making childcare locations more accessible, and making shopping for groceries a quick and easy stop. It is about the choice not to own a car because transit is convenient and reliable.

The city's Community Investment Plan includes more than $447 million for transportation projects over the next five years. The money is for roads, sidewalks, bridges, and intersection and traffic control improvements. The City Council has allocated an additional $75 million for the Gold Line. The city takes a balanced approach to current and future multi-modal transportation investments.

Our choice is about a future where you decide whether to walk, bike, take light rail, a bus, a modern day streetcar or drive a car. And it is a future worth paying for.