Calm for the Commute

There’s nothing more frustrating than traffic. So we asked UNC-Charlotte psychology professor Lawrence Calhoun how to handle its resulting stress. Because, believe it or not, making offensive gestures toward other drivers won’t actually help

Q: You live in Matthews and work uptown. A long commute is undeniable. What can you do to prepare yourself for the stress?
A: One of the things people can do when they’re dealing with ongoing stress is to engage in practices that make them better equipped to deal with it. Things like meditation, yoga, exercise, and even just sitting quietly offer long-term benefits.

Q: While you’re making that long drive up Independence, hoping you’ll make it to work on time, what can you do to avoid addi- tional stress?
People who are radio listeners — which are probably most drivers — have to be careful about what they’re listening to. You should avoid stress-producing programming. For some people that may be talk radio. You don’t want to be listening to someone who is making you angry. But, for others, even a certain kind of music can be stressful.

Q: You’ve been sitting in traffic for more than an hour. What can you do to alleviate your stress?
Some form of controlled relaxation breathing. Breathe in through you nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. This kind of breathing can relax your whole body.


We asked John Carfango, the owner of The Shop on North Graham Street, to bust some of the most common auto myths

Maintenance Myth: Oil must be changed every 3,000 miles.
Reality: According to Carfagno, drivers can get up to 7,500 miles before they need a service, depending on the type of vehicle they own. “But,” he says, “changing your oil every 3,000 miles has been the rule of thumb for years and it’s still a good idea to go by.”

Maintenance Myth: Premium grade-gas is better than regular.
Reality: Higher-end car brands like BMW and Mercedes run better on premium gas because it has more detergent, says Carfagno. But, with a car like a Toyota Camry, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to tell a difference.

Maintenance Myth: If it’s cold outside, you have to let your engine warm up.
Reality: According to Carfagno, your engine should be warmed up regardless of whether it is warm or cold out. “Of course, on colder days, your car will need to warm up longer,” says Carfagno. “But the car needs to get to about 200 degrees before it reaches peak performance.”

“On-road mobile sources, including commuters, contribute to 54 percent of oxides of nitrogen, one of the precursors for ground-level ozone. In the short term, vehicles release emissions that form ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is known to be a respiratory irritant that has been linked to increased occurrence of asthma attacks, increased hospitalizations due to respiratory illness, and … permanent lung damage. These impacts are especially harmful for children’s developing lungs.” — Shelley H. Lanham, Charlotte Area Coordinator for N.C. Air Awareness

The Big Three

It’s impossible to get very far in Charlotte without hitting I-485, I-85, or I-77. Here’s the latest on the city’s biggest thoroughfares






A diverging diamond interchange, which calls for drivers to be on the left side of the road for a short distance, is being considered for a project at Exit 28 in Cornelius. However, the recent focus has been on commuters’ complaint that I-77 needs to be widened going north from town. Unfortunately, much of the funding for that would have to come from the state — something local politicians have cited as a problem when it comes to Charlotte’s transportation needs. Recently though, discussions have begun again regarding widening the road and adding high-occupancy toll lanes from uptown to the Lake Norman area that would give drivers an option to save time during rush hours by paying a toll.   Construction on this beltway, which is entirely in Mecklenburg County (despite coming within twenty feet of the Cabarrus County line at one exit), first began in 1988. Work on the final 5.7 miles of the loop, which will connect Old Statesville Road to I-85 (finally!), is scheduled to begin this year and be completed by 2014. Meanwhile, on the southern part of the loop, which tends to be the most congested, the addition of one lane on each side from Rea Road to I-77 has been pushed up to June 2012.   Construction will begin this summer on widening I-85 from four to eight lanes for seven miles from south of Bruton Smith Boulevard/ Concord Mills Boulevard to north of N.C. 73 in Cabarrus County. This project, which is scheduled to be completed by November 2013, has been rolled into the same project group as completing I-485 and converting the I-485/I-85 inter- change into the state’s first turbine interchange. (An interchange in which all traffic eventually turns left in a series of circles.)

The 411 on the Garden Parkway

This controversial, limited-access road, which would be the area’s first toll road, would run for 21.9 miles from I-85 west of Gastonia to I-485 just south of Charlotte Douglas airport. It would be south of I-85, but run parallel to it for much of its route. The road, which is scheduled to open in 2015, has a projected cost of $870 million. While there has been opposition, Gaston County, which hopes to attract development and growth from the road, originally conceived the project and has been mostly supportive. At press time, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority was waiting on final approval from the Federal Highway Administration to begin construction. (Information is from the N.C. Turnpike Authority.)

Follow the Signs

There are 48,995 parking spaces in center city Charlotte, including 1,100 metered spaces. Unfortunately, Some days this doesn’t seem to make it any easier to find an empty spot for your car.

Enter the electronic vehicle way — finding and parking guidance signage. This project, which launches this month, directs drivers to available parking — as it becomes available. Four large signs placed on streets entering uptown from I-277 will use technology to provide the location of open parking spaces in uptown lots. They’ll also direct traffic to and from major events and give notice of any detours.
In addition to saving you time on your search for a space, these signs are designed to help the environment. By making parking (and driving) easier and more efficient, the signs mean fewer miles traveled and less gas used — and that means good things for our air.

What's in a Name?

Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South and the author of Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont, tells us how the roads we use every day came to have their names

“Streets in Charlotte tend to change names because much of Charlotte was built in the twentieth century and the building patterns were self-contained subdivisions. Then, as they became linked, no one wanted to give up their subdivision names.” — Tom Hanchett, historian for Levine Museum of the New South

Tryon Street
This central street was once part of the Great Wagon Road, which early pioneers used to travel from Georgia to Pennsylvania. It was later named Tryon after William Tryon, who was a royal governor of colonial North Carolina.

Trade Street
Charlotte — or Charlotte Town, as it was once known — was built on the intersection of the Great Wagon Road (Tryon) and a Native American trading path. Get it?

Elizabeth Avenue
Now this road leads from uptown to Presbyterian Hospital. But the hospital was built on the site of Elizabeth College, a women’s college that the street led to in the early 1900s.

Wilkinson Boulevard
William Cook Wilkinson, the road’s namesake, was the president of Charlotte’s Lowell Mills and the president of Merchants and Farmers Bank in 1926, which was when Wilkinson opened.

Sharon Road
This road’s name goes as far back as biblical times. The road was named after Sharon Presbyterian Church, which it runs by. And Sharon Presbyterian Church? Well, that was named after Israel’s Sharon Plain, which is referenced in the Old Testament.

Providence, Sardis, Carmel, and Amity
Like Sharon, all of these streets were named after the Presbyterian churches they led to, and most began as old farm roads. Of course, since you can approach a church from different directions, they don’t end at the church itself, but continue past it in both directions.

Brookshire Freeway
This stretch of highway is named after Stan Brookshire, a Charlottean whose many accomplishments included achieving the peaceful integration of the city’s “white table cloth” restaurants in 1963.

Queens Road
Schoolteacher Mary Armand Nash entered and won a contest in 1912 to name this notoriously con- fusing road after Queen Charlotte, our city’s namesake. The road itself traces a loop that was originally built for a trolley car.

Taxi Cabs!

People may not be hailing cabs on every Charlotte corner, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the convenience of a paid ride

Flat rate for a cab from the airport to uptown: $25

Charlotte cab rate: $2.50 per mile

Prefer not to call? Yellow Cab of Charlotte accepts reservations via text messages. Just text your pickup location to 704-444-4444.


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